When someone offends you, how do you deal with that in light of scripture? Not to count someone’s trespass against them is not easy business. How do we handle an offense in light of this Scripture, “…….He has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation?” Our desire to be right, to prove our point, to be in control, frequently blinds us as to the part we play in a conflict.
2 Corinthians 5:18-20, “Now all things are from God, who reconcile us to Himself through Christ, and gave to us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassador for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
To be sure, conflict never takes place in a vacuum. It is always in the context of relationships. In this context, very seldom does one party bear all the responsibility for the wrong done, while the other is without blame. To take the log out of our eye before we take the speck out of our brother’s eye, as we are told in Matthew 7:5 is not only difficult, but very painful. As a result, our prayer usually is that the other party would hear and understand our point of view; but, seldom do we pray to listen to and truly seek to understand the other person’s point of view. We seem to believe that such approach is a sign of weakness, an abdication of our position, and that being week is to be avoided at all cost.
Again in Matthew 5:23-24 we are told, “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” To obey such a command requires a great deal of honesty and courage on our part. These qualities are not in great supply, not only among people outside the church, but sadly enough, for those in the church. Have you ever consider the humility and maturity needed to leave your gift at the altar and go and be reconciled with your brother, particularly when you believe you’re right? This is one of the places where the battle between the spirit and the flesh is fought the hardest.
If we happen to “leave our gift at the altar and go to our brother” for the purpose of reconciliation; we need to ask ourselves, “Is my heart in the right place?” or do I go to show my spiritual superiority? If my motivation is the latter, my spiritual superiority will further anger my brother and create and atmosphere where reconciliation is impossible. True reconciliation only happens in the context of safety and security. When we feel threatened, we might pretend and even use the word “reconciliation,” but the heart is not in it. We comply for the sake of saving whatever remains of the relationship or out of fear of what would happen if we disagree. Doing so is not reconciliation, but compliance. Fear may keep my brother “in line,” but the relationship between us is colored by superficiality, if there is a relationship at all. In such an atmosphere trust cannot develop. The process of authentic reconciliation is permeated by truth and offers both parties the freedom to disagree respectfully and without fear of later consequences.
To seek reconciliation, I must be willing to consider the possibility that I play a part in the conflict. The purpose of going to “my brother,” is to seek to understand him, not to convince him of my point of view; and this can only happen by putting away my pride, my need to be right, and by carefully listening to his point of view without defensiveness.
In Galatian 6:1-2 we are told, “Brother, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted…each one should test his own actions.” As we seek to restore our brother, we are warned to do it gently, realizing that we too can be tempted. To this end we must watch our actions. Our gentleness comes as a result of understanding our own vulnerability to be tempted, as well as how we would like to be corrected when we are the one who has fallen. When we realize our own vulnerability, we don’t approach our brother from a parental or superior position, but as an equal. My actions then, come out of a heart that is in the right place. When my position and my actions are driven by humility and a genuine desire for reconciliation, I offer my brother a real opportunity to evaluate his/her contribution to the problem since my position is not a threatening one.
When in conflict with someone under our leadership we must remember Christ’s words in Matthew 20:25-28. To put this into context, the sons of Zebedee are looking to secure their position in His kingdom. The rest of the disciples become angry with them. To their quarrel Jesus responds, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of man did not come to be serve, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”. (Matthew 20:25-28) This is a tall order not only for the disciples but for us as well. According to the above passage, leadership is not a position to be defended by exerting our authority, but rather, it is demonstrated by our willingness to become a servant. The irony of this is that the moment I insist on proving my authority, that is precisely the moment that I lose it. The position of leadership carries with it a degree of power that when misused corrupts the leader and the position. The wise leader does not misuse his power, but rather, understands that his position demands a great deal of understanding and humility along with a willingness to put aside his pride for the sake and well-being of those he leads.
For a leader to handle a conflict and finish in such a way that portrays our ambassadorship for Christ, we must be willing to offer ourselves for crucifixion. This is a quiet a solitary process that we go through for God’s glory not ours. In that place of crucifixion, we do not look for the recognition of man as there is no applause, no lights, no fancy speeches about us, only a quiet voice saying, “Well done good and faithful servant you were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:23)