As we continue to answer some key questions about conflict resolution, we need to attempt to evaluate our own hearts — their motivations and tendencies. Regardless of how we’d like to act, we need to “talk to ourselves” with Scripture instead of “listening to ourselves”; another way to say it, as counter-cultural as it may be, is to guide our hearts, instead of listening to our hearts. After all, they can deceive us, whereas God’s Word is always true (Jeremiah 17:9, Psalm 33:4).
Question: Is it okay to ignore and avoid it?
Short Answer: Sometimes (but not as often as we’d like to think)
Perhaps a different way to ask this question is this: Does truly loving someone mean overlooking their faults? Proverbs 10:12 and 1 Peter 4:8 seem to indicate that it does. There are times when we need to give one another the benefit of the doubt or simply get over a minor issue or unintentional slight.
If we can’t simply get over it, though, God’s Word compels us to address the issue rather than harboring it in our hearts; holding grudges or allowing hurts to fester and develop into bitterness do no one any favors (Leviticus 19:18). Certainly, if the issue is something that bothers us and/or elicits gossip, it’s definitely something important enough to deal with in a biblical way.
In addition, when clear sin issues surface in the lives of those we love, we actually do them a disservice when we ignore the issue (Proverbs 28:13) — just like we do when we gloss over sins in our own hearts and lives. Like Achan’s or David’s feeble attempts to bury the evidence of their disobedience, when we attempt to cover up sins, we actually accomplish the opposite of what we want (Joshua 7, 2 Samuel 11). Instead of helping bridge the gap between our sinful hearts and the mercy and grace of a loving God, covering sin distances us from God (Psalm 66:18).
Going back to Matthew 18, we are commanded to address these issues, as uncomfortable as doing so may be. We often tend to be dishonest about our own motivations for failing to comply with God’s design. We may say we don’t want to be taken incorrectly or hurt someone’s feelings, but we’re usually just using such excuses to avoid doing something we know won’t be enjoyable or could cause a breech in a relationship.
Another fear that often keeps us from obedience is that of having our own lives and motivations examined (Matthew 8:3-10). Certainly, we need to conduct self-examination first, making sure we’re willing to use the same measuring stick in our own lives (Matthew 7:1-5). In fact, if we truly desire spiritual growth for ourselves, we will invite scrutiny (Psalm 139:23) and lead remarkably humble and openly confessional lives (Psalm 34:18, James 4:6, James 5:16).