by Jennifer Slattery
No matter how hard we try, no matter how grace-filled our conversations and Christ-led our attempts, relationships sometimes implode. People remain hurt. Barriers are erected, and isolation, regret, and pain occur.
But the beauty’s in the obedience, not the result.
Some time ago, something I did deeply hurt a woman I cared for. I didn’t intend to wound her, and honestly, I didn’t fully understand her response or interpretation. In fact, initially I felt quite indignant. She was being over-reactive. I’d done nothing wrong!
And yet, she was hurt, and Jesus said, if I know someone is upset with me, regardless of the why, I’m to initiate conversation, and do what I can to make things right (Matthew 5:23-24). As far as it depends on [me], I should do everything possible to live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18).
In the Bible, the idea of peace goes much deeper than simple conflict avoidance. In fact, true biblical peace goes beyond the surface and can resolve much deeper issues—broken relationships, unresolved issues, and, often, harbored bitterness.
Biblical peace, eiréneuó in the Greek, points to wholeness.
Consider Ken Sande’s words, taken from his book, the Peace Maker: “Token efforts will not satisfy this command; God wants [us] to strive earnestly, diligently, and continually to maintain harmonious relationships with those around [us].”
This is a big deal. Not only does this help protect unity within the church, but Sande goes on to say, seeking peace can “turn conflict into an opportunity to strengthen relationships … and make [our] lives a testimony to the love and power of Christ.”
Perhaps this is why Jesus placed such emphasis on conflict resolution, so much so that He told us if we’re about to worship Him and remember an offended brother, we’re to immediately stop and seek reconciliation. Only after we’ve done that are we freed, emotionally and spiritually, to truly worship God.
But what if the other person is unresponsive?
In that case, we can walk away with clean hearts and hands knowing, “as far as it depended on us,” we attempted to live in peace. Because resolution doesn’t just depend on us. We have no control over how another person will respond, but we do have full control over how faithfully we obey Christ and how well we reflect Him in our actions.
As I thought back to my situation with the offended woman, I remembered how Christ treated me. When I was living in complete rebellion against Him, He pursued me, diligently and patiently. When I sinned again and again, He forgave me. And when my sin created a barrier between us that I couldn’t cross, through His death, He tore it down.
Knowing this, regardless of how this young woman received or reacted to my efforts, I knew I needed to reach out anyway.
So I did. She responded exactly as I’d feared, but that didn’t mean my efforts had been pointless. Despite my fear of rejection and my desire to avoid the entire situation, I’d chosen to obey, and hopefully, in doing so, had provided a glimpse of Jesus … and reminded myself afresh of the beauty of grace.
“Put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” Colossians 3:12b-13 NASB
About the author: Jennifer Slattery is a writer, editor, and speaker who’s addressed women’s groups, church groups, Bible studies, and writers across the nation. She’s the author of six contemporary novels and maintains a devotional blog found at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com. She has a passion for helping women discover, embrace, and live out who they are in Christ. As the founder of Wholly Loved Ministries, (http://whollyloved.com) she and her team partner with churches to facilitate events designed to help women rest in their true worth and live with maximum impact. When not writing, reading, or editing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.
Join the conversation: Let’s talk about this! How do you typically react when someone hurts or abandons you? Why do you think it’s important God’s children learn to reconcile with one another?