I have a friend that enjoys playing chess. He says it is something that allows him to relax while keeping his mind sharp. If you play chess you know that the two sides are black and white and that the white player is allowed to make the first move. It would seem to me that most people playing chess would want to be the white player. That way they could make the first move; they could be the initiator. Keith however says that given the choice he likes to play the black pieces. He would rather respond to what the other player does and not initiate the moves.
That is the way most of us want to deal with conflicts. But in reality, as Christians we are supposed to be initiators. My study of the Bible has convinced me that as Christians we should be the ones to initiate conflict resolution. There are two places in Matthew that where we are told to be the ones to initiate the process.
“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” Matthew 18:15 (NKJV)
If someone has done something to us that we are to go to him or her first and seek reconciliation.
“Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24 (NKJV)
If we remember that someone has something against us we are to go to him or her and seek reconciliation.
As Christians we should be the ones to initiate the reconciliation process. This is true whether we are the offender or the one offended. Is this easy? It hasn’t been in my life. But the easy way isn’t always the right way. In fact, the easy way is the wrong way. In the Army we were taught that if you had two paths before you where one was easy and the other was hard. The way to decide which path to take was to remember that Murphy’s Law of war said that the easy way was always mined.
One of the things that should stand out to us as we look at this is that we are supposed to go and seek reconciliation before worshipping God. If this doesn’t give us an idea of how important making peace is, then nothing will. Seriously think about that for a second. If we were to put what Jesus said here in our context, it would mean that if, as we walked in to church we suddenly remembered that there was someone upset at us about something, then we should leave church and go and try to reconcile with them. Then go back to church after restoring your relationship. There is a reason we are to take the initiative and seek reconciliation immediately.
“Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.” Matthew 5:25-26 (NKJV)
The point Jesus was making here was that if we are passive instead of active we may end up waiting too long. The old cliché says that time heals all wounds. Those that have been hurt by words or actions of another know this is simply not true. The longer someone is hurt without anyone trying to help the situation the more the hurt grows. The more the hurt grows the harder it will be to fix the problem. Until a time can come when the relationship can never be fixed. There may well be forgiveness, but the relationship will never again exist.
As a Christians, we should always be the ones to start the reconciliation process. Keep in mind we are not responsible for the response. We are only responsible to take the initiative and go. There may well be times when you do your part in seeking reconciliation and they don’t respond appropriately. If that happens there is nothing you can do. You can encourage someone to reconcile but you can’t force them to. You are not responsible for their response. You are only responsible to take the initiative and go.