Making Peace

Part 3: With others

 

Opening:

ILL: While visiting a neighbor, five-year-old Andrew pulled out his kindergarten class picture and immediately began describing each classmate. “This is Robert; he hits everyone. This is Stephen; he never listens to the teacher. This is Mark; he chases us and is very noisy.” Pointing to his own picture, Andrew said, “And this is me. I’m just sitting here minding my own business.”

Five years old—it starts pretty young, doesn’t it—this tendency to see the faults in others and be blind to our own! 

          We’ve talked about making peace with God and ourselves; the next two Sundays we talk about making peace with others. In this message, I am going to focus on what we need to do before we go to someone else to make peace.  Most of the time, we play a bigger role in conflict than we want to admit; we’d like to think that we’re innocent, just “sitting there minding our own business.”  But Jesus said that we are to take the plank out of our own eye before we try to take the speck out of another’s eye.  Making peace with others always starts with us.

 

   Introduction:

          Two weeks ago, we talked about how God made peace with us, forgiving us all our sins; and last week we talked about making peace with ourselves, forgiving ourselves since God has forgiven us.  The next two weeks, we’re going to talk about making peace with others.  Why two weeks?

          Because there are two ways to be at odds with another person: you mess up or he messes up.  His fault, your fault; and usually… it’s his fault…of course.  There is actually a third and more common way to have conflict: you both mess up!  Most of time, it takes two to tango.  Most of time, we both contribute something to an interpersonal conflict.  It’s actually pretty rare that it’s entirely one person’s fault. 

          If I have contributed something to the conflict, then before I try to straighten out the other person, I’ve got straighten my mess out first! Or, in the words of Jesus, before I can take the speck out of my brother’s eye, I have to remove the plank from my own! 

ILL: You all look very nice today.  I’m betting that you did a little work in front of the mirror this morning.  How many of you checked yourself in the mirror today?  How many of stood there admiring yourself for 10 minutes? 

Imagine seeing something out of place—we’re just imagining of course—I’m sure there wouldn’t be.  Maybe it’s a hair out of place, or a spot you missed while shaving, or a dreaded MZ—a Monster Zit—right on the end of your nose!  What do you do?  You don’t reach out to touch the mirror to move the hair, shave the stubble or pop the zit.  That won’t do anything!  You’ve got to move the hair on your head, not the reflection in the mirror. 

Often when we want to make peace with another person, we start by trying to move the hair on their head or pop their zit, without realizing that it may be a reflection of us.  You don’t start by working on the mirror; you start by working on yourself. 

          The first step in resolving conflict and making peace with others is to address our own junk.  This is why we spent two weeks talking about making peace with God and ourselves.  Forgiven people find it easier to forgive.  If I know that God has forgiven me, and I’ve forgiven myself, if I’ve dealt with my own junk with God and myself, then I can deal with my own junk with you. 

As a forgiven person…

 

1. I am responsible to overlook petty offenses. 

          Before you confront someone about a fault, first ask yourself if it would be better to simply overlook it. 

          Here’s a Big Idea.  We don’t need to correct every little fault in another person.  There are many faults that we simply need to overlook. We need to be Big Enough to overlook small offenses and simply forgive them outright without ever having to confront the person. We don’t have to deal with every petty slight and offense.

ILL: Classic example: how many couples can’t tell a story without their partner interrupting several times and correcting small details. 

“It wasn’t Wednesday; it was Tuesday.”

Who cares?  Let them tell the story!  You don’t need to correct every detail.

That’s one example. 

How about your spouse’s irritating little quirks?  So many couples criticize and correct each other over and over about these, when we just need to be big enough—forgiven enough—to just overlook them. Martin Luther said, “It is impossible to keep peace between man and woman in family life if they do not overlook each other’s faults but watch everything to the smallest point. For who does not at times offend? Thus many things must be overlooked; very many things must be ignored that a peaceful relation may exist.”

ILL: Some of you have heard me tell a story that happened early in our marriage.  Laina and I were poor, so we often went to Noel’s house to eat, do our laundry and read the paper, none of which we could afford.  Laina’s mother, Marty, died when Laina was in 4th grade; all through high school, Laina was like the mom.  She planned and cooked the meals, shopped for food, and did the cleaning.  So whenever we went back to her dad’s house, she naturally started cleaning. 

          One day, we were at Noel’s doing our laundry.  While we waited for the laundry, I sat down to read the Sunday paper while Laina was busy cleaning the house.  I started reading the paper, section by section; when I finished a section, I put it on top of the pile of sections next to me, one on top of the next.  Laina likes the sections to be inserted inside each other in order: A, B, C…and so on.  So she stopped and ordered the stack of sections.  When I finished the next section I put it on top; she stopped and inserted it inside.  About the third time she did this, I got irritated.  And I said some really hurtful things to her.  She went out and sat in the car and cried.  I had to apologize.  Later that night, I couldn’t fall asleep; I lay there thinking about what I’d said to her, and how I would feel if she had said those things to me.  I felt so bad, I woke her up and apologized again!

She likes the paper to be organized—it’s quirky, but it’s really a good trait: she’s neat.  She’s not a pig…like me!  She vacuums our house every day, some spots multiple times a day!  It’s really irritating when you’re trying to watch Sports Center!  But I just have to be Big Enough to overlook it!  Of course, she has to be Big Enough to overlook me sitting on my big fat butt while she’s working!  That’s my quirky fault.

I’m having some fun with you, but you get the Big Idea: We need to be big enough to overlook small things.  Not every fault needs to be confronted; many just need to be overlooked.  It’s no big deal. Here’s what the Bible says:

Proverbs 12:16 A fool shows his annoyance at once, but a prudent man overlooks an insult.

When I was irritated with Laina and showed my annoyance, I was a fool.  A wise person overlooks an insult, or an injury, or a fault. 

Proverbs 19:11 A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.

What does that mean?  You will be honored and respected if you can overlook offenses.  You will be avoided if you can’t!

ILL: I had a friend in college who was always critical of me—not that there wasn’t plenty to be critical of…but it got old.  I called him on it, and he said, “I have the gift of criticism.”  After awhile, I developed the gift of avoidance; I’d see him coming and avoid him. 

Overlook offenses and you’ll be honored; don’t and you’ll be avoided. 

1 Peter 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

We all have a multitude of sins—I do.  I’ve got lots of irritating little faults.  If you want to criticize me, I’ll give you plenty of ammunition!  Love covers over a multitude of sins.  This doesn’t mean “cover up” as we use the word negatively, like Watergate.  It means to cover, to remove from sight; hence to forgive.  The opposite of cover over would be to expose, to bring out in the open.  To love people means we forgive and we cover them—we don’t expose them to others, or constantly criticize them.  We all have a multitude of sins.  Some of them need to be exposed and dealt with; but many just need to be lovingly covered.

Ephesians 4:2 Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Bear with each other.  There are some things we must address; but there are many little offenses we just bear with, we tolerate, we put up with.  We have to be Big Enough to overlook small offenses.  To overlook an offense means that we forgive it and choose not to dwell on it, talk about it or let it grow into resentment or bitterness. 

          Isn’t this how God forgives us?  Does God confront you about every sin, every fault, every offense?  No—most of them He chooses to overlook and forgive.  Aren’t you glad?  Our goal is to be as big as God when it comes to forgiveness.

          I am responsible to overlook petty offenses.

          As a forgiven person…

 

2. I am responsible to correct my part of the problem. 

          Before you confront another person, first check yourself.  Examine your own heart.  You see the speck in their eye; is there a plank sticking out of yours?  Start with you. 

          When you’re having conflict, before you ever go to confront and correct the other person, first you must examine your own heart and identify your part of the problem.  Jesus made it very clear: before you correct someone else, you are responsible to correct your part of the problem. 

Matthew 7:1–5 Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

This is really a very funny image.  Imagine someone walking around with a plank sticking out of his eye, and stopping people saying, “Hey, you’ve got a speck of sawdust in your eye.  Let me help you with that.”  It’s pretty much impossible to get a speck out of someone’s eye when you’ve got a plank in your own!  You’ve got to get the plank out first before you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

          Here’s another thought: where does a speck of sawdust come from? A plank.  Is Jesus suggesting that the small fault we see in our brother is “just a chip off the old block”?  Could it be that we are most sensitive to faults in others when we are struggling with them ourselves?  Your speck may be just a smaller version of my plank.

ILL: A concerned husband went to see the family doctor: “I think my wife is deaf. She never hears me the first time I say something. In fact, I often have to repeat things over and over again.”

“Well,” the doctor replies, “go home tonight, stand about 15 feet from her, and say something. If she doesn’t reply, move about five feet closer and say it again. Keep doing this so we can get an idea of the severity of her deafness.”

So the husband goes home, and he does exactly as instructed. He stands about 15 feet from his wife, who is standing in the kitchen, chopping some vegetables.

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

He gets no response, so he moves about five feet closer and asks again.

“Honey, what’s for dinner?”

No reply.

He moves five feet closer, and still no reply.

He gets fed up and moves right behind her—about an inch away—and asks one final time, “Honey, what’s for dinner?”

She says, “For the fourth time, vegetable stew!”

Your speck may be just a smaller version of my plank.  If I get rid of my plank, I may not even notice your speck any more.  If he gets a hearing aid, he’ll be amazed how much better she hears!

          The image is vivid, and the lesson is clear: deal with your own stuff first!  Get the plank out of your eye before you try to take the speck out of your brother’s.

Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.

If a brother sins, we should restore him gently; we’ll talk about how to do that next week.  But first, what should we do?  Look to ourselves.  Watch yourself.  Before we attempt to correct someone else, we have to honestly see if we’re guilty of the same thing. 

          True confession: whenever I am critical of someone else, if I “watch myself”, I discover the same faults in me! 

          So what do we do when we see the speck in another and then find the plank in us? 

  • Sometimes we need to overlook the speck in our brother and just work on the plank in us.  It’s a speck—fugeddaboudit.
  • Sometimes we need to work on our plank, and then go help the brother with his speck.  And if we do that, a good place to start is by telling him about our plank and what we’ve done to change.

Either way, I am responsible to correct my part of the problem first. 

          As a forgiven person…

 

3. I am responsible to take the first step.

          If you decide that there is unresolved conflict between you that needs attention, then you must go; you must take the first step.

          Here’s a really common scenario.  Someone messes up and there’s conflict between us.  We think, “Well, it’s his fault; so if he wants to make peace, he can come crawling to me!”  There’s a certain logic in that.  The person at fault should take the first step.  It makes sense…except for two things.

          First, we’ve already seen that in most interpersonal conflicts, the fault is shared.  It takes two to tango; where there’s a speck, there’s a plank.  If we’re both at fault, and we each wait for the other to take the first step, nothing happens.

          Second, Jesus said that the burden to take the initiative, to make the first step toward peace always rests with you, whether you are the offender or the offended. As we’ll see, Jesus says, “If your brother sins, go.  If you sin, go.”  Either way, you go.

Matthew 5:23–24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

If your brother has something against you, who sinned?  You did.  Who should go to start the process of reconciliation?  You should.  “First go and be reconciled to your brother.”  If you sin, you go.  You take the first step to mend the relationship, to make peace.

Matthew 18:15 If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

If your brother sins, who sinned?  Your brother.  Who should go to start the process of reconciliation?  You should.  “Go and show him his fault.”  If your brother sins, you go. You take the first step to mend the relationship, to make peace.

          So according to Jesus, it doesn’t matter who sins.  If you know that there is a conflict, you go.  If you are wrong, you go; if he is wrong; you go.  As a follower of Jesus, you take the first step to make peace. 

          Why is this so important? Many relationships stay broken because each person waits for the other to take the first step.  Someone has to take the first step; someone has to start the process of reconciliation.  Jesus says that someone is you—every time.  Paul says it this way:

Romans 12:18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.

Live at peace with everyone; if there is conflict, make peace.  Notice the two qualifiers.  If it is possible—sometimes it is not.  Sometimes the other person refuses to forgive or be forgiven.  But you don’t know until you try.  As far as it depends upon you—do what you can do.  And that includes taking the first step.  Make an honest effort.  Give it your best shot. 

Too often we refuse to try because we think, “It won’t work.  He won’t listen.  She won’t forgive.”  We make up their mind for them without ever giving them an honest chance to make up their own mind! Sometimes it won’t work; but you won’t know that for sure until you go.

Next week, we’ll look more closely at Matt 18 where Jesus tells us to “go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.  If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.”  What if he doesn’t listen?  Jesus knew this could happen and tells us what to do next—that’s next week.  But the point is that he doesn’t always listen.  It doesn’t always work.  But you don’t know that unless you try.  You’ve got to go and make the effort…do what you can do.

ILL: Glenn Schwartz was a missionary in Zambia who resigned and went home because of unresolved conflict on the field. At home, Glenn began to experience physical symptoms that doctors determined were due to fear, resentment, bitterness, anxiety, and unmet goals. A missionary friend advised Glenn to deal with his inner conflicts. In his book When Charity Destroys Dignity, Glenn writes:

I wrote letters to all those with whom I felt my past relationship was either strained or broken. Some were African church leaders, others were missionaries, and several were mission executives.

On the advice of my missionary friend Joe, I wrote 16 letters in which I assumed full responsibility for all that had happened. I blamed no one. The responses I got back were varied. Some wrote to say that they, too, were sorry that our relationship had been broken and they were glad to have it repaired. A few came to see me personally. One missionary wrote something to the effect that, “That’s the way you are. I tried to tell you differently, but you wouldn’t listen. Furthermore, when one is five years old his attitudes are set for life, so for you there is little possibility of change.”

As for me, I was free because I had done all that I knew to do. Such freedom is priceless.

Sixteen letters, one unforgiving response.  But Glenn had done what he could.  He had taken the first step, and he had owned his stuff. 

          I am responsible to take the first step toward reconciliation.  And as a forgiven person…

 

4. I am responsible to confess what I’ve done.

          If you decide you must go to the other person to make peace, the place to begin is with a confession of what you’ve done.  Start with you, not them.

          Glenn got this right.  In his letters, he took full responsibility.  He blamed no one.  He recognized what he had contributed to the conflict and he owned up.  He didn’t confess anyone else’s sins; he confessed only his own sins.  This is a big deal.  The quickest way to ruin your confession is to confess the other person’s sins along with yours.  “I shouldn’t have said what I did, but you made me so mad.”  “It was wrong of me to take your car without asking, but you take my stuff all the time so I didn’t think you’d mind.”  Just confess your own sins, not the other person’s.  Confessing your sin is disarming; most people will respond by owning up to their part of the problem.  Confessing their sin is disastrous—you only make people defensive and angry!

Matthew 5:23–24 Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.

Your brother has something against you: admit it specifically.  Don’t use if, but and maybe.  Don’t make excuses or blame anyone else.  Acknowledge the pain and trouble you’ve caused others.  Accept the consequences (if there are any).  Ask for forgiveness and give the other person time to process. 

James 5:16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

There are no shortcuts to making peace.  You have to confess, you have to make it right, you have to apologize.

ILL: The cartoon character Calvin says to his tiger friend, Hobbes, “I feel bad that I called Susie names and hurt her feelings. I’m sorry I did it.”

“Maybe you should apologize to her,” Hobbes suggests. Calvin ponders this for a moment and says, “I keep hoping there’s a less obvious solution.”

Nope, there’s not.  It starts with you.

 

Conclusion

          If you want to be a peacemaker, you must start with yourself.  Before you ever go to correct or confront another person, you must check your own heart first. 

  • I am responsible to overlook petty offenses.  Before you confront, ask yourself, “Would it be better if I just overlooked this, forgive and forget about it?”
  • I am responsible to correct my part of the problem.  Before you confront, ask yourself, “What is the plank sticking out of my eye?”
  • I am responsible to take the first step.  If you decide that there is unresolved conflict and it must be addressed, you must go—take the first step.
  • I am responsible to confess what I’ve done.  If you go, the first thing you must do is to confess what you’ve done.  Start with you.