I didn’t get far in the reading today before I was putting a lot of thought into, “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them, and if they repent, forgive them.”(17:3)
That sentence must make “conflict avoiders” feel so uncomfortable! Maybe so much so, they move on to verse 4 without giving verse 3 much thought! Yet, that one verse is “conflict resolution” summed up in a sentence!
When my kids were little I made them say an extended apology that has now, in their older years been dubbed ,“I-for-Do”.
They had to be prompted quite a bit in their apologies, so these were the words they heard coming form my mouth as I prompted them. They knew how to fill in the blanks, but their angry little hearts needed some coaxing at times. It would go like this:
Me: You need to apologize to your sibling. What do you say?
Them: Sorry… (barely audible)
Me: No….say, “I…….
Them: “I’m sorry”
Them: …for hitting you.
Them: Do you forgive me?
Then the injured party had to respond with a “Yes, I forgive you.” If they couldn’t do that, we would wait. After awhile, if the injured party couldn’t give forgiveness, I would threaten to discipline that child! It was absolutely necessary for the injured little one to be able to forgive the other. Needless to say, this process took a bit of time. Eventually, as they got older, I didn’t need to do the prompt. I would hear from another room, “Ouch! You hurt me!!”, “I’m sorry for hurting you, do you forgive me?” I would hear the other respond with a “Yes, I forgive you.” and they moved on in their play.
Oh, if only our lives could be so easy!! Yet, this verse today was like hearing our Heavenly Father prompt his children with an “I, For, Do”.
Jesus did not say, “Stay quite until the other person figures out what is wrong.” He also didn’t say, “Even though the other apologizes, hold on to the anger a little longer just to punish the other.”
Nope, he is speaking to both parties, prompting them both to resolve the conflict. Both sides have their role. That one sentence is something good to practice. Eventually, it becomes habit!