“Keep peace with one another.”—MARK 9:50.
1, 2. What human struggles are featured in Genesis, and why is this of interest?
HAVE you ever thought about the personal conflicts found in the Bible? In just the first few chapters of Genesis, we learn that Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:3-8); Lamech killed a young man for hitting him (Genesis 4:23); Abraham’s shepherds argued with Lot’s shepherds (Genesis 13:5-7); Hagar felt superior to Sarah, and Sarah became upset with Abraham (Genesis 16:3-6); Ishmael was against everyone, and everyone was against him.—Genesis 16:12.
2 Why were such conflicts mentioned in the Bible? Because we can learn from these examples of imperfect people who had real problems. We too are imperfect, and when we have similar problems in our life, we can imitate the good examples found in the Bible and avoid imitating the bad ones. (Romans 15:4) This can help us learn how to keep peace with others.
3. What topics will this article cover?
3 In this article, we will learn why we need to settle differences, or solve disagreements, and how we can do that. We will also learn some basic Bible principles that can help us to solve problems and keep a good relationship with Jehovah and with others.
WHY GOD’S SERVANTS NEED TO SETTLE DIFFERENCES
4. What attitude spread throughout the world, and what has been the result?
4 Satan is the main reason why people are divided and have so many differences. Why do we say that? In Eden, Satan said that everyone can and should decide for himself what is good and what is bad independent of God. (Genesis 3:1-5) But when we look at the world today, we can see that such an attitude only brings problems. Many people feel that they have the right to decide for themselves what is good and bad. They are proud, selfish, and competitive, and they do not care if their decisions hurt others. Such an attitude leads to conflicts. The Bible reminds us that if we are quick to get angry, we will have many disagreements with others and we will commit many sins.—Proverbs 29:22.
5. How did Jesus teach people to handle disagreements?
5 When Jesus gave the Sermon on the Mount, he taught his disciples to make peace and prevent disagreements, even if it did not seem to be in their best interests to do so. For example, he told them to be kind, to make peace with others, to get rid of feelings such as anger, to solve disagreements quickly, and to love their enemies.—Matthew 5:5, 9, 22, 25, 44.
6, 7. (a) Why is it important to settle personal differences promptly? (b) What questions should all of Jehovah’s people ask themselves?
6 Today, we worship Jehovah when we pray, preach, and go to our meetings. If we do not make peace with our brothers, Jehovah will not accept our worship to him. (Mark 11:25) In order to be Jehovah’s friends, we must forgive others when they make mistakes.—Read Luke 11:4; Ephesians 4:32.
Are you quick to forgive your brothers?
7 Jehovah expects all of his servants to be forgiving and to have a peaceful relationship with others. We can ask ourselves: ‘Am I quick to forgive my brothers? Do I enjoy being with them?’ If you realize that you need to be more forgiving, pray to Jehovah and ask him to help you improve. Our heavenly Father will hear such humble prayers and answer them.—1 John 5:14, 15.
CAN YOU IGNORE AN OFFENSE?
8, 9. What should we do if we are offended?
8 We are all imperfect, so we can expect people to say or do things that may offend us. (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Matthew 18:7) How will you react? We can learn an important lesson from the following experience: A sister greeted two brothers at a gathering. But one of the brothers was offended by the way she greeted him. When the two brothers were alone, the offended brother started to complain about the sister. However, the other brother reminded him that the sister had loyally served Jehovah for 40 years despite many difficulties. He was sure that the sister did not mean to offend him. How did the first brother react? He said, “You are right.” He then chose to forget about what had happened.
9 What does this experience teach us? When someone offends us, we can choose how we react. A loving person is forgiving. (Read Proverbs 10:12; 1 Peter 4:8.) When we “overlook an offense,” this is something beautiful to Jehovah. (Proverbs 19:11; Ecclesiastes 7:9) So the next time someone says or does something that offends you, ask yourself: ‘Can I ignore this offense? Do I really need to keep thinking about this?’
10. (a) How did one sister at first react to criticism? (b) What Scriptural thought helped this sister to maintain her peace?
10 When others say something negative about us, it may be difficult to ignore their words. Consider what happened to a pioneer sister we will call Lucy. Some in the congregation made negative comments about the quality of her ministry and her use of time. She was very hurt and asked some mature brothers for advice. What was the result? She says that they used the Bible to help her stop thinking too much about the negative opinions of others and start thinking more about Jehovah. She was encouraged when she read Matthew 6:1-4. (Read.) Those verses reminded her that making Jehovah happy is what is most important. So she chose to overlook the negative comments. Now, even if others make negative comments about her ministry, she is happy because she knows that she is trying her best to please Jehovah.
WHEN YOU CANNOT IGNORE AN OFFENSE
11, 12. (a) How should a Christian act if he believes that his brother “has something against” him? (b) What can we learn from the way Abraham dealt with a dispute? (See opening picture.)
11 “We all stumble many times.” (James 3:2) Suppose you learn that a brother was offended by something you said or did. What should you do? Jesus said that if “you are bringing your gift to the altar and there you remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar, and go away. First make your peace with your brother, and then come back and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23, 24) So talk with your brother. When you do, your goal should be to make peace with him. You should admit your fault and not try to blame him. Peace with our brothers is the most important thing.
Our goal should be to make peace with our brothers
12 The Bible shows how God’s servants can keep peace when there are disagreements. For example, Abraham and his nephew Lot both owned many animals, and their shepherds began to argue because there was not enough land for all of them. Because Abraham wanted peace, he allowed Lot to choose the best land. (Genesis 13:1, 2, 5-9) What a good example for us! Did Abraham suffer permanent loss because of his generosity? Not at all. Immediately after this, Jehovah promised to bless Abraham with much more than he lost. (Genesis 13:14-17) What do we learn? Even if we suffer some loss, Jehovah will bless us when we solve our disagreements with love.—See endnote.
13. How did one overseer react to harsh words, and what can we learn from his example?
13 Consider a modern example. The new overseer of a convention department called a brother to ask if he would be able to work in that department. The brother said several unkind things and hung up the phone because he was still angry with the previous overseer of the department. The new overseer did not get offended, but he could not ignore what had happened. After an hour, he called the brother again and suggested that they meet. The next week, the brothers met at the Kingdom Hall, and after praying to Jehovah, they talked for an hour. The brother explained what had happened with the previous overseer. The new overseer listened kindly and discussed some helpful scriptures. As a result, the brothers made peace and worked together at the convention. The brother is grateful that the overseer spoke to him in a kind and gentle way.
SHOULD YOU INVOLVE THE ELDERS?
14, 15. (a) When should we apply the counsel at Matthew 18:15-17? (b) What three steps did Jesus mention, and what should be our goal in applying them?
14 Most problems between two Christians can and should be solved privately. However, sometimes this is not possible. Some situations may require help from others according to Matthew 18:15-17. (Read.) The “sin” Jesus mentioned there was not a small disagreement between Christians. How do we know? Jesus said that if the sinner refused to repent after talking to his brother, to witnesses, and to responsible brothers, he should be treated “just as a man of the nations and as a tax collector.” Today, this means that he should be disfellowshipped. The “sin” could include things such as fraud or slander, but it would not include sins such as adultery, homosexuality, apostasy, or idolatry. These types of sins definitely need to be handled by the elders.
15 Jesus’ goal in giving this counsel was to show us how to help a brother because we love him. (Matthew 18:12-14) How can we follow this counsel? (1) We should try to make peace with our brother without involving others. We may need to talk with him several times. But what should we do if there is still no peace? (2) We should talk to our brother with someone who knows the situation or who can see whether something wrong has been done. If the problem gets solved, you will have “gained your brother.” But only when you have talked to your brother several times and you cannot make peace with him should you (3) report the problem to the elders.
16. What shows that following Jesus’ counsel is practical and loving?
16 In most cases, it is not necessary to use all three steps found at Matthew 18:15-17. That is encouraging. Why do we say so? Because in most cases, the sinner recognizes his mistake and fixes the problem, so that there is no need for him to be disfellowshipped. The offended person should then forgive his brother in order to have peace. So it is clear from Jesus’ counsel that we do not need to go to the elders too soon. We should report the matter only after we have followed the first two steps and if there is real proof that something wrong has been done.
17. What blessings will we enjoy when we “seek peace” with one another?
17 As long as we are imperfect, we will continue to offend others. The disciple James wrote: “If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able to bridle also his whole body.” (James 3:2) To solve disagreements, we need to do our best to “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) When we continue to make peace with others, we will have good friendships with our brothers and sisters, and this will keep us united. (Psalm 133:1-3) Most important, we will have a close friendship with Jehovah, “the God who gives peace.” (Romans 15:33) We will enjoy all these blessings when we settle differences with love.