1.  Let’s rejoice in one another, because the Lord rejoices in us.

Psalm 16:3 sets the overall tone: “As for the saints in the land, they are the excellent ones, in whom is all my delight.”  There is excellence to admire in every Christian.  And it’s easy to discern.  Two questions into a conversation and the excellence starts appearing.

2.  Let’s create an environment of trust rather than negative scrutiny.

1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.”  Human eyes are not competent to judge human hearts.

3.  Let’s judge ourselves, even as we give each other the benefit of the doubt.

Matthew 7:5 says, “First take the log out of your own eye.”  And 1 Corinthians 13:7 says, “Love believes all things.”  In other words, love fills in the blanks with positive assumptions.

4.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s talk to, not about.  Gossip destroys.

Matthew 18:15 says, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone.”  The Lord didn’t say, “Go ask your brother his fault.”  Let’s man up and tell him his sin.  But let’s tell him to his face, rather than spread accusations around.

5.  If a problem must be addressed, let’s avoid blanket statements but identify factual specifics, offer a positive path forward and preserve everyone’s dignity.

“You are ___________” is too sweeping to be fair.  It leaves a person no freedom to change.  Better to say, “In this situation, when you _____________, that was wrong.  It would be helpful if, in the future, you would ______________.  What do you think?  And is there anything I can do that might help?”

6.  Let’s extend kindness.

Ephesians 4:32 says, “Be kind to one another.”  That word “kind” is used in Matthew 11:30 when Jesus says, “My yoke is easy.”  So kindness asks, “How can I make this situation as easy for the other person as possible?  How can I make a positive response as easy as it can be?”

7.  When we wrong another, let’s admit it: “What I did to you was wrong.  I am sorry.  By God’s grace, I won’t do that again.  Is there anything I can do now, to make up for it?”

Where a wrong has been done, as the Bible defines wrong, an apology will help.  Reparations are also biblical and may be necessary in the case of a significant injury.  But evading the wrongs of our past only builds hypocrisy into our future.  And God cannot bless that.  But God will surely bless serious repentance.  When Zacchaeus vowed to repay the people he had defrauded, the Lord didn’t reply, “You don’t have to.  That’s water under the bridge!”  No, the Lord said, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Luke 19:8-9).

One of the most beautiful scenes in the Bible is between brothers who had been long alienated: “Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell on his neck and kissed him, and they wept” (Genesis 33:4).  God wants that beauty to reappear in every generation, as needed.

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Ray Ortlund

Ray Ortlund is senior pastor of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee, and serves as a Council member with The Gospel Coalition. You can follow him on Twitter.

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