One day, my wife and I found ourselves in the midst of a little argument. This particular argument was very rare, because I was actually not the one who was in the wrong. Well, at least it was not 100% my fault like it usually is. My wife was having a rough morning, and she was getting very emotional. She wasn’t really fighting fare. She made a few unnecessary comments, and she raised her voice a couple of times. I say this in no way to pick apart my wife. Like I said, 90% of the time I am the one who is not treating her fairly. However, on this occasion, I was able to experience what she feels like in those times when I mistreat her.
Fight Fair: Learning to Handle Conflict in Your Relationship
After the emotions died down and the argument ended, I did not want to let it go. I was still furious. I wasn’t saying anything to my wife, but I was doing everything I could to let her know just how upset I was. When she asked me a question, I would give her a very short, frustrated answer. I purposely tried to ignore her and not look at her. I was hurt, and I was going to make sure she knew it!
Then the Holy Spirit began to speak to me.
He very quickly began convicting me of my selfish behavior. The first thing I felt Him ask me to do was to give my wife a hug and tell her that I loved her. I didn’t take too kindly to that. In my head I shouted back at Him, “She doesn’t deserve that right now! I deserve an apology.”
Instantly, the Holy Spirit responded with, “Did you deserve it when Jesus died for you on that cross? Did you deserve for me to pull you out of the depression and hopelessness that you had sinned your way into?”
For anyone who has truly met Jesus, the only way to answer that question is with an emphatic, “No, I absolutely did not deserve it.”
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4: 10).
In Matthew 18:21-35, Jesus tells a parable about a man who owed an astronomical amount of money, but the man to whom he owed that money took pity on him and forgave him the entire debt. Then the same man who had just been forgiven, went to collect on a debt from someone who owed him a very small amount of money. When that person couldn’t pay the debt, the man showed no mercy and had him thrown into prison. Needless to say, this did not make his master very happy. In that interaction with my wife this past weekend, I understood fully what this parable was all about.
It is amazing how quickly we forget that it is all about what God did for us, and not about what we did for God.
It’s incredible how naturally we gravitate towards some level of works based entitlement. If we are not careful, we can make our salvation about all the awesome things we have done that we believe make us deserving, rather than it being about the awesome thing God did for us when we were not deserving.
Are you locking people in a prison that you really don’t have the right to hold the key to? Are you trying to punish everyone that sins against you, forgetting that your own sins against our Holy and everlasting God are far greater?
Instead of looking for ways to punish people, let’s all start looking for opportunities to forgive others their debts the way that God forgave ours.
That selfish, angry, and bitter coworker probably doesn’t deserve your kindness and patience, but you didn’t deserve God’s grace and mercy. There may be a friend or family member legitimately treating you poorly, and what they deserve is for you to go withdraw from them until you get an apology. Remember that when you turned your back on God and chose to do things your way, He didn’t withdraw from you. He pursued you relentlessly with love and compassion. Here are two bible verses that speak to this point:
- Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful (Luke 6:36).
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone (Romans 12: 17).
I want you to think about this question: Who do you need to show that same love and compassion to today? Don’t do it because they deserve it, but because you didn’t.