Someone is mad at you. You may know what you did and why the person is offended at you. You may not have a clue what is going on, but you can sense a definite difference in the relationship. Something changed and you have no idea what.
What do you do when someone is offended with you and you know it? I’ll offer a few guidelines as to how you might approach a person who is offended with you. We’ll start with a verse from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus gives some great direction in what to do.
Relationships Are Top Priority
“Therefore if you are presenting your offering at the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your offering there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and present your offering. (Matthew 5:23-24)
Jesus says something that is astonishing. He says if you are coming to the Temple to bring God an offering, then remember that someone has something against you leave your offering and get the relationship fixed.
God is extremely interested in relationships. He is a relational being in that the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit are in a constant love relationship with one another. It is this relational aspect that God created and placed within man that is part of the image of God.
God’s original intent is for us to be in right relationship with Him and with one another. God’s desire is for us to live at peace with all people. If we would just learn to love God and love people the world would be a totally different place.
Being in a right relationship is very important in God’s eyes. It is so important that God says if you are coming to Me with an offering and you know someone has something against you, don’t give your offering.
God wants the relationship restored before you give the offering.
Right Relationships are More Important than Sacrifice
You may be well aware of the famous Scripture in the Old Testament where Samuel tells King Saul:
Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of divination, and insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has rejected you from being king. (1 Samuel 15: 22-23)
There is a similar concept here in that God has commanded the sacrifices that the Israelites were to perform. He also had commandments on how to treat and respond to others. All of the ten commandments and others can be boiled down to two relationships, our relationship with God and our relationship with others.
God wants you to live in peace with Him and with others. There is more to your relationship with God than just you and Him. He considers the way you treat others as part of your relationship with Him.
That is why Jesus says if you are coming to offer up a sacrifice to God and remember that someone has something against you, make that relationship right before you come and present your offering.
God still wants you to present the offering. He also wants to make sure you are right with others before offering it.
Sometimes believers think that their relationship with God is the top priority in life. It’s just me and God. God doesn't see it that way though. How we treat others affects our relationship with God, so much so that He would stop you from offering a sacrifice He commanded to get things right.
What Should I do?
Jesus is very practical. He says if you offended someone, go to them and seek to be reconciled. His ultimate goal is for the relationship to be restored to wholeness.
That means you have to take the time to seek out the person you offended. This is definitely not a job for email or texts. Writing back and forth in this way is too informal and can be easily misunderstood.
Take the time to call a person and see if you can talk with them face to face. If you are worried about meeting them in private, then meet in a public place where you can be sure to have some peace and quiet to talk the situation through.
You are the one who is to initiate the conversation. You are the one who must seek the restoration.
How Should I Do It?
Here are my suggestions. I am not giving you the words to say, that must come from you. I am giving you suggestions on your approach and attitude when trying to make things right with another person.
This seems like a no-brainer, but it can easily fall by the wayside. Set some time ahead of the meeting to pray. Invite the presence of the Lord into the situation.
- Pray for peace to fill the room in which you are meeting.
- Pray for reconciliation.
- Pray that God’s will be accomplished in the meeting.
- Pray for clarity of speech and the ability to speak your hearts to one another.
- Pray for God’s grace to be released in the situation.
Keep Your Mind at Bay
This is an absolute must. How many times have you anticipated a possibly difficult encounter with a person and blew it all out of proportion in your mind? It is so easy to see yourself coming in all nice and humble and the person rejects your offer of reconciliation.
They say something terrible to you and you respond back. You have a verbal tennis match in your head and none of it is real.
It is so easy to work ourselves up before a meeting and try and come up with every possible scenario and response to each scenario. Some of them are so good that we should go into script writing for television.
Determine in your mind that you will not allow these scenarios to run through your head. Take control of your thoughts. Every time you catch yourself beginning to go down that path, stop and pray.
Pray positively and don’t allow fear to rise up in your heart. Most of our imagined fears rarely come about.
Go With the Intention to Reconcile
Before you meet with that person, remember that the goal of this conversation is reconciliation. Jesus said to go and be reconciled and then return. If you go into the meeting with a mindset of saving a relationship rather than being right or being wrong it will change your whole demeanor.
Too often fights escalate and go far beyond the original problem. When your goal is to be right and prove the other person wrong, you enter the conversation with a battle to win. The end goal is winning not restoring.
When you approach the conversation with the relationship as the main goal, everything changes. You don't have to defensive or on the offensive. Your goal is the relationship.
Go With Humility
The person you offended may have a good reason for their offense. If you have done something wrong and harmed them in some way, you must humble yourself, repent, and seek to make things right.
Many times your insecurities will stop you from admitting you were wrong. You try and justify yourself and say why what you did was right. It takes great courage to admit you are wrong. It leaves you in a vulnerable place.
When you admit you are wrong and you repent to the person you wronged, you are not sure how they will respond. Will they forgive you or berate you?
We never know how another person will respond. I do know this, humility goes a long way to disarming potentially explosive situations. The point is that you make every effort to make things right. Remember that you are not responsible for their response, only your own actions and responses.
You can't read the mind of a person. One suggestion is that when you speak to the person you ask them questions. Don’t seek to put words in their mouth. Ask them what they are thinking and feeling.
Try to understand where they are coming from. What was it that offended them? What did it make them feel? How can you make it right?
Questions allow the other person to say what they thought and felt. It brings things out into the open and allows you to have an opportunity to respond. Make sure that you clearly understand the offense.
What if They Refuse?
The goal of all this is reconciliation. Seek to reconcile with the other person. Seek to make things right.
My prayer and God’s heart is that you can work it out and make things right. I realize that things don’t always turn out the way you want. Some people will refuse to reconcile. They will choose to hold a grudge against you or continue to blame you even though you made the effort to make things right.
This is a sad situation, but you have done what God has asked. You have attempted to make things right. You are good with God. You can now go and make your offering to the Lord.
You are never responsible for the response of another person. If you approach them with a humble heart and admit your part in the situation, then you have done all that you can do.
You can continue to pray for reconciliation, but don't try to force it to happen. It takes two people to reconcile. Pray for them to open their heart and come to you to restore the relationship.
Your ultimate goal in the whole situation is to be obedient to God and His ways. May God bless your efforts to make all things right with all people.
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