It’s not uncommon for people to talk about their distaste for conflict. When a situation develops that needs to be addressed, it’s tempting to want to head for the hills – hoping that someone else will handle the issue. There may be a little bit more comfort in initiating an uncomfortable discussion with those that we love, but even then it’s not uncommon to find a man or a woman complaining about their significant other rather than talking to their significant other. It seems easier to address the issue with someone else, rather than the person with whom the issue exists.
Scripture tells us that we should handle conflict differently. First, it says that if we can, we should overlook the offense against us. While at times this may be difficult, by God’s grace – it’s not impossible. Of course, it’s important when we choose this route that we are doing it for the good of the other person, and not to avoid a situation that will be difficult for us. If, for instance, we recognize that this particular sin is unlikely to be repeated and the only purpose of confronting it would be to bring restitution to us, we may choose to brush our “rights” to restitution aside and overlook the offense. However, if the situation needs to be addressed because a continued pattern of sin is being developed, than oftentimes the most loving thing we can do is to talk about it with the other person. We may be willing to overlook it, but if it’s creating discord in their relationship with God, we should address it.
The real question becomes how we should address it and again, Scripture makes this clear. It says to go to the person, not to anyone else, and bring the issue before them. The purpose of this dialogue is to restore the other person – into a right relationship with you, the person the person they offended, but more importantly into a right relationship with God. If this is the goal – if this is our aim – I’m increasingly convinced that we need to forgive them before the confrontation ever begins. After all – restoration is difficult if both people are at odds with each other. If the person addressing the issue has already forgiven, then with love and compassion they can help the offending individual see the consequences of their sinful actions. It doesn’t mean that having the confrontation is any less difficult, but it does mean that you can enter the conversation with confidence that your focus is on the good of the other – because you have already forgiven the sin against you.
While this may be easy to write, this isn’t easy to do. To offer forgiveness before it is sought is only possible because we recognize how much our Heavenly Father has forgiven us. In all honesty, the closer that the person is to us, the harder it is because we think that they should “know better” than to hurt us in this way. And in all likelihood, maybe they should. But God’s own children – the ones that He created – sinned against Him. Our decisions to act contrary to His will were the reasons that His Son willing gave up His throne room in Heaven in order to die a gruesome death on the cross. If He was willing to go to such extremes to offer us a restored relationship, can’t we forgive others who sin against us?