Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

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Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs. If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.” Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did. When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.

 

Food for Thought

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule Ken mentions above. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make? Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”? It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

How to Receive Criticism

I really enjoyed Ed Stetzer’s post over at The Exchange about receiving criticism (his series on giving criticism is also VERY good). I’ve listed the 3 ways to avoid feeling attacked by criticism and some summary thoughts here but please do read the whole thing over at his blog. It’s really, really good (and brutally honest).

To start off, he mentions the inevitability of facing criticism in life:

“You may not be a public figure, but if you are a leader in any capacity, you will earn critics for yourself. People won’t always be happy and sometimes they will say so.

But, that does not mean we should be afraid of criticism.”

And hilariously (or perhaps that’s just my sarcastic sense of humor coming out…):

“Simply put, you are not always right and you won’t know that if you are always offended when people point that out.”

3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism:

  1. Disagreeing with you is not the same as disagreeing with God.
  2. If no one can criticize you, you are probably too inaccessible.
  3. If you lash out at those who criticize you, you probably don’t have a teachable spirit.

    Read the Stetzer’s detailed explanation of his points here.

For a bit of a deeper look at what congregations and leaders can do in their overall approach to criticism, Ken Sande wrote up a good piece here on accountability in the church.

We also have a great article by Alfred Poirier here for everyone, not just those in leadership, about how our theology of the cross should shape our understanding of criticism and help us put it in it’s proper place. I find myself recommending and referencing this article time and time again.

Listen When You Apologize

As someone who has botched an apology and ended up causing more harm than I intended, I cannot recommend this post from CCEF enough. Alasdair Groves  writes,

As a counselor, I have the privilege of witnessing people apologize to one another. It is a sweet mercy when the Holy Spirit burdens a person’s heart with the awareness of personal sin, and the person is moved to ask for forgiveness. The problem is that sometimes the apology comes out sounding like a monologue. There is acknowledgement of wrong, promise of better behavior in the future and lots of detail about what the offender has been learning about God, grace, being forgiven, etc.

In the right context, these are wonderful things to hear. But when you do all the talking while apologizing to someone you’ve hurt, you run an extremely high chance of actually further wounding the person. You see, godly sorrow is not only aware that it has wronged someone, it also seeks to understand the specific, personal damage it has caused. The only way to do this is to ask how your sin has impacted the other person.

He then offers a tangible template of sorts to help with thinking through how to best apologize to someone you’ve wronged. Head over to their blog to read it.

The Practice of Repentence

Over at The Resurgence, Ryan Kearns has a great short piece on the importance of repentance. He writes:

“”Repent” is often heard in our minds as a condemning, impersonal, and at times shaming experience. We fail to grasp that the call to repent is a sweet invitation to have more grace, more mercy, and ultimately more happiness than if we remain in our sin. Leaving our sin behind does not lessen us, but restores us and empowers us to be who God has made us to be.” (emphasis added)

And later he offers these convicting, wise words for those of us who fear what repentance might do to our relationships or reputation:

“We often don’t want to confess because we are afraid of the damage it will do to us (1 John 1:9). Yet if we are dead to sin and all of our life is in Christ, repenting will never harm us. We are free to be exactly who God is making us to be.”

It’s a really great post and is well worth the few minutes it will take to read the whole thing here.

The Peacemaker’s Privilege – Reconciliation of a Family Conflict

By Annette Friesen, Conciliation and Training Specialist at Peacemaker Ministries. Taken from our latest edition of Reconciled

There are times when the opportunity to serve reminds us what it was like to first learn God’s peacemaking principles and the incredible power contained in them. A recent weekend experience was one of those times for me.

I had the privilege of leading a Peacemaker Seminar, but before I even arrived, I knew it might be just a bit different. I had been told that four “conflicted” sisters would be at the event—a conflict had erupted years ago that had been devastating to their family life and was severely damaging their collective witness to the cause of Christ. Yet they were all going to be at this seminar, willing to hear words of hope and see a practical, God-honoring path toward reconciliation.

As we began the teaching, to build a foundation for the peacemaking principles, we spent quite a bit of time unpacking the context of Matthew 18—examples of God’s great grace and mercy and ultimately unpacking the gospel and how it applies to our relationships (and our conflicts). I was reminded again how much people resonate with the truth of the God’s Word!

During a break, one of the sisters came up to me and said she thought her two sisters (who were at the center of the conflict) were ready to try to be reconciled. But they needed my help. Would I be willing to stay afterward to help them? Of course I agreed.

I finished the teaching, grateful for how God had worked. One woman told me she had been scared to come because the woman she was in conflict with was in the room. Yet after the first session, her heart was totally at peace and ready to hear what God had for her. She knew now what to do. Two other women—one African-American and one white—held an impromptu “reconciliation session” to heal over an offense between the two. Many more expressed their thanks.

But soon after the seminar was over, I was hustled off to a room to begin the sisters’ quickly-arranged mediation. After clarifying what we were doing, setting some basic ground-rules, and separating out the sisters not in conflict (they watched from the side), the two began to share.

Nearly three hours later, emotions were still running high as we moved toward making an apology. I was praying—I honestly didn’t know how this was going to end. Finally, with more hard work, we reached a point where they could begin to apologize to one another. One sister made a sincere apology, but the other struggled. That sister began by acknowledging what she had heard, but had trouble taking ownership of any specific wrongdoing. I asked gently if she believed she had done anything wrong, and she was honest in saying she struggled. With a little help, she was able to move on to a genuine apology.

It wasn’t until they made the Four Promises of Forgiveness to each other that the dam broke. With tears running down their faces, they both continued to confess and extend forgiveness, hugging one another. The two watching sisters hugged and cried, too, and then, unable to contain themselves, rushed across the room for a group hug. This went on for about five minutes while I slowly packed up, gratitude flooding my heart for God allowing me to witness His precious and beautiful work of reconciliation in the lives of those women that day.

The next day, I was approached by oldest sister, who said that after the mediation their evening together was precious and just like old times. She simply couldn’t thank me enough.

So whether you are someone who helps others in conflict or someone who could use some help, let this story be an encouragement to you. God’s Word is powerful—it penetrates the heart, “opens blind eyes” and brings about reconciliation. And it’s a joy and privilege when you get to see it happen in right in front of you

No Excuses

Our Founder, Ken Sande, has a very insightful post over at his Relational Wisdom blog. I wanted to share a bit of it here, since it’s so good:

…As soon as I saw his face, I knew my explanation was worthless. No explanation was going to change his perception of my failing him or soften the pain I’d caused. Besides, I knew that an explanation would only seem like I was trying to justify or excuse my actions … which is exactly what I longed to do, but which would be of no help to my friend.

So I simply said, “I really failed you during the reorganization. I should have come and talked to you right away. My absence and silence must have hurt you deeply. I have no excuse or explanation. I failed you as a manager and I failed you as a friend. I was wrong, and I’m so very sorry. Can you please forgive me?”

His eyes softened as he said, “That’s all I needed to hear. I know you didn’t mean to let me down, but it helps to hear you admit you did. Jesus has forgiven me far worse things, so yes, I gladly forgive you. This is behind us; let’s move on.”

And that was the end of it. No explanation. No excuses. Grace flowed.

Read the whole thing. It’s worth it.

A Ugandan Prodigal Turns Towards Home

by Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministry

At some point in our lives, most of us will have a Prodigal Son experience. For Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, that time came recently when he publicly repented of his sins and the sins of the nation he has led for more than 25 years.

The Ugandan daily New Vision reports on its website that President Museveni spoke at the National Jubilee Prayers in Namboole recently. You can read all of the President’s remarkable prayer by clicking here. Some excerpts follow…

I stand here today to close the evil past and especially in the last 50 years of our national leadership history and at the threshold of a new dispensation in the life of this nation. I stand here on my own behalf and on behalf of my predecessors to repent. We ask your forgiveness…

Forgive us sins of pride, tribalism and sectarianism; sins of laziness, indifference and irresponsibility; sins of corruption and bribery that have eroded our national resources; sins of sexual immorality, drunkenness and debauchery; sins of unforgiveness, bitterness, hatred and revenge, sins of injustice, oppression and exploitation; sins of rebellion, insubordination, strife and conflict.

These sins and many others have characterized our past leadership, especially the last 50 years of our history. Lord forgive us and give us a new beginning. Give us a heart to love you, to fear you and to seek you. Take away from us all the above sins…”

And toward the close…

We want to dedicate this nation to you so that you will be our God and guide. We want Uganda to be known as a nation that fears God and as a nation whose foundations are firmly rooted in righteousness and justice to fulfill what the Bible says in Psalm 33: 12: Blessed is the nation, whose God is the Lord. A people you have chosen as your own.”

We can join President Museveni and the people of Uganda in making his prayer our own, not only for Uganda, but for every land, including ours, that has strayed from the Lord. The hard work of repentance remains to be done, as one Ugandan church leader noted. Yet, all of us can thank God for the awakening he has brought to the President and for the example he has set for leaders everywhere.

Reconciliation and Revival

In 1907 Canadian missionary Jonathan Goforth had already been praying many years for revival in China. He traveled from China to Korea, where he saw the aftermath of Korea’s revival. He was deeply impressed with what he saw, including the “burning zeal to make the merits of the Savior known.”

When Goforth returned home to China’s Henan Province, his accounts of the Korean revival inspired fellow missionaries and the Chinese alike. Crowds were riveted by his stories of hidden sins confessed, rivalries healed, and masses saved. Yet Goforth did not see revival in China until the Lord dealt with one lingering conflict. Goforth had felt convicted about the need to reconcile with a fellow missionary, but he hadn’t yet acted. He was sure he was in the right, and the other missionary had even apologized. But Goforth could not put the issue to rest, despite perceiving nearly audible commands from God. Finally, in the middle of a talk, Goforth silently resolved to reconcile. He was sure that God would not go with him on an upcoming tour of mission stations unless he made things right. This seemingly simple resolution brought immediate changes. Without telling anyone of this silent commitment, Goforth saw the crowd’s demeanor change. When people stood to pray, they began weeping instead and could not continue. Never before in twenty years in Henan had the missionaries seen such genuine penitence from the Chinese.

No one gushed over Goforth’s speaking skills, as if he could subliminally compel audience reactions. But crowds heeded his heartfelt, plain-spoken pleas for confession and repentance. They shared his confidence that the Holy Spirit would work. They followed his admonitions to pray, trust the Bible, and exalt Jesus.

from A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir (Collin Hansen & John Woodbridge, Zondervan 2010), pages 142-143

The Power of Persuasion

Since we’ve been sharing quite a bit of videos lately, I thought I’d just continue the pattern with this morning’s post. I ran across this video while skimming my feed reader and it got a good giggle out of me — You really have to hang in for the twist at the end.

 

Where I work, I get the opportunity to see this lived out again and again, almost to the point that I forget how amazing it is when it happens. That is,when both people involved in a conversation chose to take a U-turn from the downward spiral of communication breakdown they’ve been on.

The truth is, often an authentic apology and a commitment to true forgiveness can change the course of a conversation and even the course of a relationship.  It’s like Ken says:

Through forgiveness God tears down the walls that our sins have built, and he opens the way for a renewed relationship with him. This is exactly what we must do if we are to forgive as the Lord forgives us: We must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us.

(Video HT: The Blazing Center)

Always Apologize First

I ran across this post from Barnabas Piper the other day and found Barnabas’ advice to be some of the best I’ve ever received myself.

I occasionally get asked for advice about being a new husband or a first time dad. Since I got married young and had kids young I have “experience”, I guess. By “experience”, of course, I mean battle scars and bruises from my regular encounters with my own idiocy and penchant for mistakes. I must look like a weathered veteran or something.

When the question is put to me “what piece of advice would you give to a new husband/dad” I always want to come up with something that would make Solomon jealous and Confucius plagiarize. Instead, all I have ever been able to come up with is this: “Always apologize first.”

Somewhere along the way I was given this piece of advice (or pieces of advice that added up to it) by a particularly wise counselor, and it has been an astoundingly prescient word by which to live. It falls under the banner of “A soft answer turns away wrath.” It enforces humility and self-examination. And it douses the flames that threaten to burn bridges between wife and husband or father and children.

Read the rest.

(HT: Z)