Interpersonal conflict is part of life. It would be nice if everyone got along all the time, but we don’t live in a world where this happens. Relational drama seems to follow us wherever we go, invading even the things that should be a distraction for us. Think about your social media timelines. How many of the posts have something to do with people and their relational difficulties and inability to get along? At least once a day I see a post that reads something like this, “I learned my lesson today about trusting people. I do my best to help them and they just stab me in the back. Well I may forgive, but I don’t forget and this won’t happen again.” Sound familiar?
The constant bickering and relationship strife we see serves as a stark reminder that the Bible’s words are true. The Bible roots our relational difficulties in our sin and separation from God. Genesis 3 records the first instance of human sin again God. Adam and Eve ate from the tree even though God told them not to eat from it. Through this one act of disobedience sin entered into the world. This action’s consequences begin to play out in the next chapter. Adam and Eve’s sons Cain and Abel went to offer a sacrifice to God. God expressed his pleasure with Abel’s sacrifice, but he was not pleased with Cain’s. The Lord addressed Cain and his fallen countenance, reminding him that sin is crouching at his door. He did not heed God’s warning, but instead invited Abel out to the field with him where he murdered him.
The pairing of these two events cannot be coincidental. They show not only the relational separation between people and God, but also between people and each other. Every conflict we have with another person is both a result of the existence of sin in the world and because of our own personal sin. The book of James speaks in particular about our desires that cause conflicts between us and others. Our wanting to get our own way, our desire to be first among the people around us, and our desire for revenge when we are wronged all caused what James calls “quarrels and fights.”
How the Greatest Separation Was Bridged
However high it may seem the sins of others may stack up against us, our sin against God is far greater and higher. We have offended him by sinning against him and we rightly stand worthy of His judgment. Thankfully the story did not end with our sin against God. Paul says in Romans that while we were sinners, Jesus Christ died for us. This reminds us that God sent His own Son to pay the debt we owed to Him. He stepped in as our substitute so we might no longer live under sin’s curse.
The Bible speaks of our salvation as a reconciliation to God. The one who has faith in Christ has his sin covered and receives the perfect righteousness of Christ. Through faith in Christ we are reconciled to God. We were once at enmity with him, but now we have been brought back to him. We have peace with God through Jesus and now we know him. We do not stand at arms length, but he invites us in. We have an audience with him, he hears us, and he is for us. When we come to Christ, God is not longer our enemy, he is our friend.
How This Affects Our Other Relationships
If our separation from other people mirrors our separation from God, then doesn’t it follow that our reconciliation to God can point a way forward to reconciliation with others? For the person who is a Christian, all of life should be lived in light of what God has done for us in Christ and in light of who he is for us in Christ. If God has provided redemption for our sins and forgiven us all of our trespasses, then that truth should begin to filter down into the way we think about our broken relationships with other people.
Take the issue of forgiveness for example. So many of our broken relationships come from holding grudges over past wrongs. Forgiveness does not mean that these experiences were not painful or that the other person was not wrong in what they did. It does mean we will let go of our anger and bitterness towards them, no longer holding their sin against them. If another person wrongs you, remember the forgiveness God has extended towards you and offer that same forgiveness to others as well. You may wonder what to do if the person will not admit they have done anything wrong. Forgive them anyway. If they don’t admit their wrongdoing it may mean the relationship cannot be mended, but it will not be because you continue to hold a grudge. If they do admit their wrongdoing, forgive them and you have regained a friend.
We should write over our lives the words of Paul in Romans 12:18, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We cannot control how other people respond to us, but we can, because of the Gospel, let go of our anger and hostility towards them.
“Learning to Watch Our Words”
“A Bible Verse That Changes All of Our Relationships”