One of my children is currently learning an important lesson about reconciliation. Out of love for him, I won’t go into the details, but he lied and cheated, and in so doing, brought shame and pain onto many others. So he is currently working through a reconciliation process with each person involved. I wouldn’t say it’s fun, but I would say that God is using it to teach him about forgiveness, freedom, and reconciliation: all things found at the core of the gospel.
Applying the realities of the gospel to our relationships is one of the most humbling and rewarding things about being a believer. Just as the Sermon on the Mount shows, meekness (humility in our relationships with others) is an inevitable fruit of poverty of spirit before God (Matt. 5:3-5). Once we come to grips with our sin and God’s gracious provision, this dynamic changes everything, including the way we handle conflict with other human beings.
Two points of application are especially helpful:
First, because God has graciously acted to reconcile us to Himself, we have no reason to fear hearing from those we may have hurt. We can receive disagreement, advice, or criticism from Christians and non-Christians alike without fear of questioning our righteousness, because God has given us the righteousness of His Son, Jesus Christ. Notice that the gospel goes deeper than simply dismissing criticism because “you know the truth so it doesn’t matter what they think,” or “haters are going to hate.” Such statements reflect an appeal to one’s self-righteousness. You may be right, but some day you will be wrong, and without the gospel, you will be less likely to humbly receive criticism. Yet if you are motivated by God’s reconciling act in Christ, humility abounds whether you are right or wrong.
Likewise, because of the gospel, we can confidently and humbly bring issues up to others, instead of “sweeping things under the rug” or acting in a non-confrontational, passive-aggressive manner. Are you afraid to say something to someone that you love that you know needs to be said? Have you put it off for weeks, months, or even years, because you “know” they won’t accept your criticism well? In these kinds of situations, there are certainly right times and right ways to bring things up, and it may be that you are not the right person to bring things up. But when you know you are the right person, and that the time and place are present, yet you do not say what God has led you to say, the gospel is not active and applied to that relationship. The fear of man and what they might do to you, say about you, or think about you is more prevalent than the fear of God and what He has done and what He now thinks of you in Christ.
The freedom of the gospel brings true freedom to our fear of man. Receive criticism confidently, and humbly pursue reconciliation. You are reconciled to God in Christ!
Rob Tims has been married to Holly for nearly 15 years. They have four children: Trey (10), Jonathan (9), Abby (1), and Luke (born April 10). He has served in the local church for 20 years as a children’s pastor, student pastor, and senior pastor. He currently serves on a team at LifeWay Christian Resources that develops customized Bible studies for groups and teaches two classes for Liberty University School of Divinity Online. He is the author of the book Southern Fried Faith: Confusing Christ and Culture in the Bible Belt.