Romans 12:9-10, 17-18: Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other...
Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.
In efforts to keep peace, we stay silent, we clinch our teeth and determine to better love that person who rubs us raw. And although there may be times where God whispers, "Be still, be silent", we miss other opportunities to speak the truth in love.
When we avoid conflict, is it because we are afraid we will hurt the other person? Is it because we just feel too awkward, so awkward that it can make us physically ill. Or, do we simply feel it is not worth our time or effort?
We will go to many lengths to avoid a person or situation.
But is it really about them and is it more about us? In what ways have we rubbed a person raw? How have our words, our actions, our facial expressions wounded another person?
Better yet, maybe we think we have put on a great face and clenched our teeth tight enough-but our deep rooted hurt and anger is beginning to leak out all over our interactions with that person.
No matter how hard we may try, covering our ugliness towards a person or ignoring the pain experienced by another person will never offer real peace. In the end all that will produce is a false peace shrouded by false love and intentional avoidance.
God's Word tells us in James that our quarrels and fights come from the "passions at war within us".
We must deal with our own brokenness and we must name the pain caused by others. Whether this leads to a full confrontation will be up to the leading of the Holy Spirit, the other person's willingness, and our determination to grow in the process and seek or find forgiveness.
To truly love, to love well, is to be willing to go the hard way of acknowledging disappointments, failures, and hurt. It requires us to see the other as God would. Eyes with mercy, clothed with compassion, hands offered in grace and forgiveness. Sometimes this is done quietly with God alone, in those moments He says "Be still and silent". And, many times, it comes when we are willing to lay down our pride, ask God to help us, and go share truth in love. Or it comes when we humble ourselves, acknowledge our wrongdoing, and ask for forgiveness.
Why we do cheapen grace and mercy for others by living in ways of false peace and false love? Why does it seem that it is actually a good thing to self protect when that usually only results in pain and broken relationships?
If we could pull our eyes off our neighbor long enough to take a good look inside, judgements tend to slip away. Our eyes become so full of our own mess that we flinch to think we had a right to remove another's mess. Mercy triumphs over judgement. Always. Truth in love triumphs over passivity. Always. Does mercy always mean silence? Does mercy always mean simply walking away? I don't think so. If our walking away is not sensitively led by the Holy Spirit, it inevitably results in avoidance, passive aggressive behavior, manipulation, and more.
How do you know when to stay silent or when to speak? Listen to God's voice. He leads, He whispers move or stop. Ultimately, if you find yourself in conflict or needing to confront, consider this, I read this once somewhere in a biblical counseling article and took note of it:
"Peace-makers see conflict as an assignment, not an accident. They approach the problem with humility, reasonableness, and seeking wisdom from God (James 3:17-18). They do not intimidate, but they also do not hide. They expect conflict, embrace the opportunity to resolve things biblically, and have an urgency to keep unity in the midst of hard times."
I am learning this over and over again. If someone has wronged you or offended you, share truth with the right purpose...
- It's not your role to change character or to help a person become self aware. That is God in them. The extent to which a person is self-aware is usually the extent to which they are able to receive truth of offense.
- Is there trust and respect?
- Are there ears to hear and a heart to respond? Most times there is if only we approach the person with humility.
- Ultimately, what are you trying to accomplish or gain?
Finally, if you know you have offended or wounded a person - even if you may not understand it completely - humble yourself and go share love and request forgiveness. Don't let it go dormant, don't avoid.
Our living in peace with one another will not mean passivity and ignorance. It means we strive to live in peace, actively seek peace. Search for it and work for it as the treasure it is. Listen tenderly to the Spirit. Take the necessary inside look to discover your brokenness. For the sake of peace, rock the boat, say only what is necessary, love deeply and truly. Then watch our faithful and merciful God work.