Fights, faults and forgiveness
Finding fault – everybody’s doing it
What a time it’s been in Canberra recently! It’s tough being the leader of a political party – any party. Everyone has their eyes on you, finding fault wherever they can.
It’s easy, of course, to see the faults in someone else. It’s harder to see them in ourselves. And in the heat of conflict it’s even harder to see ourselves properly, and even harder to own our wrongdoing. We can judge others accurately, we feel, yet we struggle to have right judgement about ourselves.
Why is that? So often it is because of our pride: we hate to consider or admit that we could be at fault. Rather, we are often working very hard to explain to ourselves and others why the balance of fault is with the other person.
The Lord Jesus knows us and our hearts so well! Firstly, he warns us:
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2).
Now that is very sobering! Don’t we usually rush to judge others? And when we judge, don’t we often judge quite mercilessly? Do I really want God to judge me the way I judge others? No! What I need is not God’s judgement but God’s forgiveness!
The really good news is that God does not judge us as we deserve. In fact, God has gone to extraordinary lengths to rescue us. The Bible tells us:
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8)
For any person who will admit their faults, their ‘sinfulness’, to the God who knows all their secrets – for that person, God’s full and ‘forever’ forgiveness is theirs. Jesus says:
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Hope for change
Now when we start to grasp how much we have been known and how richly we have been forgiven, we realise something in us needs to change. In Matthew again, Jesus goes on to say:
“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?…. You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:3,5).
God is the God of peace, and so Jesus’ ways are always the ways of peace. The way of peace in any conflict, says Jesus, is to honestly and fully take responsibility for our own faults before we rush to point out the other person’s faults or judge them.
And Jesus’ words to us here can transform a conflict. When we are humble and honest enough to genuinely own our wrongs – before God and before the other person – and to confess them and seek their forgiveness, it sets a new and completely different tone.
It’s often quite unexpected.
In the world, normally conflict is about condemning the other person and defending ourselves! So when we instead confess our wrongs and seek forgiveness, it can sometimes – not always, but sometimes – take the heat out of the conflict and lead the other person to a different heart as well, and to admit their wrong.
But what if things don’t work out how I want?
But whether or not it helps the conflict work out for us is really not the most important thing, of course. What matters much, much more is that God is glorified in that relationship, and that the other person is served by us handling ourselves the way God wants.
And as we humble ourselves to do as Jesus teaches us, so we serve God’s purposes of peace. And we become a powerful living example of the good news of the gospel message and of the kind of heart that God wants in everyone.
So, as you think about relationships you are in, and perhaps conflicts, are there ways you could do better at humbly owning up to your failings and asking for the other person’s forgiveness to be a person of peace in God’s way?
PS. If you’re in Perth or Sydney, you can still register for peacemaking training in those cities – you can download the training brochure here.
This article is by David Coy. David is married to Noreen, and they have four married daughters and two grandchildren. He trained and has worked as an Anglican minister. David connected with PeaceWise training in 2011 and is now working in biblical peacemaking through Turning Point Ministry Services.