Does interpersonal conflict undermine my quiet time?

We know that harboring sin in our heart can keep us from our quiet time. But what if someone else holds something against us? Does that affect my quiet time?

There is no doubt that interpersonal relationships are one of the most rewarding and painful parts of human existence. Sinners living with or against other sinners is not a recipe for success at any level. Therefore if we are to deal honestly with our hearts and have integrity before the Lord, we need to be certain that as far as possible we “live at peace with all men” (Rom 12:18).

Jesus Himself addressed this in the sermon on the mount in dealing with murder. After explaining that we should not even call someone a fool (Matt 5:22) he went on to explain how to respond if someone else has something against us. He even puts it in the context of our relationship with the Lord, saying “If you are presenting your offering at the altar” and while there remember that “your brother has something against you” you are to leave the altar and the offering and go and be reconciled to your brother. The implication is that if we have sinned against another, this sin has implications for our relationship with the Lord, and therefore (in our context) will affect our quiet time.

This makes sense since, as we saw, the Lord’s desire is for our holiness, and if someone has something against us, it suggests we may have sinned against them. Matthew 5:24 tells us simply, “go and be reconciled to your brother.” [shareable]If someone has something against us, it suggests we may have sinned against them.[/shareable]

Unresolved interpersonal sin dishonors God.

Given Jesus is speaking in the Old Testament economy, where there was a temple and altar, we need to consider how this applies to us today. It seems clear that the altar was the altar of the temple where sacrifices were offered as burnt offerings for general sin or sin offerings to purify the worshipper before God. The key point is that sin is primarily against God, and the sacrifice was to restore this relationship. However, if we have sinned against someone else, we are unable to restore our relationship with God without first attempting honestly to resolve our sin with the other person (or people). Sacrifice was the last thing the worshipper was to do to resolve their sin, not the first. To offer a sacrifice to God was to affirm that the matter had been put in order and that their heart was demonstrably subject to the authority of God. Therefore, to sacrifice without first resolving the issues treats the sacrifice (and obedience to the Lord) as a mere external formality. It is essentially saying sin is subjective and not an offense against God. This dishonors the Lord. [shareable]Therefore, to sacrifice without first resolving the issues treats the sacrifice (and obedience to the Lord) as a mere external formality.[/shareable]

Unresolved interpersonal sin exalts self

Another reason to resolve the problems other people have with us is that this very unwillingness to resolve sin comes from a heart that exalts itself over God. If we can carry the responsibility for interpersonal conflict and be unwilling to be reconciled, we are essentially coming to God on our own terms. This is what Nadab and Abihu were guilty of when they “offered strange fire before the Lord” (Lev 10:1-3). God destroyed them and then explained that He was to be treated as holy. When we come to God and are unwilling to take responsibility for how we have offended others, we are essentially saying to God that holiness is not important when we worship Him. Yet, Paul explained that sickness and suffering had come to those in Corinth on the basis of their taking the Lord’s supper in an unworthy manner (1 Cor 11:29-30). If we are unwilling to resolve our conflict with others, we exalt our standards against God’s character. This is the same as saying we don’t need God’s help. We’ve got it all together. [shareable]If we are unwilling to resolve our conflict with others, we exalt our standards against God’s character.[/shareable]

Therefore, a simple way to improve your quiet time and your relationship with the Lord is to have a right relationship with other people, at least “as far as it depends upon us.”