Summary: If you want to heal your broken relationships, confess the wrong you have done, confront the wrong done to you, and confirm the right path going forward.
Three weeks after her wedding day, Joanna called her pastor in hysterics. “Pastor,” she cried, “John and I had our first fight together! It was awful. What am I going to do?”
“Calm down, Joanna,” her pastor answered, leaning back in his chair and shaking his head. “This isn't nearly as bad as you think. Every marriage has to have its first fight. It's natural.”
“I know, I know,” Joanna said impatiently. “But what am I going to do with the body?” (Van Morris, Mount Washington, Kentucky, www.PreachingToday.com)
It’s a sad reality that conflict is a natural part of every relationship. The trick is to handle the conflict in a way that we don’t end up killing each other. So how do we do that? How do we heal broken relationships? How do we resolve conflict in a way that brings us closer together rather than tearing us apart?
Nearly 2,000 years before Christ, two powerful men found themselves at odds with each other. There had been lying and stealing between them, and the resulting conflict threatened to destroy many lives. Even so, they found a way to resolve their differences and make peace with each other. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Genesis 21, Genesis 21, where we see how these men resolved their differences and so learn some principles for handling our own conflicts today.
Genesis 21:22-23 At that time Abimelech and Phicol the commander of his army said to Abraham, God is with you in all that you do. Now therefore swear to me here by God that you will not deal falsely with me or with my descendants or with my posterity, but as I have dealt kindly with you, so you will deal with me and with the land where you have sojourned.” (ESV)
About a year earlier, Abraham had lied to Abimelech, and it got Abimelech into trouble (Genesis 20). Eventually, the truth came out and Abimelech was spared a lot of hardship, but their relationship was never the same after that. Abimelech couldn’t trust Abraham, but he needed to, because Abraham was becoming rich and powerful in his land. It was obvious God was blessing Abraham, so Abimelech comes to Abraham to make things right.
He asks Abraham to do to two things. 1st, Abimelech asks Abraham to swear that he will not lie to him again. He wants Abraham to tell the truth. And 2nd, Abimelech asks Abraham to deal kindly with him, literally, to show him loyal love, the kind of love which will not change with the circumstances. In other words, Abimelech wants Abraham to demonstrate loyalty from here on out.
Now, Abraham could have said, “Forget you. You’re a wicked, pagan king, who can’t be trusted. That’s why I lied to you in the first place. You don’t deserve the truth. You don’t deserve my loyalty. I’m right and you’re wrong. God is obviously blessing me, and if you don’t like it, that’s tough!” Instead…
Genesis 21:24 And Abraham said, “I will swear.” (ESV)
Abraham swore to tell the truth and to love Abimelech’s family forever. Abraham doesn’t argue with Abimelech. He doesn’t make excuses. He simply agrees to Abimelech’s request. Why? Because Abraham knew he had wronged Abimelech, and he knows he needs to make things right. So Abraham simply says to Abimelech, “I swear it.”
In essence, Abraham admits his sin and promises to treat the man he had wronged differently in the future. My friends, that’s what confession is all about. It’s an admission of wrongdoing and a commitment to do it right from here on out. And that’s what you must do, if you’re going to resolve your conflicts in constructive ways. You must…
CONFESS THE WRONG.
You must honestly and clearly admit your own sin to those you have wronged and commit to changing your ways.
You see, confession is more than just an apology. “An apology is an expression of regret: I am sorry,” according to Susan Bauer in her recent book, The Art of Public Grovel. “A confession is an admission of fault: I am sorry because I did wrong. I sinned.” Apology addresses an audience, usually to try and make a good impression. Confession implies an inner change… that will be manifested in outward action. (Paul Wilkes, The Art of Confession, Work-man Publishing, 2012, pp. 4-5; www.PreachingToday.com)
And that’s what it takes to bring healing to your relationships. You must go beyond an apology to a real confession. It doesn’t work to say, “I’m sorry IF I’ve offended you.” That’s just an apology. No! If you want true reconciliation, then you must honestly and clearly say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong when I did (such and such), and I promise not to do it again.” Like Abraham, you must say to the one you have offended, “I swear [I will treat you differently in the future].” That’s a true confession, and that will bring true healing in the relationship.