So as I’ve mentioned I’m working my way through Beth Moore’s James study—I really can’t believe it’s been five years since I last did it! Time seriously flies. Anyway, recently I found myself wrestling/praying through these verses:
James 3:17-18 But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. (NIV)
I want this kind of wisdom. Far too often, I feel like I have no clue how to handle various things in my life. I want God to tell me what the best thing to do is. The bit that hit me was the peace-loving section. Recently, I’ve had a couple people question the distance I have in one of my relationships in particular. Frankly, it’s not a popular decision to cut contact with someone. And, obviously, I’m not recommending anyone do that unless you’re in an abusive situation or you’ve spent a bunch of time praying about it and God gives you some clear direction. And if you haven’t tried to fix the relationship via the Matthew 18 stuff, I’d be hesitant to jump to cutting contact.
So as I’ve been praying about it, I’ve wondered if I’m not being peace-loving. It’s interesting how tempting it is to define peace as an absence of conflict. The advice I’ve been given (and that I think is given far too often in the Church) is to forget what that person did so that the conflict will be over.
One of the things I’m really passionate about is the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. Forgiveness is when you let go of what the other person did. You trust that God will take care of the offense and you move on with life. It only involves you and God. It’s about your heart. Reconciliation is when both parties work to fix the relationship by each identifying and acknowledging the wrong they’ve done and working to not do it again.
If someone is not trustworthy, forgiveness doesn’t mean that you trust them. It means that you don’t hang onto the wrong anymore—praise God that through the power of the Holy Spirit we can do this! I love that we have a God who is faithful to right wrongs. I love that we can forgive people and move on with our lives instead of being stuck in the past by our bitterness. God’s way of doing relationships is just so amazing to me.
Anyway, as I was praying about what it means to be peace-loving in this context, something struck me: peace-loving equals loving true peace—not giving into denial or sweeping things under the rug. Peace-loving doesn’t mean an absence of conflict. Real healthy relationships require dealing with the things that actually happen. See, reconciliation is a process that requires both parties to own up to their mistakes and then to become better people—it’s a huge growth process. Being peace-loving means being willing to actually go through that process. Being peace-loving means acknowledging your problems—after all, wisdom from above is first of all pure. Like Jesus says, you can’t help someone with the speck in their eye unless you take the log out of your own first.
I’ve been told that holding out for true reconciliation is actually holding onto bitterness but, after studying this passage (and some others like Matt. 18, 1 Cor. 5 & 2 Cor. 2:5-11), I disagree. In my experience, if you “resolve” the conflict by pretending the problem wasn’t there or by taking all the blame for it, nothing actually gets solved and the conflict comes back up the next time a similar situation happens—probably because neither person is dealing with how they need to change.
Real reconciliation takes two. You can’t reconcile with someone who’s unwilling to deal with the problems. And real reconciliation is the kind of true peace that forces us to grow and leads to righteousness.