The Stages of Peacemaking
Bear with it
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” (Colossians 3:13 ESV)
What do we bear with for the sake of peace? The little daily annoyances, personality traits, and preference matters. They don’t rise to the level of calling for a peace summit. When we make a big stink out of an insignificant thing we come across as petty, which only makes actual peace harder. What should we do with the non-sin idiosyncrasies everybody has? Do to others as you would have them do to you. Do you want peace summit level inquisition about your quirks? Every single person has qualities that require the people around them to simply bear with them. Bearing in love is good, especially when people bear with us.
Sometimes in conflict or disagreement, this requires us to just agree to disagree. Bear with their opinion or preference. It’s a broken world. We don’t all agree. Let’s go on for Jesus.
“Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)
Now we are on the level of actual sin or more serious offense. Wrongs done to us. If we have to confront and reconcile every sin we notice in anyone, we will be full-time sin inspectors. Yet Jesus said if we want to be inspecting sin full-time, we should inspect our own sin full-time.
“You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5)
I have called this stretchy love; the kind of love that stretches and can cover in the sense that it has a posture of grace toward the failures of others. God is gracious toward my sin. When I see a selfish spirit in a family member, OK, my posture toward that sin is to cover it with grace and leave it to God. This calls us to be slow to anger. Slow to annoyance.
When should I cover it and when should I confront it? Is this offense hindering our relationship? Am I able to place it in a mental category where I’m free to love and share with this person? If not, then it calls for the next step in peacemaking.
This is active peacemaking. Passive aggressiveness kicks in and our instinct is to withdraw when what we really need to do is engage. Time doesn’t allow an exposition of Matthew 18 and what Jesus says. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15)
We unfortunately see that as a church discipline text when 99% of the time it’s a guide to peacemaking in relationships. Go to the person and point out the fault. Obviously, this is not permission to be obnoxious or holier than thou. We go to make peace. Peacemaking is both an attitude and an action. We go to reconcile the relationship by reconciling the offense.
This requires winsomeness and wisdom, but don’t let that keep you from doing it. We all should realize that when someone comes to us to be a peacemaker they are showing how important our relationship is. Passive aggressive demeans the value by being unwilling to do the hard work peace requires.
If this is relational conflict, it’s rare that one person bears 100% of the fault. In reconciling, own up and confess your part, even if it’s only 1% contribution. Confess the 1% before talking about their 99%. It makes it safer for the other person to own their percentage.
Tone and timing are hugely helpful. I know this is your wedding day, but can we talk about the swirly you gave me in 3rd grade? That’s an example in the extreme. The goal is to win them back. To restore relational warmth. When and how we say what we say is so important. Pray and ask God to help you. Let’s not ignore the role of prayer in reconciliation.
Choose to not remember it/hold it against
This is the final step. What does it mean to reconcile and forgive? I wish we could eliminate “forgive and forget” from our vernacular. That’s helpful as it insinuates moving on, which is a great quality to have. However, God doesn’t forget our sins. He is all-knowing. What does God do? He chooses not to remember them. He chooses not to hold them against us anymore.
When we say, I forgive you, we are saying three things:
- I will not hold this against you anymore
- I will not hold it against you to others
- I will not hold it against you in my heart anymore.
To get to this, we have to frame this as forgiveness, not just “I’m sorry.” Peacemaking requires the offending party to ask, “Will you forgive me?” and the offended party to express, “I do forgive you.” Now the stinger is out, and healing can begin.
Things happen that you’ll never technically forget. What can happen is, over time, I choose daily not to dwell on it against you. Eventually, it’s not the first thing or the second thing I think about when I see you or think about you. The negative can be replaced with the positive. That’s a great key to overcoming offenses—consciously remind yourself of positive experiences and positive qualities the person has. This creates gratitude and eventually appreciation for the person.
Too many times conflict is viewed as something that will always define the relationship. I’ll never get over this. This will always be a thing between us. Hear me. Only if you choose to. The gospel applied horizontally allows for the worst offenses to be forgiven and peace to be restored.
Here it is winter in Northwest Indiana. Potholes are appearing everywhere. What’s the difference between a pothole and the Grand Canyon? In Northwest Indiana, not that much. Actually, the answer is obvious. Both are holes. One you drive over and you go on. The other you drive into and you never get out.
By God’s grace, conflict in families can be potholes; bumps in the road if we follow these biblical principles of peacemaking. Are you a peace-faker or a peacemaker? Remember, you’re a sinner in a family of sinners. Keep the bar of expectation realistic and see others through the lens of the gospel. Christian, it is the lens of grace and peace through which God has promised to look at you forever.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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