God provides a peacemaking prototype
Cain murdered Abel out of anger. Joseph's brothers threw him in a pit and sold him as a slave out of jealousy. Jacob fled from Esau out of fear. Judas Iscariot hung himself out of guilt and shame. Scriptures pages are full of examples of people handling conflict poorly for the same reasons you and I might approach conflict poorly by letting our feelings or emotions make our decisions in the moment of conflict. Author Ken Sande describes a 'Slippery Slope of Conflict' as a spectrum with the 'attack responses' of fighting and murder on one end, and stretching to 'escape responses' like denial, flight, and even suicide on the other end. Between these two extremes of attack and denial lie methods of handling conflict rightly in an effort to make peace with those you disagree with. As the beatitude in Matthew 5:9 would imply, this peace-making process is difficult to pursue because of the intensity of our feelings, and we need the help of God to interest ourselves in reconciliation with those we find ourselves at odds with. In Colossians 1:20-22, we read that through Jesus Christ, God has provided for us a prototype of reconciliation and peace-making: "...and by him to reconcile all things to himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.
21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now he has reconciled 22 in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in his sight — 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard...
As believers, we must choose the way of peacemaking, using God's way of peace as a model
1. God was the Righteous initiator - vs. 20,21. He was blameless, and it was our responsibility to approach him, but we were blind, lost, dead in our sins; not only enemies but aliens to him. Often when our toes are stepped on, we are loathe to take the first step toward reconciliation because that should be the duty of 'the other guy,' and if they don't want to be reconciled, then we don't either. Peacemakers make the first move.
2. God's objective was not vengeance, or appeasement, but reconciliation - vs. 21b
God's holiness must be appeased, but he doesn't desire that any enter judgment - he desires reconciliation. The only way a holy God could be in harmony with sinful humanity was if the penalty for sin was satisfied - the penalty of death. God's desire for reconciliation was so strong he sent his own Son, Jesus Christ, to pay the sin penalty of death on the cross. This reconciliation with God is offered freely to any person who affirms that Jesus is indeed God's Son, affixing their faith in forgiveness to his death and resurrection, praying to God to ask forgiveness on the basis that Jesus is their Savior. God's objective of reconciliation instead of revenge is the divine prototype for us to follow.
3. God's foresight in making peace was for our spiritual well-being and completion - vs. 22. Our foresight involves strategies to make us even; to make sure at least no one else gets ahead at our expense; to make sure our interests are protected. God's interest toward us is for our benefit. A peacemaker's most difficult duty is to consider the well-being and benefit of one who has brought antagonism. What would it look like if every Christian considered conflict an opportunity for the offender's spiritual well-being?
4. Following God's model of peacemaking is an achievement of spiritual progress - vs. 23.
It's one thing to believe the things God reveals to us; it's another thing to obey the instructions God gives us. Deciding on reconciliation instead of revenge is one of the most precious spiritual fruits a Christian can bear, but that desire doesn't come from within us, it comes from the working of God in the hearts of his children.