Tag Archives: matthew 18


Eight years ago I wrote a post on this blog titled How to Say, “I’m Sorry.” The working title was The Anatomy of an Apology and I gave three tips each on how to both give and accept an apology.

Today, I’m thinking, again, about the power of a sincere apology, the beauty of reconciliation, and the part I can play in it all.

Sometimes, in the thick of a hurtful situation, we can’t even believe that reconciliation is a possibility. But, as Christians, we are called to never remove reconciliation from the table.

Right here is where I usually have a moment of pure donkey-like, foot planted, stubbornness in my thought process. I don’t want to be close to some people who have hurt me! They are stinkers who deserve to rot in their horrid, awful, eye-wateringly pungent stinkiness!

(I’m joking about that to a certain degree, but it’s really not a joking matter when you recognize that in some cases you have been looking at manipulative abuse and to allow a person access to your life can be extraordinarily risky.)

So what does reconciliation even entail?

A basic search of the word reconcile reveals its a verb meaning, “to restore friendly relations between.” It can also be “to cause to coexist in harmony; to make or show to be compatible.”

Then there’s this definition, which struck me hard this morning:

“To make (one account) consistent with another, especially by allowing for transactions begun but not yet completed.”

Other definitions are “to settle (a disagreement)” and “to make someone accept (a disagreeable or unwelcome thing).”

I want to go back to this definition of reconcile as consistency and an accounting term because it has the potential for depth.

Accounting is pretty non-emotional (well, except when you can’t figure out why your checkbook is $1.23 off for months on end). Numbers are cut and dried, they represent a certain amount and that’s it.

Numbers are a glimpse at truth.

When we reconcile our accounts, what we’re really saying is that we can all agree that these are the items that came before, and this final answer, it’s real. From that basic starting point we can figure out what to do moving forward without any question about what has gone on previously.

It’s an agreement.

In our storage business, a customer must come in and make sure that there are no outstanding debts on their rental space before they may move out. There’s no antagonism about it, we just make sure the dates they used the space match up and the account is paid. When it’s settled they can walk away freely. We hope they come back as a customer in the future if they ever need storage again, but I have no expectation of them doing anything – our agreement is finished and all is good.

That’s the definition of reconciliation I want to pursue in the stinky situations.

The problem with relationships is that they are often not cut and dry. We are emotional creatures who are easily offended, or enthused, and perceptions filter into our lives and shape our experiences.

A sincere apology is pretty much the only thing that can cancel the emotion of an offense. Time passing certainly helps, but a genuine, “I’m sorry” soothes the soul and creates a consistent balance sheet that can be reconciled.

(I do know the Scripture that says, “love keeps no record of wrongs” and that you might be arguing in your head with me right now about my use of the words “balance sheet” – I’m not done with my thought process, so stick with me for a little longer.)

I’ve been a saying a good number of apologies lately. As I have pondered actions I’ve taken in the past I thought were right at the time, I have realized I was actually unkind and wrong. Uncharitable and lacking in mercy.

I don’t want to be that person. So, as situations have crossed my mind – I believe prompted by the Holy Spirit – I have reached out to folks and asked for forgiveness.

Some have not responded.

But, overwhelmingly, I have received graceful responses from those I’ve contacted. We have left our most recent interactions not necessarily as friends, but friendly. Because the accounts between us have now been settled.

Eight years ago I was delving into this topic with blog posts. I have improved at taking responsibility over time, but I still struggle. Why?

I believe that pridefulness is the number one reason we don’t see apologies all over our world. I believe we each struggle with pridefulness to a crazy degree.

Here’s a reality: it doesn’t hurt us to say “I’m sorry.” There’s no downside to saying it – unless that apology is insincere. Or qualified.

(Here’s an identification clue for an apology that will cause more friction: “I’m sorry… but…” The “but” negated everything you said prior to and is a sign you need to keep working at the problem to figure it out.)

An apology must be informed. It is inappropriate to ask for mercy from someone unless you have articulated and understand the offense that occurred (the consistent balance sheet I was mentioning earlier).

This takes effort and humility, yet it is a process that cannot be glossed over in the interest of just getting the problem solved and moving on to the next thing.

On the flip side, apologies cannot be demanded. We can’t force someone to apologize to us, especially if they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong.

That knowledge, however, doesn’t take away the need for the apology in order to achieve reconciliation. I believe that is why the Scripture states: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18 It’s not a black and white issue.

Humans are going to mess this process up. So do the best you can with the tools you’ve got to work with right now and keep praying for opportunities to practice and become better.

We do what we can do to live at peace. Sometimes that fails and we walk for a season without reconciliation, trusting that the Holy Spirit will continue to work on the situation and ready for the next opportunity to approach it.

In my current season of begging for forgiveness I’ve reached out to apologize to folks I haven’t spoken to in years. Like I’ve had kids who weren’t born when we talked last and now that same kid is getting their adult molars!

It took me that long to realize I had an account that needed reconciliation.

But when I realized it… I moved. I refuse to let pride, insecurity, or embarrassment stop me from trying to make things right.

That’s all I can do. And that’s all I am asked to do.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved

Conflict is Good

Conflict is Good. God uses Conflict for our Good.

I’ve been thinking about conflict.

Honestly, when I hear the word “conflict” something in my gut tenses up and I have a sense of dread. Depending on the actual context of the conflict I might feel a lump in my throat or my armpits get sweaty with a physiological reaction. I have sobbed ugly tears over conflict and struggled with feelings of rejection, insecurity, and righteous indignation.

Other times I hear “spirited disagreement” and I am transported to memories of times when I have pleasurably matched wits with worthy opponents over a topic and we have walked away at the end of the conversation with the ability to take humorous stabs at one another in the future. Since I often joke that “sarcasm is one of my love languages,” the ability to tease others is one that I value highly because it fills in the gaps of laughter in my relationships.

What’s the difference between these two types of conflicts?

It boils down to intent and the way that the different parties approach the conflict mediation table.

When I was getting my master’s degree in higher education administration, one of my educational opportunities was with the student judicial office. Working with that program, as well as the judicial systems in various universities, helped me to understand a few things about conflict resolution:

  1. You all have to be playing off of the same rule book. This might apply to the actual black and white “rules” of the organization, or it might be making sure that the players at the table have the same philosophical values. (It’s really hard to tell a student that they shouldn’t smoke pot when they’ve been watching their parents get high all throughout their life – even though the rules state you can’t smoke in the university residence hall!)
  2. You all have to be willing to compromise. Compromise is the key that takes a situation from stubborn standstill to consensus. If only one person does the compromising the situation moves into a doormat/steamroller adventure and neither of those are healthy for either individual. But if both people come to the table with a willingness to change perspective, you have hope.
  3. You have to actually listen well. Let me give you a hint – if someone is on a conflict mediation call and realizes that the other person has been sending out emails during the conversation… that’s not a sign they’re actually at the table to try to work things out. Listening is a skill, and it’s one we’re generally pretty poor as utilizing! Listening should be taxing on our physical resources as we hear without trying to formulate our next defense, as we lean in to the conversation and sit with stillness to open and understand. Leaving a conflict mediation call should feel like we’ve just completed a workout because our listening skill has been activated. Just saying, “I hear you,” is not enough.
  4. You have to be persistent. Very few conflicts actually finish after one encounter. Maintaining a relationship with someone after the conflict takes work and repeated intentional interactions.

Why bother with conflict resolution?

Sometimes conflict mediation won’t work out. So why do we even try when it would be easier to walk away? Why not just block everyone involved off of your Facebook friends list, avoid the grocery store where you used to run into each other, grimace a little when their name comes up…. ? Won’t that create peace?

Nope. Isolation doesn’t create peace, it just creates silence. Walking through conflict is good for us, too, because it allows us to give God an amazing amount of glory for bringing relationships into alignment. God’s in the business of His glory, so why not play into that??

There are certain pieces of our Americanized Human Experience that are extremely sanitized right now. I could spend a lot of time talking about the fear we have of death and how it stems from unfamiliarity as we send our elderly off to nursing homes and get our meat from styrofoam trays with plastic packaging… but that’s not the point of this post.

With our extremely mobile society we aren’t forced to deal with conflict on a regular basis. We can choose to isolate ourselves from run ins and never see people again. This wasn’t the case just a few generations ago when communities were small and everyone knew everyone else’s business.

The Matthew 18 principle of conflict resolution has been getting a lot of airtime in my circles lately because there are different ways people are interpreting this Biblical mandate for conflict resolution.

I have seen the Matthew 18 model work in a way that gives glory to God and restores relationships. I have also seen it work horribly. Matthew 18 should not be a threat to silence people or stifle reasonable exchange of ideas. It should be considered an opportunity to minister and create peace in a way that gives the glory to God and restores those in conflict into relationship.

This link outlines a fantastic resource of how to walk through Having Hard Conversations. It’s from Watermark Community Church in Texas and if you’re in the midst or still grieving a conflict I’d encourage you to check it out.How to Have Hard Conversations

One of my most significant takeaways from this “How to Have Hard Conversations” philosophy is trying to decide whether what you’re frustrated by is a sin or a preference. We are all unique and have life experiences that give us different trigger points. Leadership is hard and people develop as leaders over time – so there are situations in organizations that are messed up or a sign of immature leadership but are not true, actual sin.

It’s necessary to identify whether you’re seeing sin and or being irritated by a preference.

If your conflict is over a preference issue, my suggestion would be to keep your mouth still and be supportive of the current regime. You might even learn that there’s a method to the madness you’re witnessing and, given the fullness of time, you will see the benefit and it’s beautiful.

If, after quietly watching and waiting, you find that your preference is so strong that you simply can’t be a positive team player, then I believe you’re honor bound to remove yourself from the team. Say, “Thank you,” agree to disagree, then move to where you won’t harm someone else’s vision and find your happiness and joy in something else.

However, things are different when you’re dealing with SIN instead of PREFERENCE. If there is something that violates Biblical principles and can be clearly labeled sin, it’s your duty to address it. We are told as Christians that to see sin and ignore it is an action that is itself a sin.

If you’ve walked through the Matthew 18 process and done your best to seek peace privately without success, then my interpretation is that is is appropriate and honorable to address the sin more publicly with the larger community. The goal, however, is restoration of the sinner, not vindication of your personal agenda.

Remember that at the base of every Matthew 18 conflict over sin issues there should be a sincere desire to be BACK in relationship with that person, living in community.

Counter-intuitive, right? Absolutely opposite of our worldly experience, huh? “I’m mad at you so I want to be closer and in relationship with you!!!” (When I consider this I always visualize Ann Voskamp’s statement that when our children are the most unhuggable is when they need our hugs the most.)

The very idea of being BACK in relationship with the person who irritates us the most is probably not what you want to visualize – and I don’t blame you a bit! That’s a human reaction!

But that is also what gives God the most glory because He is in the business of restoration. We know that we don’t have the capacity in ourselves to love that unselfishly without God, so when we are able to find forgiveness and restoration, we are the living examples of the salvation story, that Christ came to us when we were most unlovable, sacrificed for us in an unimaginable way, and then restores us into righteous community.

Conflict is hard, so hard. It wrecks us emotionally and tears us apart. But it also provides a really beautiful space for us to grow in our relationship with God and trust Him to be the one who can direct our path.

Waiting can be the hardest part of the conflict as well. It’s rare for things to be solved quickly so it’s easy to lose heart. Just remember that phrase, “In the fullness of time.” Wondrous things can happen within the fullness of time while we just do the next best thing.

If you like this post, feel free to share it (with attribution). Copyright © StealingFaith.com 2010-2019 | All rights reserved
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