Series: Blessed are the Peacemakers. By Rosie Moore.

For a Christian, the gospel provides the model, the motivation and the power to resolve conflict and learn the skills of peacemaking (Col 3:13; Rom 13:13-14; Eph 4:1-3). In my previous two devotions “Called to Peace” and “Mind your own logs”, we saw that if God has made peace with us, Christians are called to promote peace, harmony, and unity, loving one another earnestly from the heart (1 Peter 1:22-23). While conflict may feel like a painful ordeal that induces stress, anger, or anxiety, it is also an opportunity to put off the deeds of the flesh which destroy peace and harmony, and put on Christlike traits which promote peace (Gal 5:19-20; Col 3:1, 8, 12-13). Conflict is an opportunity to seek genuine reconciliation and showcase the gospel.

The gospel models confession.

The gospel not only shows us how grievously we have sinned against God and others, but also offers us freedom from our past wrongs. Sadly, many people never experience this freedom because they have never learned to confess their sins honestly and unconditionally, either to God or to the people they have wronged. In my experience, failure to humbly confess sin is a leading cause of broken relationships, especially in marriage. One or both parties are simply too proud to admit their own part in a conflict, and choose instead the path of criticism, contempt, escape, defense, or sulking.

But since God desires “truth in the inward parts” (Ps 51:6), reconciliation is impossible without genuine confession of sin. Although our sins are ultimately committed against God (Ps 51:4), we are also called to confess our sins to one another so that our relationships may be healed and restored (James 5:16). Interpersonal confession is implied in many passages of Scripture (Luke 17:3-4; Eph 4:32; Col 3:13).

Confession is like the wind in the sails of forgiveness and reconciliation. It brings freedom and healing to relationships, first vertically and then horizontally.

Confession to God.

Confessing our sins to God paves the way for us to receive His mercy promised in Proverbs 28:13: “Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.”

In Psalm 32, David contrasts the physical and emotional toll of unconfessed sin, with the peace and freedom produced by honest confession and forgiveness:

“When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long,

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;

My vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer…

Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity.
I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord.”
And you forgave the guilt of my sin…

Blessed is the one whose transgressions are forgiven,
 whose sins are covered. Blessed is the one
 whose sin the Lord does not count against them
 and in whose spirit is no deceit (Ps 32:3-5; 1-2).

Unless we first ask God for mercy with no conditions attached, as the tax collector did in Luke 18:13-14, we stand no chance of reconciliation with God or with the neighbour with whom we are in conflict. But once we have confessed to God, it is time to consider the person that we have wronged.

Confessing to our neighbour.

Is conflict eating away at your marriage, your home or your relationships at work and with extended family members? It’s likely that you need to admit your part in the conflict and say sorry.

James 5:16 clearly says, “Confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed”. Genuine reconciliation in relationships happens when we learn to humbly confess our sins to one another, frankly and unconditionally. Our willingness to confess brings our sin into the light of day and shows how serious we are about restoring the strained relationship. Honest confession shows that we are not fighting to win, but fighting to reconcile.

In the heat of conflict, it is easy to mutter a half-hearted admission, “I’m sorry if I hurt you, but you attacked me first”, or “I suppose I may have been partly to blame”, or “I got angry with you because I’m so stressed and tired”. But true confession does not shift blame or lessen the offensiveness of our actions or attitudes. Sincere confession sounds something like this:

“I have sinned against God and against you by using harsh and reckless words. I have injured you with my uncontrolled tongue and slander…There is no excuse for using my words as a weapon against you. Please forgive me.” (James 3:5-6, 8; Prov 12:18; Prov 13:3; 17:28)

“The Bible reminded me that I have had a similar struggle as you, and failed miserably in it. Yet I’ve acted self-righteously towards you. I have nursed anger and malice towards you (Eph 4:31-32). Worst of all, I dragged other people into my sin (Prov 16:28). I forgot God’s mercy towards me and have asked Him to forgive me. I trust that He will give you grace to forgive me too.”

“Please forgive me for my grumbling and complaining. I have discouraged you and been critical of all that you do for us. I have taken my eyes off the good things that God and you do for me every day. I am so sorry that I’ve been ungrateful and discontent”. (Phil 2:14; James 5:9)

“As your boss, God has shown me that I have been self-serving in trying to increase my own power at your expense. I have refused to listen to your perspective. I was quarrelsome instead of being gentle, kind and patient towards you (2 Tim 2:24-26; Eph 4:32). I did not diligently serve, lead, and look out for your well-being like a shepherd should (1 Peter 3:7; 5:1-3; Eph 5:25-33.) I am truly sorry for misusing my authority and even threatening you.” (Eph 6:9)

The practice of using biblical words to describe our sin to one another shows that we want to please God more than we want to save face or get our own way. We are taking our sin as seriously as God does.

In his excellent book titled The Peacemaker, Ken Sande lays out seven A’s that characterize true confession to others. I have found these seven elements of confession useful to remember when I am trying to mind my own logs and reconcile with someone I disagree with:

Seven A’s.

1.Address everyone involved. Because all sins offend God, the first person to address is God himself, as David does in Psalm 32 and 51. As a general principle, we should also address every person who has been directly affected by our wrongdoing. Slandering, stealing, lying, or failing to love someone should be confessed directly to the offended person.

 

2. Avoid if, but and maybe. We must take full responsibility for what we have done or failed to do regardless of the other person’s actions. A confession that excuses or minimises our sin is merely a token apology designed to deflect blame or avoid consequences. Genuine forgiveness and reconciliation is thwarted by T’s and C’s like, “Maybe I should have waited to hear your side of the story.” “I’m sorry I lost my temper, but I was so tired and stressed.” “I’m sorry if I hurt your feelings, but you really pushed my buttons.” It is better to be blunt and biblical than a lawyer in search of a loophole! “I have been an angry, hot-tempered man and have stirred up strife in our relationship! Please forgive me.” (Prov 29:22; 30:33).

 

3. Admit specifically what you have done, said, thought, or failed to do, using God’s own vocabulary from His word. Being specific helps us identify the behaviour and attitudes that we need to change. It also opens our eyes to see our sin as God does, not the sugarcoated version our culture presents. Do not use worldly categories, but confess specific heart sins like selfishness, ingratitude, envy, bitterness, hatred, stubbornness, vengeance, self-justification, pride, greed, lust, discontent, partiality, the love of money, ungodly fear of what others think, rebellion against God-given authority, good things that you want too much. These are biblical descriptions of sin. Confess specific actions or omissions by using biblical words like sexual immorality, laziness, gossip, slander, rage, deceit, gluttony, theft, adultery, lack of self-control, unwholesome talk, unkindness, failure to show deep and sincere love. General confessions are worthless, but specific, biblically-based confessions promote reconciliation.

 

4. Acknowledge the hurt. It is important to express genuine sorrow for how we have hurt other people by our actions, words and thought life. We should be grieved when we fail to follow the golden rule given by Jesus (Matt 7:12). We should be marked by the Christian virtues of “sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind” (1 Peter 3:8-9, 4-8). Here are two examples of how this can be done:

“I really hurt and embarrassed you when I laughed at you with everyone in the office and failed to stand up for you. I saw you tearing up and did nothing to comfort you. I’m so ashamed that my fear of man caused you such pain.”

“As a husband called to love you as myself, I have not only sinned against God, but also hurt and defrauded you over and over again by watching pornography. I have been sexually immoral by not mastering my body in keeping it pure for you. I can only imagine how betrayed you must feel. You are justified in your distress. I deeply regret what I have done and am willing to do whatever it takes, in Christ’s strength, to overcome these sins that have enslaved me.” (1 Thess 4:4-8; John 8:34; 2 Peter 2:19)

 

5. Accept the consequences. Genuine repentance is demonstrated by our willingness to accept the consequences of our sinful actions and to make restitution if necessary. This is the pattern followed by the prodigal son when he confessed his sin to his father and added, “Make me like one of your hired men” (Luke 15:19). Likewise, Zacchaeus’s confession was accompanied by an eagerness to repay four times the money to those he had defrauded (Luke 19:8).

If we are unwilling to accept consequences, our confession is empty. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death” (2 Cor 7:10). Conversely, the more eager we are to repair the damage we have caused, the more credible our confession will be.

Here are two examples of how one would accept consequences:

“Beginning from today, I will call each and every person I have spoken to and admit that the things I said about you were not true statements. I will tell them that I have slandered you. I will put the record straight.”

“You have every right to lay a criminal charge against me for the money I have stolen, and I wouldn’t blame you if you did. But whether or not you lay charges, I will see to it that I repay you every month when I receive my salary, starting from this month.”

 

6. Alter your behaviour. Genuine repentance is always accompanied by a change of mind and actions, empowered by the Holy Spirit. John the Baptist called these changes “fruits of repentance” (Luke 3:8-14). Genuine change happens as we take our eyes off ourselves and focus them on Jesus and what he has done and is doing on our behalf. But the fight against temptation and sin is not passive. We must be willing to take drastic measures to forsake sin and move forward. As Jesus said, “If your eye offends you, pluck it out” (Matt 5:27-30). If your sin has contributed to a conflict or broken relationship, you could start by explaining to the aggrieved person the concrete commitments you are making with God’s help. And you could agree to meet with a church leader to hold you accountable for these changes.

 You could write out a commitment plan, prefaced with the words, “With God’s help, I commit to….” This plan would contain goals, objectives and accountability for the planned changes. Genuine reconciliation is more likely when the aggrieved person is presented with hard evidence of change, especially if the offense has been ongoing, such as angry outbursts or drug/porn use.

 

 7. Ask for forgiveness and Allow for time. If we have followed the previous six steps, the aggrieved person may readily forgive us, but it is always wise to ask, “Will you forgive me?” This shifts the conversation to the other person. But if we have hurt someone deeply, they may need time to process their feelings. It is unwise to pressurize someone into granting forgiveness and better to ask, “I know that it must be hard to forgive me for what I did to you, but I hope you can forgive me soon because I very much want to be reconciled with you. In the meantime, I will pray for you and do everything I can, with God’s help, to make things right between us. If there is anything else I can do, please let me know.”

“Go and be reconciled.”

If someone has something against us and our relationship is strained or broken, Jesus places the onus on us to take the initiative and become reconciled. It is even more urgent than being in church on Sunday (Matt 18:15).

But an essential part of Jesus’s command to “Go and be reconciled” is learning to deal honestly with our contribution to a conflict, however small or big. The seven A’s of confession are not an empty ritual or formula for peace, but rather a framework to ensure that Christians glorify God and minister to others whom we have wronged. Confession is a necessary step in striving to live peaceably with everyone, so far as it depends on us (Heb 12:14; Rom 12:18).

Irrespective of the other person’s response and contribution to the conflict, true confession shows our commitment to repair any damage we have caused and to pursue peace and mutual upbuilding (Rom 14:19; Rom 15:5-7).  God takes delight in seeing his children living together in unity! (Ps 133:1-3) This should be our delight too.

Source:

Sande, Ken. The Peacemaker—A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict.

Baker Books, 1991.

Listen to this beautiful song based on Psalm 133.

 

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