I’m a repeat offender. I admit it. I have offended people – at home, school, work, even church. It’s not that I try to offend. It’s just that where there are relationships, I’ve offended and been offended. 

Growing up in a family of eight, sometimes I was at odds with a sister or a brother – the usual spitting, hitting and name-calling that happens when parents aren’t looking. At other times, I was at odds with my parents over not handling that conflict well. In college, I offended my advisor, who was a professor and mentor. I forget what I said to offend him, but I’ll never forget my tearful apology after he rightly confronted me.

Once, a church leader who asked me to co-lead his home group, confronted me about the "cancerous pride" he saw in my teaching. His words pierced me, especially when he told me I had offended five others in our group who had confided in him.

Maybe it’s because I’m a self-proclaimed repeat offender that the Lord has created in me a sensitivity about relationships. I strive to use the conflict-management principles I’ve learned along the way and to help others do the same.

Perhaps you’re a repeat offender – or you’ve been offended repeatedly. If so, these Biblical principles will help you heed Romans 12:18: "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone."

The perpetrator

When confronted, turn to God. Pray along with the psalmist, "Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24).

I had never done this until the home group co-leader confronted me. I saw the truth in his confrontation one day in Sunday school when we were talking about the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23.

When you offend, seek forgiveness. Sometimes a personal apology is appropriate. Other times, a public apology is necessary. Seek to make things right – even offering restitution.

Remember Jesus’ words to be reconciled with your brother when you learn you’ve offended someone. It may be uncomfortable, difficult, even one of the hardest things to do. But if you don’t do it, your relationship with God will also suffer (Matthew 5:23-26).

The accosted

Let’s say you’re the one who has been offended. The godly response may be to overlook the offense (Proverbs 19:11). We’re to bear with one another. After all, who is perfect? Who doesn’t need forgiveness and grace?

If there is a need for a face-to-face confrontation (in order to let another know of an offense that needs to be set right), before doing so, keep in mind Jesus’ counsel to pay attention to your own faults before you point out someone else’s "speck" (Matthew 7:1-5).

Jesus was clear about how we are to confront (Matthew 18:15-17). Start with talking to the offensive person – rather than about him or her to others. And don’t let too much time pass before going to the offender.

Tone of speech is important as well. Hot words fan the flames of conflict, while gentle words do the opposite. "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).

Be quick to forgive just as in Christ God forgave you (Ephesians 4:32). We’re to forgive without limit, keeping no record of wrongs (Matthew 18:21-22). Isn’t that what love is all about?

The accomplice

Finally, remember spiritual warfare comes into play whenever there is a conflict. Indeed, Satan and his fallen-angel followers thrive on sparking conflict and fanning its flames – anything to trip us and keep us from the Great Commission. At the same time, God is sovereign and can cause conflict to work for our benefit. God uses conflict to build the character and faith of His children.

No matter what the offense or who the offender is, rush to make things right. Yes, there may be times when a pastor, counsellor or mediator is needed. Yet for most conflict, you’ll find peace when you practice these principles. In so doing, you will become less of a repeat offender and more of a peacemaker.

© 2007 Focus on the Family. All rights reserved. International copyright secured. Used by permission.

If you liked this article and would like to go deeper, we have some helpful resources below.

Our recommended resources

Free advice on marriage, parenting and Christian living delivered straight to your inbox

View comments ()