Other "Thinking Drafts" and writing by Keith Drury -- http://www.indwes.edu/tuesday .

 From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press

Chapter 9


...Mending broken relationships

"Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness." -- James 3:18 (NIV)

Peacemakers are supposed to be "blessed" according to the Sermon on the Mount. But what is a peacemaker? How am I to "make peace" or "sow peace?" Where am I to do it? Why am I to do it?

Peacemaking is an uncommon discipline of holy living. Though the prescription for healing division is just plain common sense -- and we already know it, obeying God's recommendations for peacemaking is where we have trouble.

How division develops

No two snowflakes -- and no two people are alike. God is a God of orderliness, but not of uniformity. His creation is one of infinite variety. His crowning creation, man, is especially varied. Humanity represents a broad "spectrum" of assorted fascinating personalities, temperaments, and racial and ethnic traits.

Some of us are shy and passive, while others are outgoing and aggressive. Some are sensitive and emotional, while others, like StarTrek's Mr. Spock, are logical, never letting their feelings show. Some of us are orderly, organized, neat perfectionists. The rest of us are messy, disorganized, and forgetful.

Differences cause interpersonal friction. Friction occurs in interpersonal relationships when we spend time with people different from ourselves. The shy, ingrown person is irritated by the outgoing, boisterous, noisy person. The orderly person thinks the disorganized person is a slob. Energetic hard- drivers think easy-going people are lazy wimps. The easy-going person returns the assessment, considering the hard-driver a fascist dictator who runs roughshod over everyone who gets in his way.

When interpersonal friction occurs, we tend to see another's personality strength as a weakness. The neat are considered "fastidious." Bold people are considered "brash." Sensitive folk are termed "touchy." The humorous become "silly," the cautious are "fearful," and the frugal become "skinflints." The strengths of others become the very targets of our criticism. Nowhere is this seen so clearly as in marriage. Differences cause friction.

We have mentioned only personality traits thus far. What of differing opinions on politics, theology, music, or religious convictions? What of differing personal preferences like when a sensible person ought to go to bed, what one should eat (or not eat) for breakfast? Which way should the toilet paper hang on the dispenser? The possibilities for interpersonal friction are immeasurable! Friction is to be expected in interpersonal relationships. We are to treat these irritations with grace and acceptance, overlooking the irritations. Friction is not sin. The next step is the fatal one.

Friction can cause broken relationships. Constant friction can lead to relational breakdown. If we do not learn to deal with friction appropriately, it will slowly drive a wedge between relationships so that we eventually "break fellowship" with another. One starts to avoid the other. Perhaps both dodge each other. The two begin leaving by separate doors and avoid mutual friends. Eventually each gathers several sympathetic friends, and factions form -- people take "sides" in the battle. Ultimately the whole group may be destroyed, simply because the initial broken relationship between two good folk wasn't faced and repaired. Have you ever witnessed the battlefield of such a broken relationship? Have you ever seen a whole church eventually destroyed because two or more of God's people didn't make peace?

How can we avoid this senseless slaughter? A quarrel, like a fire, can be quenched early with a pint of water. Let go, it will rage out of control, eventually consuming everything in its path.

There are four different situations where relational breakdown is possible. Each has its own prescription. The first: when someone has wronged me. Second: when someone else feels I've wronged them. Third: when others are quarreling and I'm not even involved. Fourth: when the whole church is divided into factions.

What to do...

I. When someone has wronged me.

What do you do when you've got a grievance against another Christian? Maybe they said something harsh and cut you deeply. Perhaps they pulled a procedural "end run" play in a committee meeting and you were omitted from an important assignment you really wanted. What should you do when the pastor pulls a fast one and works you out of the job you've held for 17 years in your church? How should you respond when someone tells you one of your "friends" told them a bit of gossip about you that morning? What is a Christian supposed to do when he feels he's been wronged? This simple four-step process for reconciliation when someone hurts you works. It is a time-honored plan, and if you follow it, you'll get things straightened out most every time.

1. Arrange for a private talk.

Take action. Immediately. Don't brood and churn about it any longer. Feeling you've been treated unjustly is the breeding ground for bitterness, a cancer of the soul. This malignancy will grow and spread its tentacles rapidly. So, don't wait. Take action. Go and see the one face-to-face you feel has offended you.

In such a private encounter the offender is more likely to confess and restore the relationship. Once others are involved the stakes get higher and confession is slower to come. Go directly to the person. Don't write a letter. A letter can easily be misconstrued or misunderstood. Go alone and try to straighten this out just between the two of you.

Of course you must be careful in approaching the individual. Don't be accusatory. Obviously you shouldn't say, "I heard you told a lie about me and I've come to see if you did." Merely share why you feel hurt, offering them an opportunity to minister to your hurt. Never go in anger. Calm down first. But don't wait more than a day either. Going in anger may be better than not going at all. Make sure you approach with tenderness. After all, you are attempting to extract a splinter from your brother's eye. Such an operation requires considerable adroitness.

The point: take action. Don't wait. Arrange a private talk with the person who hurt you. Explain to them why you are offended and tell them you need to "clear the air" between you. In 90% of all cases when this advice is followed, the individual will respond positively, and you have restored the relationship before it deteriorates.

But, what about the 10% which still do not yield a reconciliation, even after your one-on-one talk? For the remaining 10% there is a second step.

2. Take a few others and try again.

If you didn't settle the issue between you the first time, take one or two others along and go again. Pick a few Christians who are wise, gracious, and highly respected. Obviously you should not get a hand-picked flock of your own friends who will side with you automatically. You need to choose impartial, discerning, spiritually minded Christians. Let these mature mediators lead the discussion. Place yourself under their leadership and listen to their counsel and correctives.

This introduction of several impartial, mature believers often completely changes the atmosphere. The two of you in conflict will easily "work it out" under their leadership, repairing your relationship. Well, maybe not in every case. Perhaps in a remaining 1% of the time you try the second step it won't bring reconciliation. In these cases one out of a hundred, there is even a third step.

3. Take it to the church.

After all, who ought to settle disputes between Christians...secular courts? When all private attempts at reconciliation have failed, we should turn to the church. Who is better able to mediate your dispute than mature leaders of a church? They have a greater interest in relationships than results. If your first two attempts have failed to produced a repaired relationship, take it to the church's leadership to whom both of you are accountable. Commit yourselves to live by the decision of the leaders on the matter. If you and your brother are not involved in the same church, then agree together on a panel to decide the issue between you. If you can't even agree on this, select one mature leader each, then let these two select the third. The point is that when two Christians are deadlocked, the church leaders should decide the outcome of the dispute.

These three steps will solve 99.9% of all interpersonal disputes. But, what of the one-tenth of one percent of the situations left? Suppose the church leaders have decided in your favor, but your brother still refuses to give in? He remains stubborn and obdurate. What then are we to do? There is yet hope -- a fourth step.

4. Forget it!

That's right! Simply and quickly dismiss the whole affair. Don't get bitter, get better! Don't brood over his or her refusal to give in. Give up on trying to recover your loss or gain a just settlement. Simply forget it. Maybe he or she is not even a real "brother" or "sister" after all. If they are a pagan at heart, treat them like any other pagan -- hope and pray for their salvation, but don't hang around them. Simply dismiss the whole affair. Treat the person like you would a tax collector. When the first three steps have failed, simply forget the whole thing, and get on with your life.

To most of us all this elaborate system seems unnecessary. We'd rather go to "Caesar's court" to settle disputes over money or marriage. Or we don't even try to repair broken relationships. It seems easier to simply break the relationship than to follow this four-step process. We're too busy for all this. "I don't need him (or her) anyway," we say. But we are wrong. This intricate process is designed because God values interpersonal relationships, especially marriage. It is because a broken relationship is so serious to God that He expects us to go to these ends to repair the fracture.

So if you feel someone has cheated you, hurt you, been unfair to you...set up a meeting between the two of you and see if you can clear it up. Start this four-step process -- having a peaceful relationship is worth the effort.

What to do...

II. When someone thinks I've wronged them.

Have you ever sensed that someone was holding something against you? You just knew that a particular person had bad feelings about you. Perhaps you didn't even know why, but you knew it just the same. When a Christian feels this way, what are we to do?

Or, perhaps you discover another's bad feelings toward you through a third party. Several years ago a good friend approached me and told me how one particular fellow was absolutely furious at me. He was angered by what I had said on a certain committee. He knew how I eventually voted and was steamy. My friend encouraged me to go and see this fellow while his anger was still hot. It didn't seem wise to me at first. "Let him cool down," I thought to myself, "then I'll go." But I knew better. It is better to deal with hot anger than smoldering bitterness. So I went. I opened the conversation like this:

"I've come to see you because I think I've offended you. We may not be able to agree about what I said or how I voted, but we can't have a broken relationship over this or anything else. So I've come to see what I can do to clear the air between us. I love you as a brother and want to keep our relationship right. Can we talk about it?"

In this case the man was "easily entreated." We spent several hours talking, sometimes emotionally, sometimes quietly. We traced our relationship and several tender bruises we had given each other in the past. He shared an unrelated personal crisis he was going through which I knew nothing about. We tried repeatedly to come to agreement on the particular issue, but never did. We still disagree. But, though we disagree, we understand each other better. Most important of all, we have restored our relationship. That time ended with a tearful hug, and we continue to consider each other with high esteem to this day.

I had learned an important lesson. It is hard -- perhaps impossible -- to come to agreement with everybody. But, it is possible to keep the relationship going in most cases.

The advice is simple. If you sense someone has something against you, go to them and try to work it out. Go even if you think you are right, or you know they are being immature and petty. Go to them if the incident was purposeful or accidental, actual or supposed. Take action. Go clear the air between you.

It's fascinating how God works "the ends against the middle" on these kinds of things. If someone has hurt me, I'm to go to them. And they are supposed to come to me. Both of us are instructed to fix the relationship. If either one obeys, the relationship can be repaired. This is how important relationships are to God. Whether you are hurt, or the one who did the hurting, you are supposed to go to the other and fix it up.

Sometimes neither follows this advice. Occasionally two believers end up at odds with each other and neither attempts to go to the other one. What should we do when two other Christians are fighting? And self-righteously refusing the "bury the hatchet."

What to do...

When others are quarreling.

Suppose several people in your church are fussing, and you are not even involved. "Mind your own business," right? That's the conventional wisdom. We tell our children, "Keep your nose out of other people's business." We follow this advice ourselves. When others get into a church scrap, we often stand by as sanctimonious spectators. "Let them alone," we smugly say, "they'll settle it between themselves." And if either of them followed the peacemaking plans above, they would. But they don't. So we stand by as the flames of fractured relationships blaze hotter and consume marriages, friendships, even entire churches. We say, "Let's remember them in prayer." We fiddle around while the city of God burns.

There's a pattern to all advice on broken relationships: get involved. Broken relationships, like broken bones, don't "go away if you give them time." Churches who have not settled past broken relationships are now permanently crippled in their ministry. Broken bones often need "setting" for them to heal. Broken relationships need "setting" too.

When two or more people in a Christian community get on the "outs," the rest of us are to pitch in to fix it. We together are the Body of Christ...each a particular part. Can the hand say, "Who cares if the heart and lungs break fellowship, let them settle it themselves...it's not our business." If the vital organs of a body cease to function in concert, soon the hand too will be blue, cold, dead.

Any break in relationship in the Body is our business! We all are to work at fixing the fracture.

That is not to say that we are to descend on the pair of quarreling people like a cloud of locusts. Common sense and good judgment are in order. The pastor of the church often coordinates this kind of thing. The most mature Christians -- the most spiritually minded -- will be the ones called on for the delicate task of repairing broken relationships.

Why do we often ignore this sensible advice? Why does the church sit sweetly singing every Sunday when we know there are two believers among us with an unseen war raging between them? Why do we stand idly by as homes are being ripped apart by broken relationships? Why do we not make an effort to restore these breaking relationships? Because we are scared. We don't want to get dirty. We don't want to take sides. So, we do nothing. Thus, we sadly watch friendships, marriages, even entire churches go swirling down the drain because of fractured relationships. "Rescuing the perishing" should begin at home!

God has a better plan: get involved. When relationships start unraveling, the church is supposed to help these believers make peace. We are to get them back together again. This is "peacemaking." It is getting involved. Taking time. Helping to repair that relationship about to go through the shredder. It is getting your hands dirty and your ego battered in even the messiest of messes.

And when you do get involved you mustn't take sides. And don't always hope for a quick fix -- these things take time. Gently, tenderly "set the bone" of this fracture, then give it time to heal. This is what Christ expects of you. Even if you fail at the whole attempt, even if you fumble and things turn worse, He wants you to lovingly, carefully, compassionately get involved when others are quarreling.

If you don't follow this advice your whole church will become divided into factions. Then the problem will require even more drastic measures to correct.

What to do...

When the whole church is divided.

Men and women are social creatures. We automatically draw others into the net of our actions and attitudes. What starts out as a simple difference produces friction. This friction eventually can produce a fracture in relationships. Now two people are openly or silently at odds. But injustice loves company. Soon others are drawn into the web and two "sides" form. Eventually the entire church or group disintegrates into factions.

In the Civil War, following the battle of Chancellorsville, the rear guard of Stuart's cavalry sounded the alarm that Union troops were attacking. The first and third Virginia regiments promptly charged each other, killing many. Like these troops, sometimes we forget who the enemy is. We turn on our allies and begin lobbing shells into their camp. The worst wounds in the church community are self-inflicted.

What if you are attending a church deeply divided into factions? Maybe one group follows the "founding pastor" of your church who has recently retired. In their mind no one can match his abilities and anointing. Maybe another faction has rallied around a fellow in your church who has a gifted personality and a magnetic charisma. This leader has such wisdom, eloquence, wit and intellectual keenness. He's dynamic! He's fantastic! He's ____________________! But he is also "anathema to the faction following Rev. "Founding Pastor." And there's the rub.

Maybe you even have a third group -- the conservative reactionaries, traditionalists. They are distressed that the church is "letting down the old standard." They wonder if some of the new Christians are even truly Christian. They think the solution to everything is getting back to the "old paths." Perhaps you even have a fourth group -- a super-spiritual group who is wholly disgusted with these baby, weak Christians fussing and fighting with each other. This clique considers themselves "above it all" and whispers to each other, "Isn't it just terrible, the way they act?" They thank God that they are true followers of Christ and not mere men.

Such factions may adopt leaders who are totally unaware that they are the "heroes" of said factions. Have you ever seen this kind of a divided church? What would (or should) you do if you ever become a part of one?

Get help! Once broken relationships have deteriorated into factions and discord, hope and help must come from outside the group. Factions won't settle their own disputes. There are too many people -- and interests -- involved. No settlement will satisfy everybody. Your only hope is to go outside your church. There you must get help. A divided church needs an outside authority. It should be someone all sides accept as spiritual and wise, and to whom all will submit their wills. Such a factioned church needs an "apostle" -- one with God's authority and wisdom. This kind of apostolic ministry may fall to a wise old spiritual monarch in the denomination, or it could be an elected official. Whoever it is, it must be a man or woman of wisdom and insight who is willing to get involved as a judge.

The church now submits itself to a sort of "binding arbitration" with the outside authority sitting as judge. After hearing enough to discern the essence of the problem, he or she retires to seek God's wisdom. When the decision is rendered it is final -- all sides submit to it.

Doesn't this plan make better sense than the alternatives? Isn't it better than letting strife destroy the church? Doesn't this plan make better sense than Christians dragging their complaints against each other into a secular court to be decided by a pagan?

Is your church divided into factions? Rather than hoping that someone in the church will emerge as the savior, seek an outside wise leader. Surrender the decision to him. Who knows? Picking such an arbitrator may be the first thing in years to which you can get everyone to agree.

Now what about you, my friend?

Can you think of someone somewhere whom you are holding something against? Or has God reminded you of someone who seems to be holding something against you? Have you thought of some third parties -- several other people who are breaking fellowship with each other? What should you do? If God is convicting you about any of these things follow His advice: Take action. Go to the one you may have hurt, or to the one who hurt you. Get involved in helping others who seem to have an unraveling relationship. And if your whole church is in a mess, start campaigning to recruit a wise outside authority to judge you.

Do you know of a broken relationship? A breaking relationship? Will you take the action necessary to sow the seeds of peacemaking? If you do, you will reap a great and satisfying harvest of righteousness! However, sowing the seeds won't always be easy.

Bible Study

1. Matthew 18:15-17.

-- With which of the four categories of broken relationships does this scripture deal? (verse 15)

-- When someone has wronged me
-- When someone thinks I have wronged them
-- When others are quarreling
-- When the whole church is divided
-- Describe in your own words the four-step procedure for repairing this kind of broken relationship:

2. Matthew 5: 23-24.

-- With which of the four categories of broken relationships does this scripture deal? (verse 23)

-- When someone has wronged me
-- When someone feels I have wronged them
-- When others are quarreling
-- When the whole church is divided
-- What action are we to take when this kind of fracture occurs?
-- What is not a substitute for right relationships with our brother or sister?
3. Philippians 4:23.

-- With which of the four categories of broken relationships does this scripture deal?

-- When someone has wronged me
-- When someone feels I have wronged them
-- When others are quarreling
-- When the whole church is divided
4. 1 Corinthians 1:10-12.

-- With which of the four categories of broken relationships does this scripture deal?

-- When someone has wronged me
-- When someone feels I have wronged them
-- When others are quarreling
-- When the whole church is divided
-- Review the description of a modern, divided church in the section, "When the Whole Church is Divided." Can you match up the modern examples of factions with the four factions in the Corinthian church?

-- "Of Paul" faction.

* charismatic personality/dynamic speaker
* founding pastor
* conservative/traditionalists
* super-spiritual/above it all
-- "Of Apollos" faction

-- "Of Cephas" faction

-- "Of Christ" faction

5. Titus 3:10. Differences alone are enough to cause the friction leading to broken relationships. However, sometimes a church or group has a person in it who delights in causing division and discord. Such people savor the excitement of a big fight and delight in stirring up quarrels. In this scripture a three-step method is prescribed for dealing with such people. What are those three steps?

-- Step one

-- Step two

-- Step three

6. Ephesians 4:3.

-- "Making" peace or "bringing back" unity is what we are to do when things go wrong. However, what even better plan does this verse suggest?

7. Romans 15:5-6.

-- A spirit of unity is what the church seeks in its effort at peacemaking. We must do our part, in working at reconstructing broken relationships. However, where does the church ultimately get its unity?

8. 1 Peter 3:8. If you viewed your church as a unified orchestra attempting to produce beautiful "harmony," what insights would that idea give to each of the following:

-- Competition

-- Solos

-- Sections...brass, wind, etc.

-- the Conductor

-- Melody vs. harmony

-- Individual vs. group effort

9. Personal reflection. Using your own abbreviations or personal writing code, list below any broken relationships you may need to mend:

-- Someone who wronged me

-- Someone who feels I have wronged them

-- Others who have deteriorating relationships

-- Entire churches or groups divided into factions

10. Personal Reflection. What is one single thing you could do in response to the truth of this chapter? Is there a promise you want to make to God?

-- An action to take:

-- A promise to make:

 From: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People by Keith Drury
(c) 1989 Wesley Press
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 To contribute to the thinking on this issue or to contact the writer e-mail Tuesday@indwes.edu