Six Steps for Peace in a Relational Storm
I have a friend who is several weeks into a painful separation from his wife. His home has become a war zone. With their sweet-natured four-year-old caught in the middle, he finally decided to get an apartment down the street just to give things time to cool down. It’s a tense, sad situation.
Life is messy. In Chapter 12 of his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul talks about how to love those around us. He says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” – Romans 12:18
That is a high calling. In the middle of a relational storm, the idea of living at peace with an enemy feels almost impossible. While there is no magic pill you can take that will instantly heal a relationship, there are some things you can do that can help stop the bleeding and maybe even see the relationship reverse course.
Pray for you. Pray for them.
Praying for yourself isn’t selfish--it’s mandatory. Pray that God would show you where you are wrong, and ask him to make you more like him. As you see sin in your enemy’s life, pray that God would show you where that same sin might exist in your own life.
When you pray for another, don’t pray that God would show your enemy how wrong they are. Ask the same things for another that you would ask for yourself. At first, this may seem as appealing as eating a live scorpion, but the more you practice it, the less daunting it will feel. Over time, I’ve found that it can often move my heart to compassion for them as well.
In the middle of a battle, few things can short circuit the conflict faster than one side just laying down their guns unconditionally. If God, in Christ, forgave you, you must also freely forgive.
CS Lewis once penned, “humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less [often].” A feeling of entitlement can contribute to prolonged conflict. Pray that God would rid you of the entitlement thinking that leads to impasse. Remember, Christ endured much worse suffering, demanded no apology, and even freely forgave those who killed him.
Consider what the other person's needs are and try to serve your enemy well. Maybe they need a cup of coffee, or maybe they just need some space. The goal is not to punish them or “heap burning coals on their head” through service. The goal of selfless service is to demonstrate Christ’s love.
Give it Time.
A friend once said to me, “you can’t microwave relationships…they have to bake.” It takes seconds to burn a bridge but it can take years to rebuild one. So while you may be ready to forgive, it may not be as easy for the other party. Be prepared to give it time. Also be willing to give the relationship some space. Wounds take time to heal.
Again, these steps are never a guarantee for relational healing, nor are they all inclusive. But if you apply these ideas faithfully, you will at least be pursuing Christlikeness in the situation and making an honest effort to live at peace with others.
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