Take the First Step

You’ve been hurt. Somebody has done you wrong. Maybe it is a big deal. Maybe it is something seemingly smaller. What should you do?

You know that somebody in the church is upset with you. They feel hurt by you. They feel like you have wronged them in some way. But maybe you do not think you did anything wrong. What do you do?

I’m not going to make this complicated or flowery. If there is a problem between you and another person in the body of Christ, you take the first step to try to make things right.

Matthew 5:23-24 – 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.

Jesus tells his followers that they need to be eager to make things right when conflict exists. He even goes so far as to tell them to leave behind a gift, be reconciled, and then return to complete their offering. His point is one of urgency.

So, if you know that a person feels wronged by you, what do you do? First, fight down the feeling of being offended that somebody would dare think that you had wronged them. You probably know that your first reaction, when a person says you have done them wrong, is to be upset that they would dare think so. Let that go. Fight down the urge to go and tell them why they are wrong for thinking you are wrong. Instead, go to them and listen. Go and hear. Perhaps you will find that you are not as perfect as you think. And even if they are wrong, at least you will have done them the kindness of hearing them. Then, if you are wrong, apologize, seek forgiveness, and try to make things right if possible.

But what if you really did not wrong them and cannot agree with their accusation? You can still take the high road. You can still be gentle and gracious. You can still be understanding. You can still tell them that, while you cannot agree with them about how they are feeling, you do care about them and are sad that there is something that has come between you.

What if you are the one wronged? The best thing you can do is take action. Of course, you might need to first evaluate your opinion to see if you have missed anything. But if there is away in which a fellow believer has hurt you, go to them. Do not go angry and accusing. Just go and ask them for a conversation. Ask them to hear what you believe has happened. Do not be shocked if they defend themselves. After all, that is your first reflex too. Get past their defensiveness and let the other person know that you want your relationship with them to be reconciled. Smaller things you can just let go. Larger things may require that the person own what has happened and express repentance.

In both cases, Christian, if you are divided from another believer, if no attempt to solve the problem has been made, you need to take responsibility to take the first step. If you are the one wronged, go and communicate, offering the person forgiveness when they repent. IF you are the one who has wronged another, go and seek their forgiveness. If someone thinks you wronged them, but you do not think you did anything wrong, go and listen, seeking to be at peace with them to the very best of your ability. No, do not lie and pretend you did something you did not do. But be gracious, kind, merciful, and understanding.

At the end of the day, Christian, what we need to recognize is that Scripture calls on mature believers to take responsibility to settle conflict. Decide that you will take the first step instead of waiting for somebody else to do it. The goal is not to win in a conflict. The goal is to glorify Jesus.

How We Look Like Fools Today

Are you a fool? Do not think that a funny question. When the Bible calls you a fool, it is a very big deal. Fools oppose God. Fools are destined for destruction. And, in the book of Proverbs, we see things that show that our current culture is producing fools at an alarming rate.

Proverbs 29:11 – A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.

Just consider the above verse in the light of modern discourse. A wise person keeps his or her emotions in check. A fool gives full vent to his or her emotions, thoughts, frustrations, etc. Think about that comparison, and ask yourself if you more often look like a wise person or a fool.

Our society seems built today on people lashing out screaming and shouting, and spilling every emotion that we feel. Universities have developed safe spaces for students to cry and snuggle teddy bears if they hear any thought with which they disagree. Those same universities allow those same students to scream at, curse at, physically threaten, and shout down speakers who present an opposing worldview.

And we could look at a hundred other arenas. Look at the Internet and social media. Who is not venting their spirit? Look at political debate and show me a man or woman behaving with decorum. Show me any form of modern entertainment that does not make its money on people spouting off whatever they feel at the time.

We have become, as a nation, a society of fools. We have lost decorum. WE have relinquished self-control. We have stopped calling for people to control their emotions and consider their words before they speak them or write them.

But, thanks be to God, there is still godly wisdom. Christians, may we learn to uphold it. May we be wise, obedient to the word of God, following the commands of Scripture and the example of Christ. May we be people who learn to speak with thought before emotion. May we be people who learn to behave with a decorum that pleases the Lord. May we be a people who refuse to sink to the level of the world around us.

And, Christian, test yourself. Have you given into the world’s thinking on your venting of your spirit? Have you bought into the lie that, if you feel something strongly, you have to let it out? The word of God never gives us the pressure-cooker-model of emotions. Instead, the word of God calls us to tame our feelings, to think before we speak, and to control our expression. If you are one who regularly blows up at your family, at your friends, or at strangers, you are acting a fool. Plead with the Lord to help you live out Christlike wisdom.

A lesson on Insults

Many conflicts in our lives are caused by our supposed need to address every insult we perceive that we have received. But the Bible lets us know that it can be to a man’s glory to overlook an offense. Sometimes we need to make a conscious choice not to react to nasty things said about us if those nasty things are clearly untrue.

Perhaps this proverb will help.

Proverbs 26:2 Like a sparrow in its flitting, like a swallow in its flying, a curse that is causeless does not alight.

The picture here is simple. Birds fly over your head. If they do not land on you, they really do not impact you. Well, a curse spoken against you, a nasty thing said about you, one that is not true, is like a bird that does not land on you. If the nasty thing is untrue, it should not provoke you to a reaction any more than does a bird flying past. Undeserved curses do not come to rest.

Now, obviously it requires wisdom to know when to respond to an insult and when to let it go. Some untruths have to be countered for the glory of God and for the defense of our Christian message. But the point we also need to grasp is that not all insults require us to stand and fight. Some are so foolish, so small, so obviously wrong that we can ignore them in the same way we ignore a pigeon.

So, Christian, pray that God will give you wisdom. Yes, when it matters, go to bat. But when it does not matter, let it fly by.

Also, Christian, ask the Lord, when you are offended by an insult, if it should land. Perhaps you are offended because what is said about you has a grain of truth in it. Let that lead you to repentance.