Mending Fences When You Break Peace with Others
Recently I found myself back in the house of mourning. Gratefully it had nothing to do with death of a loved one. But the intensity of grief I felt seemed eerily reminiscent of the past three years.
What happened? I wounded a friend. A joke I played backfired–miserably. I sensed it minutes after I did it. I tried to reverse course. Too late. Damage already done. The brother I harmed, a committed peacemaker, spoke plainly in truth and love just how deep the hurt went.
I hate my sin–especially when it affects others. The Lord immediately impressed upon me the weight of my guilt.
Any follower of Jesus, eager to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:3) with others, identifies with the sense of loss which accompanies breaking fellowship this way. What to do?
Three steps at least are warranted.
One, repent quickly.
The apostle Paul commended one church this way: For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment (2 Cor. 7:11).
Repentance involves a changing of one’s mind which turns away from wrong in favor of aligning with God’s will on a matter. It is always better to do that sooner rather than later to avoid hardness of heart.
Two, confess robustly.
Beware the temptation to apologize inadequately just to get out of the doghouse with someone as quickly as possible. Use Peacemaker Ministries 7 A’s of Confession as a helpful template for full-orbed confession. These will keep you from birthing what a friend of mine calls an “abortive confession.”
- Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)
- Avoid if, but, and maybe (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)
- Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)
- Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)
- Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)
- Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)
- Ask for forgiveness
Each of these matters in robust confession but numbers three and four make a world of difference in communicating godly grief over sin which breaks relationships. With my friend I said something like this: I violated the law of love in 1 Cor. 13:4-7. I was unkind and I was rude.
I quickly gathered how much hurt I had caused by joking around. I had to own insensitivity that touched a terribly important aspect of his personal peace.
Third, believe boldly.
Believe what? The gospel of grace and its promise of forgiveness through the finished work of Jesus on the cross. Don’t do what I tend to do–wallow in a form of grief which amounts to self-imposed shame. In other words avoid the temptation to beat yourself up.
Cling tightly to the words of Heb. 4:16. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
And get back to loving your friend the way you used to and even better.