By Jill Daniels
My mind went straight to conflict.
When considering what things I do differently (or should do differently) because I am a Christian, conflict was where my thoughts ended up.
For the past three years I have been faced with how I deal with conflict. Marriage has a way of bringing that out in a person. I’ve been humbled by the reality of how far I am from living the Christian life in times of conflict and have been convicted to change. So as you read this know that I am far from perfect in this area, but I do know from experience that if we follow what the Bible teaches about love and forgiveness our lives will be so much better!
In the Bible two main themes are love and forgiveness. It’s funny how both of those go right out the door in times of conflict or in heated arguments! What I want to focus on, though, is why these two themes matter so much in these circumstances. Let’s take a deeper look into love and forgiveness.
“We love because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). This verse is a popular verse to hear at weddings. It gives the message that we want to love because God first loved us - but why would we love because He first loved us? Looking a little earlier in the chapter might explain the why of this verse a little better.
“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:7-12).
God first loved us by sending his one and only Son to die on the cross for our sins so that we could have an eternal relationship with him. What an amazing love! In this context we can then draw the connection that because God loved us this much, how could we then not love others as well?
My automatic answer to that question is, “Because others have hurt me and haven’t shown me love!” I know my heart can be ugly! It’s true though; I tend to feel as if others who have hurt me don’t deserve my love back. What does the Bible have to say about this?
“Then Peter came up and said to him, ‘Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘I do not say to you seven times, but seventy-seven times’” (Matthew 18:21-22).
Jesus tells Peter in this verse that we should continue to forgive, even when it feels like we have forgiven someone multiple times. Jesus isn’t saying we should just forgive exactly seventy-seven times and then never again, but to continue forgiving. Again, my childish mind asks the question, “Why?”
“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-17).
In this verse we are given the why. Since God gave his only Son in such a loving way on the cross to take the penalty of our sin, wiping our slate clean, why shouldn’t we then also forgive others? God gave us grace by putting each of our past, present and future sins on the cross that day and forgiving us forever. Dwelling on that gift of grace gives me grace to give to others.
Why should I hold something against someone when I have been forgiven of so much?
If you’re anything like me, at this point you are feeling a little defeated. I tend to know these concepts and believe in showing love and giving forgiveness, but it’s so hard to live them out in the middle of conflict! What do we do when our lives don’t reflect these Biblical truths? I can think of three things that have helped me and will hopefully help you, too!
ONE: Pray, pray, pray! Pray before conflict, in the moment, and after. It may be hard to know when it’s coming, but just pray! Pray that your heart will be changed and that God will help you to practice what you believe in times of heated arguments!
TWO: Take a step back when you feel yourself getting riled up, and ask God to fill you with his Spirit to give you the power to give love and forgive. Ask Him to show you where you are out of line and where you could give forgiveness and love to the other person. Don’t step back into the situation until you have taken time to talk it through with God first. This is the hardest for me to live out, but it has helped the most!
THREE: Give yourself grace! It can be hard to forgive yourself for blowing up at someone for the third time in a row - especially when you feel like you have had little victory over this area of life. But know that God gives grace! You may need to ask the person you were angry with for forgiveness for approaching the situation the way you did, which can be so humbling. Just keep at it and know that you can’t do it without God’s help.
It’s his love, grace and forgiveness that you are giving, not your own!
God, I thank you so much for the model that you have given us of love and forgiveness. The grace you gave us on the cross is truly amazing grace. I pray that we would dwell on that grace and be prepared to hand it out to people we may have felt hurt by. Help us to love those people and forgive them with your love and forgiveness, God! Fill us with your Spirit to give us the power to do this. Thank you!