Proverbs 18:17 – “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”
“She did what to you?”
“Why would she do such a thing?”
“Don’t you just feel terrible about that?”
Whether or not these questions are actually asked, they are usually answered when someone shares a situation in which the pain of conflict has been felt. Think about that last time a friend of yours came to you with a problem about someone else. Or the last time you were hurt by someone and wanted to talk to a friend about it. I’m guessing you can pick out the answers to these questions in what was shared.
I’m not quick to prevent someone from giving me the information that would answer these questions, since in the explanation there will be information from the one sharing that will help me understand his/her perspective better, thus allowing me to respond with better counsel.
Proverbs 18:17, however, points out an important truth for those who would offer advice to anyone who has been wronged. How easy it is to take someone’s side after hearing his/her explanation, especially if it’s a close friend that has been hurt by someone else’s words and actions. But there is another side to the story that includes more information and, more often than not, identifies another person hurting from a broken relationship.
It’s not that we intentionally want the other person to look bad when we share our hurts with others (although that can happen). By human nature, we tend to seek the comfort of our friends when we are hurting. So we tend to leave out parts of the story that would have us looking less attractive. And we often add to the story our assumptions and judgments regarding the other person’s motives.
That is why Jesus said that if someone wrongs you, first go to that person and deal with it, just between the two of you (Matthew 18:15). Misinformation and misunderstandings can be explained before they grow into major conflicts. And where sinful words and actions have occurred, confession and forgiveness can be given without others getting involved.
When you listen to a friend share the woes in life caused by someone else, more often than not, encouraging him/her to go to that person is scripturally on track. But, as you help your friend in preparing to go, there is another question that can be most helpful in restoring relationships: How should I respond in a way that is different than that of an unbelieving world, which gives a witness to the peace won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ?
By refocusing our attention on what Christ has done for us, we are less likely to respond to a conflict in a way that will actually drive relationships further apart. Rather, we will seek ways in sharing God’s grace that will restore the relationship.
“The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” Satan states his case with the Father, accusing us of all that we have done to deserve eternal death and damnation. We stand accused and guilty as charged. But Jesus steps in and presents His case. The price for every one of our sins has already been paid in full by His blood shed on the cross. Our slate is wiped clean today and every day, as we live in our baptismal grace and promise.
“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us” (Romans 8: 31-34).
Lord Jesus, You did not count my sins against me, but readily forgave, even before I knew I needed Your forgiveness. Help me to love those around me with that kind of love, opening doors to build relationships, rather than destroy. When others seek my advice, give me Your Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Wisdom, that I may direct them to the relationship they have with You, and so understand how best to work out their differences with others. Help me not to judge those of whom others speak as they share their hurts with me, that I may see those struggling with conflict as your beloved children. I pray these things in Your holy Name. Amen.