I am continuously amazed at how effectively Satan derails relationships among Christians through bad reports and conflict. Teams of people who functioned well in ministry become divided. Churches split. Friendships end often without either party working hard to find the source of the problem. How quickly we believe bad information about fellow believers without bothering to investigate the facts or appreciate the potential for misunderstanding. I realize why bad news sells newspapers—trouble is as attractive as a bug-zapper. But how sad it is that Christians so easily judge and condemn each other at the expense of God’s kingdom when we should be champions of forbearance.
Beware of those who trumpet the protection of their reputation as justification for hurting others and not resolving conflict—what is really shielded is pride. Beware of those who are unable to forget and forgive offenses committed long ago. Failure to forgive reveals a begrudging attitude. Be aware that it is easy to disagree, find fault and feel self-righteous. It is much more difficult to trust God with our “rights” and work to bring peace where trouble has nested.
2 Corinthians 13:11—Finally, brothers, rejoice. Be restored, be encouraged, be of the same mind, be at peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Recently our African brethren experienced assaults on their unity through some miscommunication. Relationships were strained and it became apparent that competing agendas existed which threatened their cohesiveness. Jerry Anze, our Nigerian leader, in reflecting on what happened wrote a wonderful paper on restoring relationships. We can all benefit from the wisdom he shares below.
The Bible says God has given us the ministry of restoring relationships (2 Co. 5:18-6:1). If we want God’s blessings in our lives, we must learn to be peacemakers. Jesus said, “The peacemakers are blessed, for they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peacemaking is not avoiding conflict. Running away from a problem, pretending it doesn’t exist, or being afraid to talk about it is actually cowardice. Peacemakers are rare because peacemaking is hard work!
To Restore a Relationship:
1. Talk to God before talking to the person. If you talk to God first instead of gossiping to a friend, you’ll discover that either God changes your heart or the other person without your help.
2. Always take the initiative. It doesn’t matter whether you are the offender or the offended, God expects you to make the first move. When fellowship is strained or broken, plan a peace conference immediately. Don’t procrastinate or make excuses. Acting quickly reduces the spiritual damage in you. The Bible says sin, including unresolved conflict, blocks our fellowship with God and keeps our prayers from being answered, besides making us feel miserable.
3. Listen. Before attempting to solve any disagreement you must listen to people’s feelings and opinions. Pay close attention and let them unload emotionally without being defensive. The Bible says look out for one another’s interest, not just for your own (Philippians 2:4).
4. Confess your part of the conflict. If you are serious about restoring a relationship, you should begin with admitting your own mistakes or sin. Jesus said it’s the way to see things more clearly; first, get rid of the log from your own eye, then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye (Mat. 7:5). Confession is a powerful tool for reconciliation!
5. Attack the problem not the person.
6. Cooperate as much as possible. Do everything on your part to live at peace with everybody (Romans 12:18)
7. Emphasize reconciliation not [just] resolution. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship while resolution focuses on the problem. Christians often have legitimate, honest disagreements and differing opinions, but we can disagree without being offensive. We can walk arm-by-arm without seeing eye-to-eye on every issue. Jesus was never afraid of conflict. There were times that He provoked it for the good of everyone. Sometimes we need to avoid conflict, sometimes we need to create it, and sometimes we need to resolve it.
Thanks Jerry! Let’s make it our ambition to be restorers! Let’s build up, edify, fortify and protect each other because we operate out of LOVE!
©2007 Daniel York ARR. Reveration is the weekly devotional ministry of First Cause. If you would like to receive these devotionals go to www.firstcause.org and click on the “Click here to receive weekly devotionals” box. Unlimited permission to copy this devotional without altering text or profiteering is allowed subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.
Ecclesiastes 12:10-The Teacher sought to find delightful sayings and to accurately write words of truth. (Holman CSB)