At Revelations chapter 3, verse 8, the apostle John makes reference to a door that God has opened: “See I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it”. The apostle Paul also mentions how God opened a door in his life: “For a great and effective door has opened to me, and there are many adversaries” (1st Epistle of Corinthians chapter 16, verse 9).
According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, a door is a means of access, a structure for opening or closing an entrance. When God sets an open door before us, it is often a pathway that leads to blessing. In my years as a peacemaker, I have seen God open doors to help people become able to settle their differences with each other. The disagreement may appear impossible to resolve. But, when God steps in, suddenly the impossible becomes possible.
Although God sets open doors before us to find peace, the tragedy is that, very often people refuse to walk through the open door and they needlessly remain entangled and embroiled in conflict. Also, sometimes the open doors of God are hard to detect and discern by the people in conflict, because they are so emotionally involved in the disagreement that they cannot see them or what God is doing to work out things in their situation. Because of this, those of us in conflict will sometimes need the assistance of a peacemaker who has “spiritual vision” and is able to see the open door to help us resolve our differences.
Because finding and walking through the open door can be critical, this article will discuss the open door and how peacemakers with vision can help us see the open door to help us resolve our differences.
THE PAIN OF REFUSING THE OPEN DOOR
I want to share with you a story (which is a compilation based on a few similar situations I have experienced in my mediation ministry) which reveals the heartache that people in conflict go through when they either cannot see, or refuse to go through, a door that God opens which allows them to have a way to amicably settle their differences.
I was mediating a dispute between church leaders, which was so intense that they were hardly speaking to each other. After a few mediation sessions with them, we made some headway. But, we still faced some mighty roadblocks that hindered full resolution of this disagreement that had continued on for years.
About two weeks after I realized how far we still needed to go, God sovereignly moved in their situation during a Sunday church services to quickly take the people in conflict much further than we were able to go in the mediation sessions I had conducted with them. During the time of praise and worship in the service, walls of opposition were broken down, which caused the people at odds to hug each other and speak kind words to each other. When the people of the congregation saw this, they marveled because they knew that this was not the normal way that these people interacted with each other.
When I see astounding things like this occur, it reminds me of the story of the twin brothers Esau and Jacob. Esau was so angry at Jacob for defrauding him of the family blessing that he wanted to kill him (see Book of Genesis chapter 27, verse 41). But, when these brother connected back with each other years later, Esau’s heart dramatically changed towards his brother: “ But Esau ran to meet him, and embraced him and fell on his neck, and kissed him, and they (Esau and Jacob) wept” (Genesis chapter 33, verse 4). When hatred and animosity are replaced with weeping and heartfelt embraces, it is God who brings this to pass.
This event that happened during the church service was the “open door” for these people to permanently end the long-term resentment they held towards each other. The same God who had arranged for these walls of separation to be torn down, lines of communication to be reopened, and good feelings to be restored, was available to help these people in conflict to continue to move forward and build a good relationship with each other. What God wanted them to do was to go through the open door by continuing to show love to each other, and allowing God to knit their hearts together.
If these people had done what God wanted them to do, this conflict would have been over a long time ago. But they did not. Instead of building on the foundation that God had laid, the people at odds allowed the wall of separation to be rebuilt. The people in these cases also are still blaming each other for causing this rift to continue. What makes situations like this so sad is that years have gone by and these people continue to insist that they are right and their conduct is justified. The truth is that these people are deceived and blind, having missed out on a golden opportunity to have peace with each other. Instead they are feeling the terrible heartache that we live in when bitterness and intense anger towards others remain in our hearts.
After having seen many people continue to needlessly suffer through this terrible pain, I offer these words to help you better understand the “open door” and walk through it.
MORE ON THE PRINCIPLE OF THE OPEN DOOR
These words that Jesus spoke in his Sermon on the Mount give us more insight into how God sets up circumstances to open a door for us to resolve our differences with each other: “ Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Gospel of Matthew, chapter 5, verses 23-24).
The scene Jesus presents is during worship, in the house of God. We know this because he refers to bringing your “gift to the altar”. The significant words in this passage that reveal the open door are “and there remember that your brother has something against you”.
The fact that this person, while in the house of God in worship, could now remember that his brother was upset with him was no coincidence or accident. His memory or understanding of this became good at this point because it was God who moved to make this clear to him.
God brought this to this man’s attention so that he would immediately go to his brother to discuss their differences. And, as this man obeyed the leading of God, Jesus was saying that God’s grace (his “enabling power”) would go with him, and make it possible for these two men to settle the disagreement and reconcile.
This principle is very simple. When this man chooses to immediately walk through the open door, in his journey he finds God’s power to knit hearts together and bring peace. But, when we refuse to walk through the door, or we try to do things our way instead of God’s way, we can lose out on God’s grace. And this can keep us in conflict when God had given us a way out.
ISAAC AND ABIMELECH
The story of how God reconciled these two men further reveals more about how God opens the door to end disagreements. The conflict started because of envy. When Isaac received a one hundred fold blessing, the Philistines became jealous of him, and Abimelech commanded him to leave their territory: “And Abimelech said to Isaac, Go away from us, for you are much mightier than we” (Book of Genesis chapter 26, verse 16).
After being mistreated, Isaac was not expecting peace to come. But, God set up circumstances to bring it about: “Then Abimelech came to him from Gerar with Ahuzzath, one of his friends, and Philcol the commander of his army. And Isaac said to them, Why have you come to me, since you hated me and have sent me away from you. But they said, We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So we said, Let there now be an oath between us, between you and us; and let us make a covenant with you” (Book of Genesis chapter 26, verses 26- 28).
In this situation, the “open door” came when God dealt with Abimelech’s heart about Isaac. We can tell that it was God’s influence when Abimelech told Isaac why they came to see him: “We have certainly seen that the Lord is with you. So, we said, Let there be an oath between us”. Allowing Abimelech to see that the Lord was with Isaac was the influence that opened the door for Abimelech to think about Isaac and consider changing his mind about him. Very often, God puts thoughts of the people we are in conflict with in our minds, to try to lead us to go and talk to them. In this case, I believe that Abimelech walked through the open door by going to see Isaac to have discussions.
At the same time that God dealt with Abimelech’s heart, to influence him to go and see Isaac, he was also dealing with Isaac’s heart, to take away his fear: “ And the Lord appeared to him (Isaac) the same night and said, I am the God of your father, Abraham: do not fear, for I am with you. I will bless you and multiply your descendants for my servant Abraham’s sake” (Book of Genesis chapter 26, verse 24). Being unjustly expelled from the land by its king made Isaac afraid of Abimelech and the people.
Because God knew Abimelech was on his way to meet with Isaac, God dealt with the fear in Isaac’s heart to make him receptive to meet with Abimelech.
I hope you can see how God was at work opening the door and dealing with the hearts of Isaac and Abimelech to make conflict possible. God wants his congregation leaders and peacemakers to help others see the open door. The only way that they can do this is for God to give them spiritual vision.
GAINING SPIRITUAL VISION
Seeing or discerning when there is an open door is not always easy. Jesus discusses how we can gain sensitivity and clearer vision to help others in the parable of the beam and mote at the Gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 1 to 5.
In this story, Jesus is critical of a man who tries to help someone else deal with a little problem he has when, he, himself has a major problem to deal with.: “ And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye ? Or how else can you say to your brother, Let me remove the speck from your eye, and look a plank is in your own eye” (Gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verses 3-4).
The fact that this parable repeatedly mentions “eyes” indicates that it deals with vision and eye problems in those who are trying to help others. Jesus words reveal that this man that has a plank in his own eyes is either blind, or he has distorted or unclear vision which renders him ineffective at ministering to others.
Jesus next tells him what he needs to do to be in the position to help others: “Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Gospel of Matthew chapter 7, verse 5).
Jesus message here is clear. As we allow God to deal with the spiritual issues in us that cause us to be blind, he gives us clearer vision to better see these open doors and help others.
A second way we can gain spiritual vision or a greater ability to see these open doors is by walking with God and learning his ways when he brings us out of conflict into peace. Every time that God moved mightily to sovereignly end a dispute I was in, I learned so much more about his marvelous ways to do this. It is this understanding of his ways that has helped me better see when he is opening doors to help people find a way out of conflict. This kind of knowledge of God and his ways is what God wants his congregational leaders and peacemakers to share with people in conflict. In the rest of the article, I discuss a few of the things that peacemakers can do to help people see God’s open door and influence them to walk through it.
GENTLY REVEAL PEOPLE’S BLINDNESS
Pride causes most people in conflict to feel that they can settle their disagreements on their own and they do not need any help. It also makes people blind. The church of Laodecia is an example of this. Their pride caused them to think they were rich, wealthy, and in need of nothing. But, as Jesus pointed out, their true spiritual condition was that they were “wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Book of Revelations, chapter 3, verse 17).
Because pride can keep us from finding the open door and causes us to remain locked in mortal combat with each other, you need to gently persuade people in conflict that they cannot see their situation clearly, and they need help.
ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO WALK THROUGH A KNOWN OPEN DOOR
You need to do this because sometimes the people in conflict will miss this opportunity because of the intense anger and resentment that is in their hearts. The story of Naaman the Syrian points this out (The entire story is at 2nd Book of Kings chapter 5, verses 1-19).
Naaman, a Syrian general, was a leper. People in that day did not get healed of leprosy (see Gospel of Luke chapter 4, verse 27). But, God sovereignly opened the door for him to be in the position to be healed. When he came to the door of the Israeli prophet Elisha, the prophet sent a messenger to tell him he would be healed by dipping in the river Jordan seven times.
There was nothing difficult about this condition that Naaman had to fulfill to be healed. But, for some reason, the prophet’s treatment of him (he considered the prophet sending his servant and not coming himself a slight and a sign of disrespect since he was a general) and his having to dip in an inferior river like the Jordan made Naaman so angry that he planned to walk away from the opportunity to be healed: “And Naaman became furious, and went away, and said, Indeed, I said to myself, He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy. Are not the Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel ? Could not I wash in them and be clean ? So he turned and went away in a rage” (2nd Book of Kings chapter 5, verses 11-12).
Walking away in anger like this when the opportunity of a lifetime comes appears to be very silly. But, the people in conflict often allow their stubbornest, bitterness and resentment to cause them to walk away when the door opens for them to make peace with each other just as Naaman did in this case. To make sure that these people do not blow these opportunities, we, as peacemakers, need to humbly step in and give them wise counsel to walk in the ways of God. This is what Namaan servants did, to convince him to obey God’s conditions to be healed: “And his servants came near and spoke to him, and said, My father, if the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, Wash and be clean ?” (2nd Book of Kings chapter 5, verse 13).
HELP PEOPLE DISCERN AND SEE THE OPEN DOOR
When the open door is hidden or unclear to the people in conflict, you may have to make it clear to them, so that they can walk through it. To show you how this works, I will use an example of a situation that happened in my life to discuss the kind of counsel I would give to a person who is in this situation and has no idea what God is doing and how to respond.
A congregation member owed me some money for legal work that I had done for him, and the bill remained unpaid for a few years because of the marital difficulty he was going through. During one Sunday service, I saw him writing out a check, which he gave to me after the service. It was a large check towards the amount due, but not the full balance.
As a peacemaker, you could let this person know that it was God who moved mightily during the service to get this brother to write him a check. You do this to try to make him thankful that God was truly mindful of him, and his situation. When people become grateful, they often stop murmuring and complaining.
You could also make him aware that God opened the door to either help him overcome bitterness and resentment (if these things have settled in his heart because he had to wait so long to get paid), or to help him open the lines of communication to rebuild their relationship if it has been damage by this disagreement.
You could also remind this person that his brother had not paid him because of his terrible plight (marital difficulty), and that he was not trying to avoid him or renege on his promise to pay. When you remind this person of this truth, it may change his approach when he and his brother come together for more discussions. Knowing our brother’s heart and good intentions can lead us to approach him more gently, instead of taking a demanding approach like this: “This is only part of what you owe me. Where is the rest of it. I want it now”. When we lash out in anger, and use accusatory tones and language in our conversations with others, this kind of response causes more arguments instead of bringing peace. Proverbs chapter 15, verse 1 reveals this when it says, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stir up anger” .
The counsel you give, that brings an awareness of the truth and God’s ways, will make this person better prepared to resolve any disagreement he still has with his brother.
REVEALING TO PEOPLE THE MISSED OPEN DOOR
Sometimes God will lead you to disclose this to them, just as he had Jesus do to the people of Israel at the Gospel of Matthew chapter 23, verse 37: “ How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers chicks under her wings, but you were not willing”.
In this case, because they wilfully rejected God’s plan, Jesus told them this to let them know that they would lose out on the blessings of God because of their actions. In some cases, God wants us to let people know they missed an opportunity, because He may want to give them another chance to find peace. I believe that this was the case in a situation where God gave me a plan to help some people find peace, and one of them rejected this open door, only to try to settle things his own way.
God led me to speak the truth to this person so that they would ask God for help. In cases like this, when the person receives the words of correction and humbles himself, God may open the door again, and help him find the peace that he could not obtain through his own efforts.
I hope that this article is a help and blessing to you.
Stulberg shares his concern about trainings that are given in too short of time or which are either over-lecturing or doing too much role-play.By Joseph Stulberg