In Part 2, we looked at a couple legitimate reasons to overlook others’ faults, but we also explored the reasons we should not ignore sin — either in our own lives, or the lives of others. Truly loving someone means sometimes having to open their eyes to hard truths. At the heart of this issue is the concept of what true friendship is. There’s certainly a difference between accepting one another, no matter what, and allowing one another to continue on dangerous roads without warning.
Often, what appears to be kindness is, instead, masked selfishness and failure to show true love (Philippians 2:4). God describes a productive friendship as “iron sharpening iron” — something that rarely occurs without friction and maybe even some sparks! (Proverbs 17:17) Like any good surgeon, a true friend will sometimes do what causes us pain, in order to help eliminate would-be mortal wounds (Proverbs 27:6). If we’re true friends, we’ll tell others what they need to hear, instead of simply what they want to hear.
The kind of iron-sharpening-iron friendships described above certainly cannot thrive in an environment where festering anger or selfish and ungracious attitudes also reside. Those issues are pivotal, as we consider the last two questions about biblical conflict resolution.
Question: When should you take care of it?
Short Answer: Now
As we discussed in Part 2, there are times to overlook the faults of others; however, instead of waiting and letting problems fester, God’s Word encourages us to deal with them sooner, rather than later (Ephesians 4:26, 27).
It’s been said that bitterness is like drinking poison, hoping your enemy will die. Instead of making enemies of one another, allowing rifts between friends to grow, and hurting our own relationship with God, we need to address offenses right away. When we fail to do so, sometimes too much time elapses, and we realize that discussing the problem will seem awkward and out of place. We simply cannot let our relationships with others fall prey to the elephant-in-the-room syndrome. When the only alternative to confronting the issue is holding a grudge and letting bitterness develop, the best choice is to deal with it immediately (Leviticus 19:18).
Question: How should you do it?
Short Answer: Privately and Hopefully
Keeping the aim of conflict resolution (sometimes conflict-for-resolution!) in view will affect the manner in which you do it. While conflict may be the inevitable means, resolution is the end desired. A repaired relationship and full restoration needs to be our goal (Matthew 18:15, Galatians 6:1). When true biblical love motivates us toward such a selfless goal, we’ll speak and act with the kind of generous, gracious, and forgiving spirit that mirrors the attitude of Christ (Luke 6:27-38).