One of the greatest values we have in life is our relationship with other believers. Unfortunately, many Christians may not see the true worth of these relationships. That is why Paul wrote the Ephesians and instructed them to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace (Eph 4:3). He talks about giving intensive effort to preserve what the Holy Spirit brings forth. The words “bond of peace” refers to a “peaceful union, where the interests of all parties are concentrated, cemented, and sealed; the Spirit of God being the seal upon this knot.”
There are a few common sense and wisdom-based concepts that we should discuss that will help you with relationships and keep the bond of peace.
Sins vs. Offences
The Bible says, “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault” (Matt 18:15). There are times when a person may be offended or hurt, but in reality, no one has sinned against him. This will require a different approach to a resolution. It is important to note that many hurts come out of unmet expectations. When expectations are placed upon another beyond what the other person has clearly committed, then an offense will no doubt arise. The hurt person may expect certain actions or behavior because he considers it normal or because the other person has responded a certain way in times past. In this situation, the injured individual does not have a biblical right to be offended. It simply reveals a need or lack in his life that must be turned over to God. This is not a legitimate sin and should not be addressed in the same manner. Even though the wounded individual’s perception is truth to him and his hurt is a reality, this situation must be approached differently.
A good question to ask is, “Was the law of God broken by the offending brother?” Since sin is the transgression of the law, a biblical offense may not have occurred. If the hurt has come because the injured person has formed a wrong judgment, unfair expectation, or is overly sensitive, the offended individual can find help without confrontation. The hurt individual should take it to God in prayer, releasing it in an exchange with Christ. Jesus suffered in every manner so He can identify with the hurting. That person must give it to Jesus and receive His love and healing. During the exchange, the individual may discover from which past experiences these expectations and hurts have risen. This is an opportunity to receive a deeper work in his life. Later, when the wounded individual is healed from the situation, then a healthy conversation can develop and suggestions made to the offending brother on how to better show appreciation or care. This will enhance the relationship and not damage it. Since a different approach is being used, it is important not to point out the past hurt at this time.
Many offenses have increased by a lack of wisdom. When an individual is hurting, he may feel justified in saying whatever he pleases. I have seen individuals go to another who has no idea of any past hurts, yet they were told, “Brother, I have hated you for years,” or “I was so offended at you for such a long time, and I just wanted to come and tell you that I forgive you.” The hurt individual by going to the other, may think he is doing the right thing because of his past, but in reality he may be causing further hurt or distrust if he does not address a specific sin. It does not benefit either party to express past anger, hatred, or dislike, when there is no particular matter to discuss.
If the offending brother is unaware of a non-sinful offense, it is best addressed in the offended brother’s heart. If the hurt is in the past and the offended individual is beyond the hurt then it should remain in the past.
On the other hand, if actions are ongoing or the hurt was from a true sinful offense, then a proper approach should be taken to address the actual behavior. For example, it should be said, “I would like to talk to you about several events that have taken place in which I was directly involved. Here is what I observed . . . This caused me pain, as it was a direct judgment against my character, etc., . . .” By stating what you observed or citing an incident, it allows for proper confrontation without judgment.
Your Liberty vs. Your Responsibility
Another responsibility of Christians is to walk in love so as to not cause a brother to stumble. Paul the Apostle gives a very good example of our liberty versus our brother in 1 Corinthians 8 and Romans 14. Here he addresses the issue of meat that has been offered to idols. In the Corinthian culture, idols and temples to idols were as common as restaurants in our day. Part of the social aspect of the community was to go and eat at the temples. The part of the meat that was not used in sacrifice was sold at a reasonable price at eating outlets connected with the temple. The same type of meat was sold in the market place. Some Christians did not consider it a sin to take advantage of the available meat since they themselves did not practice idolatry, and in reality the false gods were not gods at all. They figured their freedom in Christ was sufficient, and the meat was acceptable. Other Christians contended that to even be associated with the meat connected with idolatry was showing support for and participating in the worship of false gods. Paul’s advice was to agree with the Corinthians in that the false gods were not gods at all and to speak of his own liberty to be able to eat such foods if it was offered. However, he takes a strong stand against using his liberty in front of another Christian if it would cause them to question their faith or go back into idolatry.
Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.
(1 Corinthians 8:13)
He tells us in Romans to pursue the things that make for peace and the building up of one another. Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food.
There are many modern-day examples that fit this situation. Once such example is the drinking of wine or beer. In some countries it is quite acceptable among the Christians in the society to drink wine at meals and to have a cold beer while in some other situations it is considered compromising with the world. While the Bible clearly speaks against being drunk and turning to strong drink for consolation (Prov 23:31-32), it becomes a matter of conscience and liberty if one does not get drunk. This is where Paul’s warning is appropriate. If a Christian’s liberty to drink influenced a new convert to go back into a sinful lifestyle, then it would not only be sinning against that brother but Christ Himself (1 Cor 8:12).
Though one may have a clear conscience, that in and of itself does not make it an acceptable practice at all times. Some may reject Paul’s warning with a judgment, “Those Christians are just too narrow-minded and legalistic! I am going to do what I like; I have liberty in Christ.” Such an attitude reveals a lack of love for the Body of Christ and will not preserve the unity of the Spirit. Let us walk in our liberty but not use it to bring an offense to another.
 ADAM CLARKE COMMENTARY
 Romans 14:19-20
 Ephesians 5:18; 1 Peter 4:3; Gal. 5:21; Romans 13:13
About the Author:
Glenn Shaffer is the author of Apostolic Government in the 21st Century, Christianity 101 and Discipleship 201. He has a Masters of Ministry degree in leadership studies from Southwestern Christian University and is working toward a Doctorate in Ministry at ORU in Tulsa.
Glenn and his wife, Ami have been married for 40 years with two sons, Matt and Daniel. Together, they co-see the elder pastoral care of Destiny Life Church, one church in two locations (Owasso and Claremore, Oklahoma) where they have been serving for almost 4 decades. It is a non-denominational church, based on a New Testament Apostolic form of church government. Together, they also serve as the directors of ATI- Apostolic Teams International, an emerging network of churches and ministers.