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Here are seven biblical steps to restoring fellowship and to restoring relationships that have been damaged in the past.

1. Talk to God before talking to the person. Discuss the problem with God.

If you will pray about the conflict first instead of gossiping to a friend, you will often discover that either God changes your heart or he changes the other person without your help. All your relationships would go smoother if you would just pray more about them.

As David did with his Psalms, use prayer to ventilate vertically. Tell God your frustrations. Cry out to Him. He's never surprised or upset by your anger, hurt, insecurity, or any other emotions. So tell Him exactly how you feel.

2. Always take the initiative. It doesn't matter whether you are the offender or the offended. God expects you to make the first move. Don't wait for the other party. Go to them first.

Restoring broken fellowship is so important, Jesus commanded that it even take priority over group worship. He said, "If you enter your place of worship and are about to make an offering, but you suddenly remember a grudge a friend has against you, abandon your offering, leave immediately, go to this friend and make things right.

"Then and only then, come back and work things out with God" (Matt. 5:23-24 MSG).

3. Sympathize with their feelings. Use your ears more than your mouth. Before attempting to solve any disagreement, you must first listen to people's feelings. Paul advised, "Look out for one another's interests, not just for your own" (Philip. 2:4 TEV).

The phrase "look out for" is the Greek word "skopos," from which we form our words telescope and microscope. It means pay close attention! Focus on their feelings, not the facts. Begin with sympathy, not solutions.

Don't try to talk people out of how they feel at first. Just listen and let them unload emotionally without being defensive. Nod that you understand even when you don't agree. Feelings are not always true or logical.

4. Confess your part of the conflict. If you are serious about restoring a relationship, you should begin with admitting your own mistakes or sin. Jesus said it's the way to see things more clearly:
First get rid of the log from your own eye; then perhaps you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend's eye.
(Matt. 7:5 NLT)
5. Attack the problem, not the person. You cannot fix the problem if you're consumed with fixing the blame. You must choose between the two.

The Bible says, "A gentle response defuses anger, but a sharp tongue kindles a temper-fire" (Prov. 15:1 MSG). You will never get your point across by being cross, so choose your words wisely. A soft answer is always better than a sarcastic one.

In resolving conflict, how you say it is as important as what you say. If you say it offensively, it will be received defensively. God tells us, "A wise, mature person is known for his understanding. The more pleasant his words, the more persuasive he is" (Prov. 16:21 TEV).

Nagging never works. You are never persuasive when you're abrasive.

6. Cooperate as much as possible. Paul said, "Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody" (Rom. 12:18 TEV). Peace always has a price tag. Sometimes it costs our pride.

For the sake of fellowship, do your best to compromise, adjust to others, and show preference to what they need. A paraphrase of Jesus' seventh beatitude says, "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight.

That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family."

7. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. It is unrealistic to expect everyone to agree about everything. Reconciliation focuses on the relationship, while resolution focuses on the problem.

When we focus on reconciliation, the problem loses significance and often becomes irrelevant.

We can re-establish a relationship even when we are unable to resolve our differences. Christians often have legitimate, honest disagreements and differing opinions.

But we can disagree without being disagreeable!

This article is used by permission from
Rick Warren's Ministry ToolBox by Rick Warren.
More information available at www.pastors.com.

Author Biography

Rick Warren
Web site: Pastors.com
 
Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. Beginning with just his wife, Kay, in 1980, the congregation now averages 22,000 attendees at its 5 weekend services.
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