“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Anytime you help yourself or someone else in healing a broken relationship you are a “peacemaker” and God delights in you. You are literally carrying on the work of the Prince of Peace. Friendships that last a lifetime and marriages that go the distance “till death do us part” don’t happen by chance. Likewise with strong families, where each member has mastered the ability to overlook the molehills and when a mountain does come along, they climb it together. We are called to love, support and care for one another, to love our friends and neighbours as our selves. In reality, we need God and we need each other, that’s the way we are made. I know that it isn’t easy at times…in fact, without God, it would be all but impossible with some folks. All of us must strive to guard our close relationships with tenderness and endurance. Welcome to Making Peace (part 1).
We all have strengths and weaknesses, favourable qualities and character flaws, but as different as we all are, we share a common curse. We live in a fallen world. We can all be enticed and dragged away by our own sinful desires. This is the best answer that I have found in the Bible as to why Christian marriages end, family members become disposable and friendships are abandoned. James 1:14 Even though as Christians we have been freed from slavery to sin, we haven’t completely lost the taste for it. As much as it would be wonderful to live in perfect peace and harmony every moment of every day, well…that’s just not realistic.
Arguments, disagreements and confrontations do happen in relationships and can actually be quite healthy. They may be caused by differing opinions on an important matter or a simple misunderstanding, maybe even a poor attempt at humor that led to hurt feelings. The fact that they happen isn’t nearly as important as HOW they are handled. Jesus tells us in John 16:33 that we will have tribulation in this world. The Oxford Dictionary describes tribulation as: a state of great trouble or suffering. That doesn’t mean just “out” in the world, but in our own homes, even in our Christian homes. This is not a threat to healthy households whose members remain in Christ and act accordingly. As parents we strive to ensure that our children make healthy choices and are quick to correct dangerous or poor behaviour. We do this because we love them. God does the same thing with us and commands us to do the same with each other. This can sometimes mean correcting our parents. Obeying our father and our mother does not come before obedience to God. I’m not talking about nitpicking every little thing. Proverbs 19:11 states that it is to our credit to overlook an offence. What I am taking about is witnessing major transgressions that could lead to their destruction and the destruction of others. Proverbs 6:12-19 is a sobering description of just such offences. If you truly love them, you will take action. The Holy Spirit, Who is alive and well in the heart of every true believer, will guide you in this process if you let Him. God will never ask us to do something and not provide the help and courage to move forward.
You can chose your friends, you can chose your spouse, but you can’t chose the family you are born into. Family issues take on a different dynamic, never the less, the following advice works well for all relationships.
If you have been in a relationship for a significant period of time, you will have experienced successes and failures, gains and losses, periods of happiness and times of deep sadness. This is perfectly normal as we travel together through life. Most minor disagreements and annoyances are of little consequence in a healthy relationship. It’s the major blow outs, the ones that threaten an otherwise stable friendship that leave us feeling mentally and physically drained. These are the times when it is extremely important to guard against bitterness and unhealthy thoughts. Avoid the temptation to “throw in the towel.” I may be going out on a limb here but I believe that as complex and widely varied as relationship issues are, the following statement is true for all; when a relationship ends, someone isn’t getting either what they want or what they need. There is a difference. How wonderful it would be if we were all able to align our hearts with what God wants. He knows exactly what each one of us needs.
The best thing to do when an argument gets heated and tempers flare is to stop. This is not easy, we are emotional beings and the desire to be right and to win an argument compels us to stay in the battle until the white flag of surrender is raised. Yelling doesn’t make you right and swearing only reveals your lack of self-control. All too often things get said that you wish you could take back. Adrenaline can cause us to lose focus and become enraged, it’s time to stop. Be mindful of how you leave the situation. Don’t stomp, throw or slam your way out and don’t insist on having the last word, just calmly walk away. Be sure to let them know that you understand the importance of the subject and are not trying to avoid it, but need time to calm down. Make the commitment to revisit the issue after taking some time to think things through and regain your clarity.
Take time to reflect on what happened and try to identify the “root cause” of the disagreement. Underlying issues are not always easy to spot but if they remain undetected and untreated the behaviour is likely to continue. We may even have these issues inside ourselves and not even be aware of them. Look inwardly and ask yourself some tough questions. Are hurtful words and careless actions you have experienced in the past subconsciously controlling your reactions in the now? PTSD isn’t just a military term. It is possible that something triggered you. Do your best to identify what it was and put it into the proper perspective with regard to the current issue.
Our words and actions reveal what lies in our heart so speak carefully and always with love, make sure your actions line up with what you say. Ask God to expose anything that may be hampering the reconciliation. Making peace takes work, guard against bitterness at all cost. Make every effort to ensure that your motivation is as pure and reasonable as possible. Is it a “righteous” request? If you are convinced that, before God, your position is right then you will be far better prepared to state your case when you reconvene. This is one of the most important reasons to read your Bible, there is no defence against the Word of God. 2 Timothy 3:16-17
Don’t quickly scan its pages looking for a verse to hurl like a missile, but “speak the truth in love.” Ephesians 4:15 Sadly there are those who diligently study the Word only looking for ways they can use it to achieve their own agenda. They have great biblical knowledge but lack the wisdom to put it to proper use to the glory of God.
Have you ever had these thrown at you? “Don’t judge” or “Take that log out of your eye.” First of all, if Jesus didn’t want us to recognise evil at work He wouldn’t have told us about the fruits of the Spirit or warn us of the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Matthew 7:15-20 The important thing is that we don’t judge under a spirit of condemnation, but that we have the person’s best interest at heart. That we love them. Remember, we are all sinners and we all fall short of the glory of God. We all need forgiveness and must be willing to forgive others. If the person you’re trying to help doesn’t truly believe that you love them…they won’t hear you.
God must come first, followed by the best interests of others before our own. We are all selfish to varying degrees so it can be difficult, but that’s what love does. Take time to pray for the person. Ask God to unplug their ears and open their hearts to the truth. Bringing a loved one before the Lord in prayer is a loving gift that invites true power into the situation, so be specific. If it’s ungodly behaviour then name it and pray against it. Ask God to give them the grace and humility to recognize the issue and the strength and wisdom to change it. Be patient, change takes time. I think one reason my wife was able to hang on through my alcoholism was that she witnessed my honest and wholehearted attempts to change my behaviour and always let me know that she appreciated my efforts. I don’t ever recommend turning a blind eye to ungodly behaviour as little things can become big deals over time.
You obviously care a great deal about your relationship and are devoted to healing it. This is the most critical element on the road to reconciliation, both parties must be deeply committed to the healing process. A one sided relationship will not last. When one person is always giving and the other is always taking the giver becomes depleted and miserable. As you take time to think about the situation look for ways to compromise and be willing to meet them somewhere in the middle. You must draw the line at things God is clearly against, just be sure that is the case and then set a good example. Be understanding, be gentle and self-controlled.
When you feel confident that sufficient time has passed for a constructive and meaningful conversation to begin, let them know that you wish to continue. Don’t rush it. They may take a little longer to come around. This may take a few days or even a few weeks but don’t let it go too long. If they tell you to “stop bringing up the past” or that the subject is “not open to any further discussion,” these are control moves designed to avoid and are a clear indication of a lack of commitment. If it was important enough to cause such division then it must be dealt with or it will come up again.
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Continue with part 2 of Making Peace
Image – Pixabay
Oxford Dictionary – online
gotquestions.org – How and When should we overlook an offence.