By JoJo Tabares
“Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” Matthew 5:25
Many times we have a fear about confronting someone with whom we disagree. An argument ensues and we are even more reticent to resolve the issue so we are content to let it slide thinking it will just go away. Well, we HOPE it will just go away. MAYBE it’ll go away? Okay, it probably won’t go away, but it can’t get any worse, right?
This scripture holds the key to several valuable communication lessons. Let’s dissect it piece by piece. In the first part, God tells us “agree with thine adversary.” Does this mean that Christians are called to give in, to buckle, to abandon our convictions when faced with a conflict? If you’ve read any part of the Bible, you’re sure to come to the conclusion that the Lord wants His children to stand up and speak out for the things of God and not compromise our convictions in order to get along. So what does the Lord mean here? Other translations help us to understand what it meant in the original language a bit better. The NIV translations says, “Settle matters quickly with your adversary.” So settling matters means coming to a mutual agreement about handling the conflict, not necessarily agreeing on the matter in question.
Now who is our adversary? Merriam Webster defines adversary as “one that contents with, opposes or resists: enemy” so our adversary might be anyone who disagrees with us. The Lord is reminding us that we must come to an agreement or resolve a conflict with those who disagree with us, but He goes on to say that we must do so quickly. Why quickly?
A conflict that is not dealt with immediately is like a wound that is not disinfected or dressed leaving it open to germs and further injury. Even if the wound heals, it probably didn’t heal correctly causing further issues. The same is true for our relationships. When a relationship is injured by a conflict and it isn’t addressed right away, it usually doesn’t heal at all. At best, both parties agree not to discuss it further leaving them uncomfortable with one another. At worst, they become hardened and one or the other will either sever the relationship or begin to hurt the other.
Allowing yourself to become vulnerable by confronting the other party and either asking forgiveness or seeking an apology, can be frightening. It’s very much like having to take the band aid off a bad cut. You know it’ll will hurt, but the pain of ripping it off quickly is far less than the pain of agonizing over the fear for hours or days as you contemplate it. Sometimes we just have to, as Nike says, Just Do It!
This scripture goes on to say, “Lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.” I found a bit of information quoted from a book called, Manners and Customs of the Bible.
“According to Roman law, if a person had a quarrel that he could not settle privately, he had the right to order his adversary to accompany him to the praetor (Roman magistrate ranking below a consul and having chiefly judicial functions). If he refused, the prosecutor took someone present to witness by saying, “May I take you to witness?” If the person consented, he offered the tip of his ear, which the prosecutor touched; a form that was observed toward witnesses in some other legal ceremonies among the Romans. Then the plaintiff (one bringing the legal action) might drag the defendant to court by force in any way, even by the neck, but worthless persons such as thieves and robbers might be dragged before the judge without the formality of calling a witness. If on the way to the judge the difficulty was settled, no further legal steps were taken. Jesus refers to this custom in the text. When the accused is thus legally seized by the accuser, he is urged to make up his quarrel while on the way to the judge, so that no further legal process should be necessary.”
God tells us to agree with our adversary, to do it quickly and that this will avoid having being judged and the consequences thereof. But just how exactly, do we accomplish this? Well, there are many tips and techniques for avoiding, reducing and resolving conflicts which I discuss in my study by that name, but here is the best way to do it.
It’s always best for the offender to initiate the resolution because an apology, even if not for the entire issue, will ease the offense in the other person’s eyes and pave the way for them to come closer to the offender in resolution. However, if the offender doesn’t begin the process, it’s possible to avoid larger relational problems by having the offendee step forward to calmly and respectfully question and discuss the issue toward a resolution.
Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath.” The longer we wait to come to settle matters, the more opportunity it has to cause irreparable damage to a relationship.
JoJo Tabares holds a degree in Speech Communication, but it is her humorous approach to communication skills which has made her a highly sought-after Christian speaker and writer. Her articles appear in homeschool publications, such as Homeschool Enrichment Magazine and The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, which also endorses her Say What You Mean curricula, including Say What You Mean Defending the Faith. You can also find JoJo on web sites such as Crosswalk.com and Dr.Laura.com and hosting her weekly podcast, Communication Comedy Network. For more information on communication FUNdamentals and Christian-based communication skills for the whole family, please visit http://www.ArtofEloquence.com
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