Impact

Authentic Relationships: Forgiving, Accepting and Bearing with One Another

“Not forgiving is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die.” (3)
Anne Lamott

Forgiving One Another

Instead, be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ also forgave you. (Ephesians 4:32 NET)

A Soft Place to Fall: The Adulterous Woman

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning, he came to the temple courts again. All the people came to him, and he sat down and began to teach them. The experts in the law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught committing adultery. They made her stand in front of them and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of adultery. In the law, Moses commanded us to stone to death, such women. What then do you say?" (Now they were asking this in an attempt to trap him so that they could bring charges against him.) Jesus bent down and wrote on the ground with his finger. When they persisted in asking him, he stood up straight and replied, "Whoever among you is guiltless may be the first to throw a stone at her." Then he bent over again and wrote on the ground. Now when they heard this, they began to drift away one at a time, starting with the older ones, until Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up straight and said to her, "Woman, where are they? Did no one condemn you?" She replied, "No one, Lord." And Jesus said, "I do not condemn you either. Go, and from now on do not sin anymore." (John 8:1-11 NET)

Jesus was not only the revealer of grace and truth but also the author of the law they touted (John 1:14,17). The Pharisees had met their better! Jesus was the only one qualified to throw the first stone because He was the only perfect one!

God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET)

In fulfillment of the prophecy from the book of Jeremiah, Jesus wrote their names in the dirt.

Lord, the hope of Israel, all who abandon you will be put to shame. All who turn away from me will be written in the dirt, for they have abandoned the Lord, the fountain of living water. (Jeremiah 17:13 CSB)

The older men understood the reference that condemned them, thus leaving first, followed by the younger men.

Jesus then demonstrated that mercy triumphs over judgment (1).

For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13 NET)

Nevertheless, He commanded her to stop sinning (i.e., adultery is sin (1).

“You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14 NET)

Unpacking our Bags

Forgiveness and acceptance are the detergents of body life that allow us to live free of the past. We all need a “fresh start” when we mess up.

Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind and reaching out for the things that are ahead, with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.(Philippians 3:13,14 NET)

Jesus constantly forgave others and encouraged them to do the same. We can only forgive others in proportion to our perception of God’s forgiveness in our lives.

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which were many, are forgiven, thus she loved much; but the one who is forgiven little loves little.” (Luke 7:47 NET)

Every sin we commit is, first and foremost, a sin against God alone.

For I am aware of my rebellious acts; I am forever conscious of my sin. Against you—you above all—I have sinned; I have done what is evil in your sight. So you are just when you confront me; you are right when you condemn me. (Psalm 51:3–4 NET)

The Magnitude of Our Sin Debt

The 10,000 Talent Debtor

“For this reason, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his slaves. As he began settling his accounts, a man who owed ten thousand talents was brought to him. Because he was not able to repay it, the lord ordered him to be sold, along with his wife, children, and whatever he possessed, and repayment to be made. Then the slave threw himself to the ground before him, saying, ‘Be patient with me, and I will repay you everything.’ The lord had compassion on that slave and released him, and forgave him the debt. (Matthew 18:23–27 NET)

(1 talent) x (75 pounds/talent) x (10,000 talents) = 750,000 pounds x (16 ounces/pound) x ($2200 US/ounce of gold today) = $26,400,000,000

or 26.4 billion US dollars 

This is more than anyone in those days could make in a lifetime of work – an impossible debt to pay! Effectively, it is an infinite debt.

The 100 Denari Debtor

After he went out, that same slave found one of his fellow slaves who owed him one hundred silver coins. So he grabbed him by the throat and started to choke him, saying, 'Pay back what you owe me!' Then his fellow slave threw himself down and begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will repay you.' But he refused. Instead, he went out and threw him in prison until he repaid the debt. (Matthew 18:28-30 NET)

The typical worker’s daily wages were one denarii (i.e., one silver coin (1)). Therefore, 100 denari would be about a fourth of a person’s annual salary – a large but payable debt.

The Master’s Reaction

When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were very upset and went and told their lord everything that had taken place. Then his lord called the first slave and said to him, 'Evil slave! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me! Should you not have shown mercy to your fellow slave, just as I showed it to you?' And in anger his lord turned him over to the prison guards to torture him until he repaid all he owed. So also my heavenly Father will do to you, if each of you does not forgive your brother from your heart." (Matthew 18:31-35 NET)
But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. (Matthew 6:15 NET).

The slave did not comprehend that the debt forgiven him was infinite; therefore, he was unwilling to forgive a fellow slave a large but payable debt.

A poor person who oppresses the weak is like a driving rain without food. (Proverbs 28:3 NET)

Failing to forgive others of their sins against us is a sign that we do not understand our infinite debt forgiven at the cross of Calvary.

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23 NET)

The debt for rebellion (sin) against a Holy God was impossible for us to pay; therefore, we faced eternal banishment and torture.

For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23 NET)

However, Jesus took upon Himself our debt, paid it, and canceled it! (Colossians 2:13)

And even though you were dead in your transgressions and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, he nevertheless made you alive with him, having forgiven all your transgressions. He has destroyed what was against us, a certificate of indebtedness expressed in decrees opposed to us. He has taken it away by nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13–14 NET)

We are to pray for, not prey on, our brothers and sisters in Christ when we see them stumble.

If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. (1 John 5:16 NET)

God will then give them mercy despite what justice demands (i.e., God will give them additional opportunities to repent beyond what they deserve due to our intercession).

If anyone sees his fellow Christian committing a sin not resulting in death, he should ask, and God will grant life to the person who commits a sin not resulting in death. There is a sin resulting in death. I do not say that he should ask about that. (1 John 5:16 NET)

Remember, mercy triumphs over judgment!

For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:13 NET)

Could a sin leading to the physical death of a Christian be unforgiveness? Realize unforgiveness blocks your forgiveness (1) from God.  

Whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven will also forgive you your sins.” (Mark 11:25 NET)
But if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive you your sins. (Matthew 6:15 NET)
If you forgive anyone’s sins, they are forgiven; if you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained.” (John 20:23 NET)
If you forgive anyone for anything, I also forgive him—for indeed what I have forgiven (if I have forgiven anything) I did so for you in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes). (2 Corinthians 2:10–11 NET)

Partaking in an Unworthy Manner

For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. For this reason, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself first, and in this way let him eat the bread and drink of the cup. For the one who eats and drinks without careful regard for the body eats and drinks judgment against himself. That is why many of you are weak and sick, and quite a few are dead. But if we examined ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned with the world. (1 Corinthians 11:26-32 NET)

An unworthy manner would include:

Not forgiving others who have sinned against us while partaking of the Lord’s Supper (1)

and

Not receiving the benefits of the New Covenant by faith when partaking of the Lord’s Supper.

Now without faith it is impossible to please him, for the one who approaches God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6 NET)

The only way to worthily partake in the Lord’s Supper (1) is to realize that we are not worthy in our own ability but only through the battered body and shed blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Hallelujah! Paradoxically, we can only partake of the bread (representing His Body) and the wine (representing His Blood) if we understand that it is only through His body and His blood that we are worthy to partake of them. That is, we are not found with our own righteousness but rather His righteousness (1) imputed to us!

More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I may gain Christ, and be found in him, not because I have my own righteousness derived from the law, but because I have the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is in fact based on Christ’s faithfulness. (Philippians 3:8–9 NET)
God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NET)

Partaking in an unworthy manner results in God’s disciplining us His children:

Endure your suffering as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you do not experience discipline, something all sons have shared in, then you are illegitimate and are not sons. Besides, we have experienced discipline from our earthly fathers, and we respected them; shall we not submit ourselves all the more to the Father of spirits and receive life? For they disciplined us for a little while as seemed good to them, but he does so for our benefit, that we may share his holiness. Now all discipline seems painful at the time, not joyful. But later it produces the fruit of peace and righteousness for those trained by it. (Hebrews 12:7-11 NET)

Fellow Travelers

Competition subtly weaves its way into our friendships whenever we think we must earn God’s approval by our will and effort. We start norm referencing (i.e., I am not perfect, but I am better than 90% of the Christians around me).

For we would not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who recommend themselves. But when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are without understanding. (2 Corinthians 10:12 NET)

Fellow Christians become competitors when we judge our Christianity based on our intentions, but for others, we base it on their performance. We exaggerate the weaknesses of others. We rationalize our weaknesses. (2)

A Truly Safe Place

Forgiving and accepting others simply means that we won’t hold them accountable to us for their failures. We continue to respond to them with love and grace. It does not mean we become doormats for everyone to walk over or ignore their actions. Forgiveness frees us from the destruction others cause.

We can forgive someone that is abusive without continuing to subject ourselves to that abuse. Forgiveness does not mean we should keep silent if someone seeks to hurt others. Forgiveness does not absolve people of their responsibility to us. Forgiveness does absolve people of their accountability to us. 

We are a soft place to fall when we love people through their failures and hurts as God draws them closer to Himself and transforms them from within. We still speak the truth firmly but with gentleness and patience. Remember that “hurt people hurt people and are easily hurt by others.” Be quick to forgive, realizing that love melts pain. Be ready to accept others where they are. Be willing to walk with them on their journey. (2)

Forgiveness

Forgiveness protects our relationships from the damage of the past. It frees us from the demand for perfection as it overlooks faults and offenses. If we constantly receive God’s forgiveness, we will naturally stop holding others to a standard they cannot meet by themselves. Realize that forgiveness and reconciliation are two different things. Forgiveness frees others from my judgment, vengeance, and desire for retribution. Forgiveness frees me from bitterness and overcomes hurts others have caused. However, forgiveness does not absolve from sin. Forgiveness does not have anything to do with future trust. Consequently, the forgiveness offer does not mean trust has been restored. In most cases, trust has to be re-earned. Consequently, a forgiven person may still be an untrustworthy person.

Reconciliation is a process of healing between the offender and the offended. Reconciliation demands that the offender recognize their offense, understand the pain it caused, offer restitution, and assure that the offending pattern will change. Reconciliation is not always possible. Nevertheless, we can still forgive. Remember, Jesus forgave from the cross.

Father forgive them for they know not what they do (Luke 23:34 NET). 

Do not be discouraged when forgiveness does not come easily. Forgiveness is less of a choice than a process. We must choose to forgive; however, God must work in our hearts to remove the bitterness and pain that may be hidden in layers (i.e., like an onion). Consequently, our choice to forgive may contradict our real, deeply buried feelings. Therefore, we must choose to forgive every time one of these memories surfaces.

Then Peter came to him and said, "Lord, how many times must I forgive my brother who sins against me? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "Not seven times, I tell you, but seventy-seven times! (Matthew 18:21,22 NET)

We are to forgive until no emotion is attached to the memory of the wrong done to us. If we, by faith, choose to forgive each time the memory returns, then God will cause the memory of the hurt to fade until it is gone. 

Joseph named the firstborn Manasseh, saying, “Certainly God has made me forget all my trouble and all my father’s house.” (Genesis 41:51 NET)

Wrongs from fellow church members hurt more than those from people of the world.

Indeed, it is not an enemy who insults me, or else I could bear it; it is not one who hates me who arrogantly taunts me, or else I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like me, my close friend in whom I confided. We would share personal thoughts with each other; in God’s temple we would walk together among the crowd. (Psalm 55:12–14 NET)

Nevertheless, we are PROMISED conflict in the local church so that genuine Christians are revealed!

For in the first place, when you come together as a church I hear there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it. For there must in fact be divisions among you, so that those of you who are approved may be evident. (1 Corinthians 11:18–19 NET)

Accepting One Another

Receive one another, then, just as Christ also received you, to God’s glory. (Romans 15:7 NET)

Accept people as they are, trusting God will change them. This does not mean we condone their behavior or beliefs. It means you respect their humanity enough to let them work through the process. People run from those who try to change them into what they think they should be. People open their lives to those who accept them the way they are. (2)

Remember, respect is given to all unconditionally while trust is earned.  

Bearing One Another

I, therefore, the prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live worthily of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, (Ephesians 4:1–2 NET)

People do not need us to fix their problems. People simply need us to be there with them. 

A little girl who was late coming home for supper. Her mother made the expected irate parent’s demand to know where she had been. The little girl replied that she had stopped to help Janie, whose bicycle was broken in a fall. “But you don’t know anything about fixing bicycles,” her mother responded. “I know that,” the girl said. “I just stopped to help her cry.”

Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. (Romans 12:15 NET)

Two Kinds of Judgment

There are two types of judgment according to:

(1) Appearance and accusation of evil (condemnation)

(2) Truth and mercy (righteous judgment)

Do not judge according to external appearance, but judge with proper judgment.” (John 7:24 NET)
The measure which you use for others is the very same measure which will be used for you (Matthew 7:1,2 NET).

The human heart is a judgment seat before which everyone passes who is seen or thought of. All day long, we are seated as judges in the court of our unseen hearts. Unseen that is to man, but not to God. Judging others ceaselessly daily, day by day, and sometimes night. Judging, judging, measuring everyone and everything. We do not always need full and sufficient evidence because we love ourselves, and in that self-love, we think that we know.

When we judge others we are judging God, is the servant’s Master not able to “make them stand”? (Romans 14:4 NET)
Realize, we do to God what we do to others - for good or evil (Matthew 25:40 NET)

We judge by whims, feelings, and fancies by what we like and do not like. According to what people do or do not do in our favor and for our glory and satisfaction, we are the center of judgment. We judge by appearance. Failing to give mercy, we are given no mercy! If we judge according to mercy, we will find mercy increasing in our lives.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Matthew 5:7 NET)

If we use on others the measure of mercy that God has used on us (1), then that mercy will be measured to us and increasingly so. Mercy is the only type of judgment you want or can bear. We must become doers of the word of mercy. Every time a thought of a person passes through our heart, we must choose to “mercy” them through a simple prayer to God: 

Heavenly Father, please flood with mercies the one I am thinking of to fulfill all their needs.

When you pray for FLOODS of God’s mercy to fulfill the need of anyone, we are judging and measuring that which takes away our weakness and blindness and fills us with the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Mercy!

Speak and act as those who will be judged by a law that gives freedom. For judgment is merciless for the one who has shown no mercy. But mercy triumphs over judgment. (James 2:12–13 NET)

Remember: WITH YOUR OWN MEASURE YOU WILL BE MEASURED!

“Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive. (Matthew 7:1–2 NET)
Peacemaking (1)

There are three basic ways that people respond to conflict. These responses may be arranged on a curve that resembles a hill. On the left slope of the hill, we find the escape responses to conflict. The right side shows the attack responses. And in the center, we find the peacemaking responses. Moving from left to right on the curve also involves moving from private to public and voluntary to forced solutions.

Escape Responses

The three responses on the slippery slope’s left side are called the escape responses. People tend to use these responses when they are more interested in avoiding conflict than resolving it. These responses create an illusion of peace (i.e., peace-faking) and not the reality of peace.

Denial – One way to escape a conflict is to pretend it does not exist. Or, if we cannot deny that the problem exists, we simply refuse to do what should be done to resolve a conflict properly. These responses only bring temporary relief and usually worsen matters.

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had not given birth to any children, but she had an Egyptian servant named Hagar. So Sarai said to Abram, “Since the Lord has prevented me from having children, have sexual relations with my servant. Perhaps I can have a family by her.” Abram did what Sarai told him. So after Abram had lived in Canaan for ten years, Sarai, Abram’s wife, gave Hagar, her Egyptian servant, to her husband to be his wife. He had sexual relations with Hagar, and she became pregnant. Once Hagar realized she was pregnant, she despised Sarai. Then Sarai said to Abram, “You have brought this wrong on me! I allowed my servant to have sexual relations with you, but when she realized that she was pregnant, she despised me. May the Lord judge between you and me!” Abram said to Sarai, “Since your servant is under your authority, do to her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so she ran away from Sarai. (Genesis 16:1–6 NET)
Now Eli was very old when he heard about everything that his sons used to do to all the people of Israel and how they used to have sex with the women who were stationed at the entrance to the tent of meeting. He said to them, “Why do you behave in this way? For I hear about these evil things from all these people. This ought not to be, my sons! For the report that I hear circulating among the Lord’s people is not good. If a man sins against a man, one may appeal to God on his behalf. But if a man sins against the Lord, who then will intercede for him?” But Eli’s sons would not listen to their father, for the Lord had decided to kill them. (1 Samuel 2:22–25 NET)

Flight – Another way to escape from a conflict is to run away. This may include leaving the house, ending a friendship, quitting a job, filing for divorce, or changing churches. In most cases, running away only postpones a proper solution to a problem, so flight is usually a harmful way to deal with conflict.

Abram said to Sarai, “Since your servant is under your authority, do to her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai treated Hagar harshly, so she ran away from Sarai. The Lord’s angel found Hagar near a spring of water in the desert—the spring that is along the road to Shur. He said, “Hagar, servant of Sarai, where have you come from, and where are you going?” She replied, “I’m running away from my mistress, Sarai.” (Genesis 16:6–8 NET)

Of course, there may be times when it is appropriate to respectfully withdraw from a confusing or emotional situation temporarily to calm down, organize your thoughts, and pray. Flight may also be a legitimate response in seriously threatening circumstances, such as physical or sexual abuse.

Then an evil spirit from the Lord came upon Saul. He was sitting in his house with his spear in his hand, while David was playing the lyre. Saul tried to nail David to the wall with the spear, but he escaped from Saul’s presence and the spear drove into the wall. David escaped quickly that night. (1 Samuel 19:9–10 NET)

If a family is involved in such a situation, however, every reasonable effort should still be made to find trustworthy assistance and come back to seek a lasting solution to the problem.

Suicide – When people lose all hope of resolving a conflict, they may seek to escape the situation (or make a desperate cry for help) by attempting to take their own lives (see 1 Samuel 31:4). Suicide is never the right way to deal with conflict. Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Tragically, however, suicide has become the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, partly because so many children have never learned how to deal with conflict constructively.

Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword and stab me with it! Otherwise these uncircumcised people will come, stab me, and torture me.” But his armor bearer refused to do it, because he was very afraid. So Saul took his sword and fell on it. (1 Samuel 31:4 NET)
Attack Responses

The three responses on the slippery slope’s right side are called the attack responses. These responses are used by people who are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship. This attitude is seen in people who view conflict as a contest or a chance to assert their rights, control others, or take advantage of their situation. Attack responses are typically used by people who are strong and self-confident. But they may also be used by those who feel weak, fearful, insecure, or vulnerable. Whatever the motive, these responses bring as much pressure to bear on opponents as is necessary to eliminate their opposition.

There are two ways that people move into the attack zone. Some resort to an attack response the minute they encounter conflict. Others move into this zone after they have tried unsuccessfully to escape from conflict. When they can no longer ignore, cover up, or run away from the problem, they go to the other extreme and attack those who oppose them.

Assault –Some people try to overcome an opponent by using various forms of force or intimidation, such as verbal attacks (including gossip and slander), physical violence, or efforts to damage a person financially or professionally.

Now Stephen, full of grace and power, was performing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people. But some men from the Synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), both Cyrenians and Alexandrians, as well as some from Cilicia and the province of Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. Yet they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, “We have heard this man speaking blasphemous words against Moses and God.” They incited the people, the elders, and the experts in the law; then they approached Stephen, seized him, and brought him before the council. They brought forward false witnesses who said, “This man does not stop saying things against this holy place and the law. For we have heard him saying that Jesus the Nazarene will destroy this place and change the customs that Moses handed down to us.” All who were sitting in the council looked intently at Stephen and saw his face was like the face of an angel. (Acts 6:8–15 NET)

Such conduct always makes conflicts worse.

Litigation – Another way to force people to bend to our will is to take them to court. Although some conflicts may legitimately be taken before a civil judge, lawsuits usually damage relationships and often fail to achieve complete justice.

After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders and an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought formal charges against Paul to the governor. When Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying, “We have experienced a lengthy time of peace through your rule, and reforms are being made in this nation through your foresight. Most excellent Felix, we acknowledge this everywhere and in every way with all gratitude. But so that I may not delay you any further, I beg you to hear us briefly with your customary graciousness. For we have found this man to be a troublemaker, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.He even tried to desecrate the temple, so we arrested him. When you examine him yourself, you will be able to learn from him about all these things we are accusing him of doing.”The Jews also joined in the verbal attack, claiming that these things were true. When the governor gestured for him to speak, Paul replied, “Because I know that you have been a judge over this nation for many years, I confidently make my defense. As you can verify for yourself, not more than twelve days ago I went up to Jerusalem to worship. They did not find me arguing with anyone or stirring up a crowd in the temple courts or in the synagogues or throughout the city,nor can they prove to you the things they are accusing me of doing. But I confess this to you, that I worship the God of our ancestors according to the Way (which they call a sect), believing everything that is according to the law and that is written in the prophets. I have a hope in God (a hope that these men themselves accept too) that there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. This is the reason I do my best to always have a clear conscience toward God and toward people. After several years I came to bring to my people gifts for the poor and to present offerings, which I was doing when they found me in the temple, ritually purified, without a crowd or a disturbance. But there are some Jews from the province of Asia who should be here before you and bring charges, if they have anything against me. Or these men here should tell what crime they found me guilty of when I stood before the council, other than this one thing I shouted out while I stood before them: ‘I am on trial before you today concerning the resurrection of the dead.’ ” Then Felix, who understood the facts concerning the Way more accurately, adjourned their hearing, saying, “When Lysias the commanding officer comes down, I will decide your case.”He ordered the centurion to guard Paul, but to let him have some freedom, and not to prevent any of his friends from meeting his needs. Some days later, when Felix arrived with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. While Paul was discussing righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment, Felix became frightened and said, “Go away for now, and when I have an opportunity, I will send for you.” At the same time he was also hoping that Paul would give him money, and for this reason he sent for Paul as often as possible and talked with him. After two years had passed, Porcius Festus succeeded Felix, and because he wanted to do the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison. (Acts 24:1–27 NET)
Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been released if he had not appealed to Caesar.” (Acts 26:32 NET)
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of the wrath of the authorities but also because of your conscience. (Romans 13:1–5 NET)

When Christians are involved on both sides, their witness can be severely damaged. This is why Christians are commanded to settle their differences with other Christians within the church rather than in the civil courts.

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters! (1 Corinthians 6:1–8 NET)

Again, making every effort to settle a dispute out of court whenever possible is important.

Reach agreement quickly with your accuser while on the way to court, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the warden, and you will be thrown into prison. I tell you the truth, you will never get out of there until you have paid the last penny! (Matthew 5:25–26 NET)

Litigation is often nothing more than professionally assisted denial and attack.

Murder – In extreme cases, people may be so desperate to win a dispute that they will try to kill those who oppose them.

When they heard these things, they became furious and ground their teeth at him. But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked intently toward heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look!” he said. “I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” But they covered their ears, shouting out with a loud voice, and rushed at him with one intent. When they had driven him out of the city, they began to stone him, and the witnesses laid their cloaks at the feet of a young man named Saul. They continued to stone Stephen while he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then he fell to his knees and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” When he had said this, he died. And Saul agreed completely with killing him. Now on that day a great persecution began against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were forced to scatter throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria. (Acts 7:54–8:1 NET)

While most Christians would not actually kill someone, we should never forget that we stand guilty of murder in God’s eyes when we harbor anger or contempt in our hearts toward others.

Everyone who hates his fellow Christian is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. (1 John 3:15 NET)
“You have heard that it was said to an older generation, ‘Do not murder,’ and ‘whoever murders will be subjected to judgment.’ But I say to you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subjected to judgment. And whoever insults a brother will be brought before the council, and whoever says ‘Fool’ will be sent to fiery hell. (Matthew 5:21–22 NET)
Peacemaking Responses

The six responses on the top portion of the slippery slope are called the peacemaking responses. These responses are commanded by God, empowered by the Bible, and directed toward finding just and mutually agreeable solutions to conflict. The first three peacemaking responses may be called “personal peacemaking” because they may be carried out personally and privately between you and the other party. The vast majority of conflicts in life should and can be resolved in one of these ways. When a dispute cannot be resolved through one of the personal peacemaking responses, God calls us to use one of the next three peacemaking responses, referred to as “assisted peacemaking.” These responses require the involvement of other people from your church or Christian community.

Overlook an offense – Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly and deliberately overlooking an offense. Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger.

A person’s wisdom makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11 NET)
A fool’s annoyance is known at once, but the prudent overlooks an insult. (Proverbs 12:16 NET)
Starting a quarrel is like letting out water; stop it before strife breaks out! (Proverbs 17:14 NET)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. (Colossians 3:12–13 NET)
Above all keep your love for one another fervent, because love covers a multitude of sins. (1 Peter 4:8 NET)

Reconciliation – If an offense is too serious to overlook or has damaged the relationship, we must resolve personal or relational issues through confession, loving correction, and forgiveness.

The one who covers his transgressions will not prosper, but whoever confesses them and forsakes them will find mercy. (Proverbs 28:13 NET)
So then, if you bring your gift to 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 and then come and present your gift. (Matthew 5:23–24 NET)
“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. (Matthew 18:15 NET)
Brothers and sisters, if a person is discovered in some sin, you who are spiritual restore such a person in a spirit of gentleness. Pay close attention to yourselves, so that you are not tempted too. (Galatians 6:1 NET)
Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if someone happens to have a complaint against anyone else. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also forgive others. (Colossians 3:12–13 NET)

Negotiation – Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. This should be done through a cooperative bargaining process in which you and the other person seek to reach a settlement that satisfies the legitimate needs of each side.

Each of you should be concerned not only about your own interests, but about the interests of others as well. (Philippians 2:4 NET)

Mediation – If two people cannot reach an agreement in private, they should ask one or more objective outside people to meet with them to help them communicate more effectively and explore possible solutions. These mediators may ask questions and give advice, but they have no authority to force you to accept a particular solution. 

But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. (Matthew 18:16 NET)

Arbitration – When you and an opponent cannot come to a voluntary agreement on a material issue, you may appoint one or more arbitrators to listen to your arguments and render a binding decision to settle the issue. Paul indicates that this is how Christians ought to resolve even their legal conflicts with one another.

When any of you has a legal dispute with another, does he dare go to court before the unrighteous rather than before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you not competent to settle trivial suits? Do you not know that we will judge angels? Why not ordinary matters! So if you have ordinary lawsuits, do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame! Is there no one among you wise enough to settle disputes between fellow Christians? Instead, does a Christian sue a Christian, and do this before unbelievers? The fact that you have lawsuits among yourselves demonstrates that you have already been defeated. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be cheated? But you yourselves wrong and cheat, and you do this to your brothers and sisters! (1 Corinthians 6:1–8 NET)

Accountability – If a person who professes to be a Christian refuses to be reconciled and do what is right, Jesus commands church leaders to formally intervene to hold him or her accountable to Scripture and to promote repentance, justice, and forgiveness.

“If your brother sins, go and show him his fault when the two of you are alone. If he listens to you, you have regained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others with you, so that at the testimony of two or three witnesses every matter may be established. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. If he refuses to listen to the church, treat him like a Gentile or a tax collector. (Matthew 18:15–17 NET)
But if anyone does not obey our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed. Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother. (2 Thessalonians 3:14–15 NET)

Direct church involvement is often viewed negatively among Christians today. Still, when it is done as Jesus instructs – lovingly, redemptively, and restoratively – it can be the key to saving relationships and bringing justice and peace.

(4)

Authentic Relationships Series:


Shalom
(Security, Wholeness, Success)
Peace

Then he said to them, “Therefore every expert in the law who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his treasure what is new and old.” (Matthew 13:52 NET)


(1) Select the link to open another article with additional information in a new tab.

(2) This blog adapted from Authentic Relationships: Discover the lost art of “One Anothering” by Wayne Jacobsen (http://www.lifestream.org) and Clay Jacobsen. ISBN-13: 978-0801064517

(3) “Not forgiving is like swallowing rat poison and waiting for the rat to die” from the book Traveling Mercies by Anne Lamott 

(4) Adapted from The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd Edition by Ken Sande (founder of Peacemakers Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 Ministries), ISBN 0-8010-6485-6, Reprinted or adapted from Peacemaker® Ministries. https://pm.training

Hal has taught the Bible for over three decades. Through an interdenominational ministry dedicated to helping the local church build men for Jesus, Hal trained men, the leaders of men’s ministries, and provided pulpit supply. Before that, he was a Men’s Ministry Leader and an Adult Bible Fellowship teacher of a seventy-five-member class at a denominational megachurch. Presently, Hal desires to honor Jesus Christ through this Internet teaching ministry, thereby glorifying the Heavenly Father in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He believes, second to cultivating his relationship with God that raising his family unto the Lord is the most significant task for him while on Earth. Furthermore, Hal believes that being a successful leader in the church or workplace is no substitute for failing to be a successful leader at home.  DOULOS HAL'S TOPICAL INDEX

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