Please open your bible and read Proverbs 17-18.
“Whoever would foster love covers over an offense, But whoever repeats the matter separates close friends.”
As I reflect on Proverbs 17:9, I can think of at least a dozen scenarios where I did the opposite of what this verse says: I chose to meditate on my offense, both in my heart and in conversation, rather than just letting it go in love. Inevitably, each scenario ended with me wallowing in my own misery and becoming irrationally mad for no good reason.
But Proverbs provides a new insight into conflict: instead of dwelling on an offense, we can over it with love and move on. I think we can all admit that “just moving on” sounds like a much simpler option than dealing with conflict. We could avoid getting mad altogether by choosing to cover our hurts in love and letting them go.
But it’s much easier said than done, right?
Ok, let me just start by saying I’m preaching to my own choir here. For me, this is a lesson in progress—it is most definitely not one I have mastered, by any means. However, the Lord has put it on my heart lately to fight my relational fires at their source: my heart.
“The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil
things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”
Now, we all have inherently sinful hearts. We are completely and utterly depraved on our own because of our fallen nature. We must unlearn our sinful habits to become more like Christ and build up a good treasure in our hearts. Daily make the choice to rebuke and starve the flesh, and instead feed the spirit and press on toward heaven.
When it comes to conflict, too often we choose to indulge our flesh and nurse our offenses instead of choosing to embrace love and feed the spirit. When we do that, we kindle the flame of anger in our hearts and strengthen our sinful nature. The more we replay a conflict in our hearts and minds, the more the fire of hatred, bitterness and strife burns and consumes our peace.
Proverbs 17:9 teaches us that love is the greatest fire extinguisher we have when fighting the flames of conflict.
Proverbs, in all its wisdom, calls us to extinguish offenses with love. 1 Corinthians 12:4-8 tells us what love is supposed to look like and how love operates. But that still leaves us with an important question: how do we harness that kind of love in our daily lives? James 1:17 tells us that “every good and perfect gift is from above,” and since love is arguably the most perfect gift in this world, perhaps it’s time we shift our gaze toward heaven.
Sometimes, the only way to take hold of a love that covers offenses is to be reminded of who first covered our offenses with His love. We love because He first loved us. We must acknowledge our own need for grace, love and mercy in order to give grace, love and mercy.
When we are reminded of God’s love and mercy toward us, it becomes a bit easier to love others. If we have trouble seeing our own need for grace and love, it’s time to pray. We need toask the Holy Spirit to show us just how broken we are on our own. We must open our hands toward heaven and ask our Father to remind us of His boundless love for us.
At the end of the day, the only way to do what Proverbs 17:9 instructs is to once again shift our focus back to the cross and to take hold of this gospel of grace. We love because He first loved us. We cover the offenses of others with love because He first covered our offenses with love. God’s love covers us and it will continue to cover us every day for the rest of our lives and on into eternity. His love covers us—and we can learn to love from His perfect example.
Featured image by Andressa Voltolini