I like a good fight, and I like to be right. I work in the ER and face "sticky situations" on a regular basis. By sticky situations, I mean situations where I am right, the other person is wrong, and for the life of me, I can't get them to see it.
Almost every single conflict in your life will stem out of this same sentiment: You are right (or you think you are). They are wrong (whoever "they" happens to be). And for the life of you, you can't get them to see the light. The result is dissonance, fighting, and anger—the exact opposite of reconciliation. And if you're not careful, that root of anger will grow into a boulder that will take over your life. It's even worse when it comes to your close friends and family. The conflict that can be more easily shrugged off with a stranger has a way of planting itself into your life when it's directed at your family.
It's no surprise. After all, the very first family conflict took place in Genesis 3 when Cain, in a fit of anger, murdered his brother, Abel. Families have been striking at one another ever since. I'm not exaggerating: there's Jacob and Esau, and Joseph and his brothers, and Moses and Miriam, and on and on and on. And while conflict is far more painful between members of the same family, it's equally destructive outside of your own family.
Then enters Jesus Christ.
In Romans 5:10, Paul sums up the story of Jesus like this: "For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation" (NIV).
Jesus came to reconcile us—first to himself, but also to one another. To reconcile is to win over to friendliness, to bring into agreement or harmony. The amazing grace that God bestowed on humans is this gift of reconciliation. God didn't wait for us to recognize that we were in the wrong. God simply saw our need, loved us, and gave his Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to himself through death on a cross.
It doesn't get much better than that. If you're wondering how Christ's death impacts your daily life, Paul goes on to explain the implications of reconciliation in 2 Corinthians 5:18: "And all of this is a gift from God, who brought us back to himself through Christ. And God has given us this task of reconciling people to him." If you're looking for harmony, and melody, and beautiful and unbroken praise, it starts right here.
So what does this mean for us in our every day living? Because of Christ, we have the power to pursue grace-drenched relationships. Here are three steps towards reconciliation whenever you're facing conflict with a brother, sister, father, or mother, or even a complete stranger:
1. Focus on the facts.
There's a little book in the Bible called Philemon, named after its recipient. The facts of the conflict in the book of Philemon are easy to grasp. Paul is in prison with a man named Onesimus who gets saved under the influence of Paul. Onesimus is a man with a past. Before prison, Onesimus robbed his old boss Philemon. But because of Christ, all changed for Onesimus. The old became new. So Paul writes a letter to Philemon to help the reconciliation process. In his letter Paul reminds Philemon of some basic facts, like the fact that Philemon himself owed his life to Paul. In focusing on the facts, Paul teaches Philemon that in an emotion-driven world, we must be truth-directed people. The fact is, in Christ, relationships change. Relationships become grace-drenched. Are you quick to react in the face of conflict, or do you take time to face the facts? You have been forgiven much, therefore you can forgive others much too for Christ's sake.
2. Keep it small.
Do you tend to make a mountain out of a molehill? You might need to learn to minimize offenses in an issue-explosive world. Too many of us need to let go of the magnifying glass. In writing to Philemon, Paul says this: "If he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, charge it to me. I, Paul, write this with my own hand: I will repay it. And I won't mention that you owe me your very soul!" Paul was trying to remind Philemon to keep it small. Most of the time it's not as big a deal as we make things out to be. It's ok that your husband didn't like your mashed potatoes, or that your in-laws did it again. There's a time to hash things out, but most things we get excited about are simply not as big a deal as we make them out to be. When reconciliation is the goal, love ought to increase and memories of wrong decrease.
3. Let it go.
Philemon was indeed wronged. Onesimus had stolen from him. An offense creates a bondage that only forgiveness can set free. It's the key to letting it go. So whether the offender has asked for your forgiveness or not, you, the offended must let it go through forgiveness in order to break free from bondage. This may be a good time to remember that Jesus Christ himself took our guilt, our sin, and our anger upon himself on the Cross, even though he did nothing to deserve it. When you forgive someone else who has undeservedly wronged you, you are doing the same for them. You are choosing to take their hurt upon yourself, and then handing it over to God. God is able to bear the weight of it. It's okay to be wronged when Christ is your example. Simply let it go and let God deal with it. He who saved the world by being wronged can handle it.
Reconciliation is a big deal. The world is watching us. And it is only when we resolve to drench our relationships with grace that the world will see the beauty of our Savior and gather around in worship and praise. It seems a small sacrifice to pay for freedom and peace.
Lina AbuJamra is a pediatric ER doctor in Chicago and author of Thrive: The Single Life as God Intended and Stripped: When God's Call Turns from Yes to Why Me? Connect with her online, and follow her on Twitter @linamay.