To reconcile can be defined in many ways. It means to settle or bring into harmony, to “make good again”, and it even means to repair.
Because of the sin that entered the world long ago our relationship with God and our relationships with people are not perfect. As Christians, we seek to live peaceably with all, in such a way that glorifies our Father in Heaven. Unfortunately, this isn’t typically the case. Luckily, the Bible lays out clear guidelines on how to reconcile when conflict arises.
1) Start with Prayer
As in all things, it is best to start with prayer. Before you react with words, pray for wisdom. Philippians 4:6 says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Pray for compassion when it is hard to be empathetic. Pray for discernment when the conflict is confusing. Pray for patience when it is hard to bear with one another.
2) Examine Your Contribution to the Conflict
Have you ever heard of the parable of The Log and The Speck?
“Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.
What is your role in the conflict? Did you have false expectations? Did you communicate clearly? Maybe your attitude was unkind? We cannot confront the person we are in disagreement with before we confront ourselves. Humbly accept your own part in the conflict and work towards a peaceful resolution. Do not be too proud to admit fault.
3) Confront the Problem
Here are some helpful ways to communicate in a healthy way:
- Start with a humble approach by seeking forgiveness for your own short-coming.
- Listen to their side of the story. Their perspective also matters.
- Repeat back what is said. Sometimes others have a hard time putting into words their thoughts or feelings and repeating what is said back can help them communicate what they truly want to say.
- Explain your perspective because your perspective also has value.
- Be willing to compromise.
- Pursue peace by forgiving and forgetting. Bringing up past conflicts in future conflicts will hurt not help.
4) What to Do if a Peaceful Agreement Cannot Be Reached
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.”
If a peaceful reconcile cannot be reached the next thing to do is bring in an authority. If this was an issue in the church, bring it to an elder or discipler that knows both of you well. If in the workplace, bring in a supervisor. If in the family, seek an older relative you both trust. If in the end no agreement can be reached, then trust in the Lord and pray.
Why Even Bother Reconciling our Relationships?
God reconciled the world to himself (2 Corinthians 5:18). It took place at the cross through the death of Christ. The death of Jesus made us no longer sinners & granted us forgiveness for the greatest conflict: us being born enemies of God (Romans 3:23, 6:23). Matthew 5:23-24 says, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First, be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Reconciliation is something done by the one who offers it; it is not just something that happens to strangers. In Christ, we are fellow citizens and members of the same heavenly kingdom. It is the cross of Christ that reconciles us all.
2 Corinthians 5:18-25:
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”