We spent quite a bit of time last night at WSF talking about forgiveness and broken relationships. I thought the topic in Purpose-Driven life was pretty self-explanatory, but we actually got into some good discussions over the points in the book. For one, if you are supposed to take the initiative to repair broken relationships, when should this happen? It seemed to me like the book was saying you needed to immediately take action to restore peace when conflict arises. I would disagree. Sometimes I think you need to get to a place in your heart where you are ready to deal with the conflict... and not necessarily to lead to resolution, but reconciliation. Some of the people in our group talked about how they had been feeling guilt over a lost relationship for years. This got me thinking about how recently I've made a distinct effort to try to simply accept that friendships, by nature, will wax and wane and sometimes end. In my 20's I beat myself up a lot that I fell out of touch with people. The truth is that it just happens. You don't have to be friends with everybody.
I think it's amazing to think about how peace really needs to start with you. Maybe it's terribly idealistic, but this Chinese proverb has always spoken to me:
"If there is light in the soul, there will be beauty in the person. If there is beauty in the person, there will be harmony in the house. If there is harmony in the house, there will be order in the nation. If there is order in the nation, there will be peace in the world."
Here are Rick Warren's Biblical points, in case you're interested. Do you think this works? Are you taking the inititive for reconciliation? It's a hard thing to do!
1. Talk to God first, then the person.
God at times will change hearts as an answer to prayer, which then makes social engagement unnecessary. If not this, then it can prepare the peacemaker’s heart to be appropriately receptive. God honors heartfelt (genuine) prayers of faith, and nothing should be addressed without first speaking to God about the matter.
2. Always take the initiative.
To be a peacemaker requires quick action. Time only deepens wounds and causes spiritual damage to both parties, no matter who is at fault. Always take the first step. Restoring fellowship between disgruntled believers must take priority over worship. Frustrated Christians who hold unkind thoughts about each other will only grieve the Spirit of God, which materially affects true worship.
3. Sympathize with expressed feelings.
When addressing a person in conflict, allow him to “unload” emotionally without being defensive. Emotions often produce inappropriate conclusions and actions, but emotions are always real to the person within whom they exist. Not to recognize and allow their venting over efforts to provide a quick solution is a grave mistake. When a person is allowed to emotionally unload, it often is a pressure-release and creates a calming effect that allows for clearer thinking. Plus, it assures the person that the one listening actually cares for him, which is critical if a solution is to be fully accepted. And most importantly, it is Christ-like to patiently absorb the “hurts” of a fellow believer.
4. Confess personal faults in a conflict.
Always begin resolution to a conflict by admitting (confessing, owning up to) one’s personal faults pertaining to the disagreement. This takes courage, but one may be certain that confession and asking for forgiveness is a sure and quick way to defuse conflict.
5. Attack the problem, not the person.
Address the problem; do not affix blame. This entails the words and the attitude one conveys when addressing it. It is as important to be kind and tactful when speaking to a disgruntled brother in Christ, as it is in what is actually said. Being defensive is never the answer. Be kind and thoughtful….and sensitive to the brother’s feelings. Find common ground that is consistent with Bible doctrine.
6. Compromise as much as possible.
Compromise robs one of pride and self-centeredness; it should always be practiced as long as there is no serious conflict with Bible doctrine.
7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution.
Unity among brethren within the family of God should always take priority. There will always be disagreements and different ways of thinking regarding certain issues, but they should never be permitted to allow disharmony between believers.