By Dr. Audrey Davidheiser, Crosswalk.com
Have you heard about The Chosen?
My reply would’ve been a blank stare not too long ago. l discovered this popular, multi-series show about the life of Jesus late in the game. But once The Chosen hooked me, I gobbled up every episode and as many interviews and live streams as I could squeeze in.
This is why I yielded to impatience and watched the first two episodes of Season 3 in the theater.
As usual, The Chosen excels at presenting the Bible faithfully and in an engaging manner. I walked away impressed by many things.
But in terms of how indelibly it moved me, the top prize goes to how fast two of the disciples applied Jesus’ sermon on the Mount.
Jesus had instructed the crowd—and them—to reconcile with those they had issues with. Among other things.
But can we pause here? The idea of reconciling and asking forgiveness won’t win any popularity contest, including among Christians. Some Scripture-savvy believers might justify their decision to sidestep Jesus’ command to resolve conflicts using a verse like “it’s to one’s glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11).
In other words, they might claim that they don’t need to confront the person who offended them because they’re overlooking an offense. Deep down, however, the unresolved conflict punctures hole after hole in their peace, creating a breeding ground for bitterness. Illness. Cancer.
Having said the above, as a fellow human being, I resonate with wanting to skirt the unpleasantness of conflict resolution. Making amends in the face of relational hurts is fraught with hard feelings and even harder discussions.
That’s why I noticed the speed at which the apostles, particularly Matthew, took care of old grudges.
Curious about who didn’t make a beeline to practice what Jesus preached?
The journey toward our reconciliation proved to be grueling.
I’m not alone on this. Matthew stopped by Mary Magdalene’s house prior to reconciling with his parents. He’s confused, he said.
Her gentle assurance seemed to be the boost he needed to go on and seek their forgiveness.
What Mary did for Matthew, I’d like to do for you.
If there are individuals you need to reconcile with, brace yourself if necessary, but don’t stop until you’ve done your best to seek peace (Romans 12:18). Nothing compares with the cleansing of our conscience that comes with an earnest attempt to obey Jesus.
Plus, it’s high time for the body of Christ to exchange division and strife for reconciliation and peace. After all, judgment begins in God’s household (1 Peter 4:17). Are you willing to receive God’s judgment because of some animosity?
Allow me to share the steps that prepared me to reconcile with Sophie. Because our God doesn’t play favorites (Acts 10:34), what He has done for me, He can also do for you.
1. Struggles Are Normal
When Matthew met Mary, he also confided in her about his father’s decision to disown him.
I get why Dad did it, but still—the incident must have been heartbreaking for Matthew. Having practiced psychology for 14+ years, I can confirm that parents’ hurtful words haunt their children for years and even decades.
What about you? What’s the rift that continues to bleed your heart? Has the relationship deteriorated so badly, you can’t think of a scenario that will allow you to confront the other person without creating more pain?
As I’ve shared before, 15 years zipped by before Sophie and I reconciled. There are many reasons why it took us this long to reconcile, including because until recently, we never talked about our respective pain openly. All previous attempts at reconciliation only semi-succeeded at best and as such, a part of me felt too discouraged to keep going.
Hence the years of silent treatment and status quo, where nothing germinated in our relationship except for more rancid frustration.
If you’ve experienced something similar, don’t despair. The more important the relationship is, the more understandable it is for reconciliation to require a few tries before peace, ultimately, reigns.
2. Pray for Yourself
About 25% of practicing Christians reported that they had a person whom they “just can’t forgive.” Yet, more than one-quarter (28%) of these same individuals admitted they wish they could do so.
If you resonate with these Christians, adopt the words of Philippians 2:13, “God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him” (NLT). This is a powerful verse in general, but especially in the context of unforgiveness.
Ask God to deposit in you the desire to forgive.
That’s the beauty of this Philippian verse. God isn’t just in the business of guiding your desire; He also empowers you to accomplish it.
3. Pray for Growth
Remember when I shared how in my life, prior attempts at reconciling with Sophie were not that successful?
Here is another reason why. My consuming pain kept me from hearing her side of the story non-defensively.
But God deserves the glory for answering years’ worth of prayers to reconcile Sophie and me. I increased in maturity, which then enlarged my heart (2 Corinthians 6:13, WEY) and enabled me to hear her perspective calmly—without defending myself or casting the blame elsewhere.
While I did my growing, unbeknownst to me, Sophie had been doing the same—even though the roads we took toward maturity were as different as our personalities.
Indeed, there are many routes toward emotional healing. Psychotherapy, pastoral counseling, and inner healing ministries can all accomplish this objective. Pray for God to use whatever He sees fit to soften and heal both your heart and the other person’s. This prayer is key, because a heartfelt apology takes maturity to utter.
Matthew exemplified as much. It was his decision to become a tax collector that shamed his parents and folded his father’s business. Matthew apologized for his self-admitted selfishness without blaming them or anyone else.
One Clarification and Two Exhortations
Perhaps this article reminds you of someone who used to abuse you. If so, let me clarify: There’s no obligation to seek reconciliation with any perpetrator who has harmed you in any way.
While it is to your advantage to forgive those who wronged you, you’re also not required to reconcile with them if doing so compromises your health or safety.
Forgiveness means letting the offender off the hook, trusting God for the outcome.
Reconciliation is forgiveness plus. It starts with forgiving the person and finishes with a welcoming of the renewed relationship with the former offender.
But maybe nobody abused you or held any power over you. (If so, I’m glad.) Perhaps your falling out had more to do with how both of you have hurt each other over time.
I was like you. For years, my prayers for Sophie seemed futile. Hopelessness often convinced me nothing would ever change. God deserves the glory for healing both she and I.
The resulting lightness in my heart more than makes up for our agonizing past. My sleep has gotten deeper. Thoughts of her don’t incite immediate irritation anymore.
If Matthew were here, I imagine he’d share similar signs of peace after his reconciliation.
Now is your turn.
Will you join Matthew and I on the other side of conflict resolution?
Photo Credit: ©Angel Studios
Audrey Davidheiser, PhD is a California licensed psychologist, certified Internal Family Systems (IFS) therapist and IFSI approved clinical consultant, as well as author of Surviving Difficult People: When Your Faith and Feelings Clash. After founding and directing a counseling center for the Los Angeles Dream Center, she now devotes her practice to survivors of trauma—including spiritual abuse. Visit her on www.aimforbreakthrough.com