Gently Restore

We are looking at the third peacemaking principle, gently restore, as described in Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker. In the previous post we focused on “taking the log out” before we even begin talking to another about their sin (speck). If we do this first, it will sometimes encourage the other person to admit their responsibility for the problem and the conflict can be resolved.

Helping others own their part of a conflict

If we want to bring the light of the Gospel into our conflict we need wisdom, gentleness, and humility, otherwise our attempt to prompt the other to self-assess regarding the matter can quickly end up escalating the conflict instead of resolving it.

If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault. (Matthew 18:15)

If someone is caught in a sin you who are spiritual should restore him gently. (Galatians 6:1)

Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins. (James 5:20)

Restoration means more than confronting

Many people believe showing someone their fault always requires direct confrontation. Yes, this approach will be appropriate in some situations but we should not default to this automatically. There may be offenses that can and should be overlooked (Proverbs 19:11). How do we address those conflicts that are just too harmful and need to be discussed?

Jesus tells us what our responsibility is in this situation. Matthew 18:15 states that we are to go to another person and address sin. But in its context this verse teaches much more than confronting another with a list of their wrongs. We are to go for the purpose of restoration (not in a spirit of judgment or anger). Our heart attitude should be one of humility and love, being especially careful to resist our tendency to bluntly list their wrongs or judge their heart motive. All sin is primarily against God and so we need to recognize this first and seek to restore (Psalm 51:4).

If the Gospel is not woven into your own heart it is unlikely you will be able to weave it into someone else’s heart.

Do you bring judgment more easily than you bring grace? When your spouse or child sins do you go to them with eyes focused on Christ asking Him to make the Gospel central to everything you think, say and do?

When someone has wronged you

One of the hardest commands for me is Matthew 5:23-24. When someone has hurt me deeply I do not want to nor do I feel like taking the initiative to “go” to them. My flesh cries out, “She hurt and wounded me. She is the one who spoke unloving. Why should I go to her when she is the one who did the damage? She needs to come to me and apologize. This may be true but not going to the person who hurt me is contrary to Jesus’ specific teaching in this passage. He commands me to go and if I do not then I am disobeying His command.

How does the Gospel help me take this faith step? I can trust that God’s grace will give me the words and the will as I step out in obedience and initiate reconciliation (and not listen to my feelings). My feelings are not to be obeyed when they contradict the Word of God. His grace is always there, I just need to appropriate it in faith. As we are obedient in the little things He will transform our hearts.

When someone has something against us, God also wants us to take the first step in seeking peace—even if we believe we haven’t done anything wrong. Why? Out of love and obedience to the Lord, love for them, concern for their well-being, and to have a greater peace of mind by facing any complaints others might have against us.

Speak the truth in love

Sande’s chapter about “Speaking the Truth in Love” outlines some effective aspects of speaking the truth in love. Our communication in this area is critical. We as Christ followers become God’s peacemakers as we better understand and apply these foundational and essential elements. When we do, we honor and glorify God in the midst of conflict.

  1. Active listening—waiting, attending, clarifying, reflecting, agreeing (James 1:19)

  2. Have a wise tongue—be charitable, loving, do not talk down to a person in a self-righteous manner

  3. Choose the right time and place

  4. Talk in person whenever possible—our tone or intent can be misinterpreted in emails and text

  5. Engage rather than declare—don’t launch into a direct and detailed description of their wrongs

  6. Plan your words

  7. Use “I” statements

  8. Be objective

  9. Use the Bible carefully

  10. Ask for feedback

  11. Offer solutions and preferences

  12. Recognize your limits

Therefore, our first step in gently restoring another is to overlook the offense if possible (i.e., when the offense has not created a wall between you and the person and has not “caused serious harm to God’s reputation, to others, or to the offender”). Then if that is not possible, we are to go and talk in private. If this attempt at peacemaking is not successful sometimes we may need to ask one or two others to help us be reconciled so that “every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses” (Matthew 18:16). When all other steps have failed then the offending person requires church discipline (for more details about this step, please see Ken Sande’s book).

Making peace can be challenging and complicated but God has graciously given us clear and helpful truths that are effective in any conflict. We have a responsibility to encourage one another in this area and to help our brothers and sisters in Christ be faithful to God’s commands and to live in ways that reflect the Gospel they profess.

The last “G” is to go and be reconciled and this has to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness is not easy, but commanded by God. We will tackle this final principle next time.

About the author

Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her husband, their three children and their 12 year old yellow lab…and sushi too.

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