Fighting Family

I’ve never been a big fan of conflict. When I was younger, my dad used to get a kick of how I would try to smooth things over and be the peacemaker. As an adult, he cautioned me not to take it too much to heart. It’s not that I can’t hold my own when conflict erupts; it’s just that it takes me a while to recover once it happens.

Maybe that’s why I was so disappointed when I witnessed what I thought was going to be a battle of words between two Christian authors. It started when one of the individuals publicly criticized the other. Immediately people began to jumped to the defense. As I awaited the response of the one who was criticized*, I couldn’t help but thinking how antithetical this was to the Matthew 18:15 command. Instead of one individual privately talking to the other about their concerns, people from both sides started having a public exchange of opinions. Others were brought in to the fray with their views on what happened. What could have possibly been handled as an instructive and growing time for both individuals, became a public spectacle that was a poor representation of Christ.

What happened on this large scale, happens all the time in smaller arenas.

Someone offends us.

We get angry.

Then instead of going to that individual, we have our justifications and our excuses for why we think it’s o.k. to talk to someone else. We deliberately ignore what God says and in so doing forget that our love for each other is a reflection of our love for Him (See John 13:35). We tell people that we want to invite them into the family of God, but if this is how we treat one another, is it really a family they’d want to join?

Being set apart for Christ should mean that we act differently from those who are not. May our relationships with one another be one place where we demonstrate this.

*(I’m thrilled to say that in this case, the one who was criticized responded with grace. Hopefully if we’re on the wrong end of public criticism, we’ll do the same.)

6 comments

  1. I like the post, Natalie!
    Question though, you mention not going to the person to address it and that we have our justifications or excuses, but what do you do when you do go to them to confess your own errors and approach to reconcile, yet that person responds harshly, wanting nothing to do with you in the moment-?

    1. Thanks Holly.

      And that’s a good question.

      Here’s what I think (and what I can defend from Scripture):

      1) If we’ve sin, we have to go to the person to reconcile regardless of what we think their response will be.

      2) If they respond harshly as you say, then I think we have to ask ourselves a question- are they a believer? If they are, then I think the Matthew 18 commands says we have to go back to them to address their sin (the sin of unforgiveness.)

      (A sidebar here – Scripture doesn’t specifically say this, but I wouldn’t try to address this at the same time that we are confessing our sin. In all likelihood it would come across as saying “Sure I know I did something wrong, but you did too” – which isn’t really the point of repentance. Instead, I think wisdom would dictate that in most cases (and probably all where we are met with a harsh response) we come back to them, and say something along the lines of “When I came to you, I got the impression that maybe I hadn’t addressed all your concerns. Are there still unresolved issues that we need to talk about so that we can be right in relationship again?”

      3) If they are not a believer, I would recommend (in general, without knowing the specifics) that we try to overlook it (Proverbs 19:11), and forgive them. We can’t expect non-Christians to act like Christians, and Matthew 18 is specifically about when a brother (or sister) sins against you. So, a believer has a “God-problem” with being out of relationship with a fellow believer, a non-believer has a God-problem too – but their problem is that they don’t know God. So we can overlook their minor offense against us in order to demonstrate how God loved us – even while we were still sinners (Romans 5:8). In other words, if we don’t address the issue with a believer, we may be impeding their sanctification. If we don’t overlook the offense with a non-believer, we may be impeding their desire for God.

      4) If they are a believer and they don’t repent, then you have two options. First, overlook it. Second, bring someone else into the discussion per Matthew 18. Not to discuss the matter with that person (between you and them) – but to discuss the matter together – with the “offender”, you and that person – all three. I think the specifics of the situation will probably dictate whether we can/should overlook it, or whether we should bring a third-party in.

      5) Finally, a reminder – Romans 12:18 says “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” That middle phrase, “so far as it depends on you” is something I take heart in. Sometimes I may do everything “right” and still people may be angry. At some point, after I’ve done what I’m supposed to, I have to realize that it is no longer up to me, and leave it in God’s hands.

      Hope that’s helpful. If nothing else, I may have won the “longest comment ever” award. šŸ™‚

  2. I’m the same way, Natalie. I’ve always hated conflict, and will do what I can to avoid it, because it disturbs me very much and leaves such nasty scars when it’s all over. =(

    The biblical way is always the best way. There is wisdom enough in the Bible to govern every aspect of our lives by it, including conflict resolution.

    Have you ever read the book Peacemaker? Not sure who wrote it. We’re doing a series on it in my women’s group at my church. It’s about biblical conflict resolution.

    Blessings, sister!

What do you think?