The Moment Before

crying babyI ran across this article over at the Huffington Post and wanted to share a bit of it here as it reminded me of a very important peacemaking principle that God continues to teach me.

The author of the article from the Post writes about an encounter with a mom and her crying baby at a pharmacy (hint: nobody was happy about the crying baby) and how thinking about the circumstances that could have preceded the encounter helped them rethink their harsh judgments of her. The author calls it thinking about the “moment before”:

In acting class, the few I’ve taken anyway, coaches constantly urged me to think about the “moment before.” Since film scenes tend to start during the middle of a conversation — i.e. skipping all the “Hello, how are you?” “Fine how are you?” moments — actors are told to think about what the person was doing or feeling right before the scene began. Did they get stuck in traffic? Are they flustered? Did their mother just die? What is the person’s state of mind?

When I looked at the poor frazzled mother who was publicly chastised for not miraculously making her baby stop crying I thought about her “moment before.”

Perhaps she had been stuck in her house all day with a new baby and just wanted to get some fresh air, so she walked to CVS and, not having a real purpose to be there, she bought a couple diet sodas. Maybe it’s a treat for her? Maybe her boyfriend or husband loves them? Maybe it’s all she can afford?

Or maybe her baby had been crying all day and night and she was trying to teach him or her to stay in the stroller without throwing a fit and CVS was a trial run? Maybe she was weaning the child off of constantly being held. I don’t have a baby; I don’t know how it works.

Maybe the baby was really hungry and she knew this and she was trying to get out of the store but the CVS line was 10 minutes long. Maybe she never meant to be there for so long (she was only buying soda after all) and knew if she breastfed in public she might get chastised for that as well. Maybe this was the least bad option she had.

There are about a thousand things that could have led that diet-Root-Beer buying mother to not pick up her baby but none of us thought about that. We tried her and judged her and let her go with her punishment: public humiliation.

You can read the whole article at The Huffington Post here (Warning: there is some coarse language in the piece).

Being a young mother of a toddler and a newborn, I’ve known this scenario all too well and have sometimes wanted to explain to looking eyes what the circumstances where behind the tears. That urge to explain the “moment before” has made me increasingly appreciative of those who look on my (and countless other moms) with a bit more compassion. It’s also convicted me of ways that I’m too quick and to harsh with my judgments.

In moments where I’m quick to judge, I try to remind myself of how Ken points to scripture to show that this principle of looking at others’ situations with compassion has its root in making charitable judgments instead of critical ones and is something the Christian should do:

Although judging is a normal and necessary part of life, Scripture warns us that we have a natural tendency to judge others in a wrong way. For example, Jesus says:

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, `Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:1-6)

As this passage teaches, when we evaluate and judge other people, our natural inclination is to ignore our own faults and to make critical judgments of others. Jesus is not forbidding critical thinking in the positive sense, which is evaluating others’ words and actions carefully so we can discriminate between truth and error, right and wrong (see Matt. 7:15-16).

What he is warning us about is our inclination to make critical judgments in the negative sense, which involves looking for others’ faults and, without valid and sufficient reason, forming unfavorable opinions of their qualities, words, actions, or motives. In simple terms, it means looking for the worst in others.

and later:

Instead of judging others critically, God commands us to judge charitably. The church has historically used the word “charitable” as a synonym for the word “loving.” This has resulted in the expression, “charitable judgments.” Making a charitable judgment means that out of love for God, you strive to believe the best about others until you have facts to prove otherwise. In other words, if you can reasonably interpret facts in two possible ways, God calls you to embrace the positive interpretation over the negative, or at least to postpone making any judgment at all until you can acquire conclusive facts.

For the whole article by Ken Sande on charitable judgments and a discussion on where it is appropriate to judge critically, check out Charitable Judgments: An Antidote to Judging Others on our website.

The Nuclear Power of the Gospel in Conflict

At our conference this year, we’re excited to be offering some workshops taught by Christian Muntean, Executive Director of Beyond Borders. His friend and colleague, JP Oulette, at Conflict Resolution Center wrote a great blog article explaining how relationships can be like an atom and conflict can have a nuclear power to it. He also does a spectacular job illustrating how the Gospel is crucial:

Atomic StructureIn the picture of an atom, we see a nucleus (bound protons and neutrons) surrounded by a cloud of orbiting electrons. This is a good picture of how the gospel relates to the conflicts we face in our lives every day.

The protons and neutrons in the center are the people in relationship. The electrons swirling around them are the issues that often create a cloud of mystery and awkwardness.

These issues seem to orbit our lives so fast that even one or two issues can create the illusion of a barrier between the relationship (nucleus) and the clarity of life outside the conflict. The more issues that exist, the harder it becomes to see the possibilities for resolution.

The people in relationship are tightly or loosely bound depending upon their foundation and conflicts that exist within. When relationship is severed through unresolved conflict, it can be a weapon of mass destruction leaving an aftermath of pain and bitterness in the lives of many.

Much like the individuals in the nucleus of conflict, those on the outside of the relationship often judge the situation by the cloud of issues surrounding it. It can be hard to get a clear view of the relationship or even see the potential for reconciliation. Intimidated by the cloud, we tend to back away from the situation all together.2f7e7a014c184d17ff7c9c45b2255e7c_f34

When we understand and appreciate, however, that the power of the gospel demonstrated on the cross was found in the midst of conflict, right in the nucleus, we are compelled to press past the issues and into the relationship.

Read the rest here.

Material Prosperity or TRUE Peace and Prosperity?

The Generosity Monk (one of our keynote speakers at conference, Gary Hoag) has a great meditation on his blog about the differences between true, biblical peace and prosperity and the counterfeit versions that the world produces.

Here’s an excerpt of the portion he quotes from Justin Borger’s “Personal Peace and Prosperity”:

“The bigger house, the higher salary and the comfortable retirement are poor substitutes for the Bible’s idea of peace and prosperity: shalom. Rather than defining prosperity as many Christians typically do in terms of personal affluence and professional success, shalom is a far richer sort of prosperity that encompasses every dimension of life. Perhaps most importantly, shalom measures material abundance in terms of a community’s ability to flourish as a whole, not just as individuals.

One of the Old Testament’s clearest illustrations of what true prosperity looks like can be found in a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah. Remarkably, this letter was written to a group of Jewish exiles who were anything but prosperous. Their homeland had just been destroyed, and they—along with all their material resources and possessions—had been carried off into captivity in Babylon. Nevertheless, it was in the midst of this economic disaster that God wanted to teach his people how to achieve true peace and prosperity.”

Read the rest here.


Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

PeaceMeal Banner

Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs. If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.” Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did. When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.


Food for Thought

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule Ken mentions above. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make? Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”? It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

How to Receive Criticism

I really enjoyed Ed Stetzer’s post over at The Exchange about receiving criticism (his series on giving criticism is also VERY good). I’ve listed the 3 ways to avoid feeling attacked by criticism and some summary thoughts here but please do read the whole thing over at his blog. It’s really, really good (and brutally honest).

To start off, he mentions the inevitability of facing criticism in life:

“You may not be a public figure, but if you are a leader in any capacity, you will earn critics for yourself. People won’t always be happy and sometimes they will say so.

But, that does not mean we should be afraid of criticism.”

And hilariously (or perhaps that’s just my sarcastic sense of humor coming out…):

“Simply put, you are not always right and you won’t know that if you are always offended when people point that out.”

3 Ways to Avoid Feeling Attacked by Criticism:

  1. Disagreeing with you is not the same as disagreeing with God.
  2. If no one can criticize you, you are probably too inaccessible.
  3. If you lash out at those who criticize you, you probably don’t have a teachable spirit.

    Read the Stetzer’s detailed explanation of his points here.

For a bit of a deeper look at what congregations and leaders can do in their overall approach to criticism, Ken Sande wrote up a good piece here on accountability in the church.

We also have a great article by Alfred Poirier here for everyone, not just those in leadership, about how our theology of the cross should shape our understanding of criticism and help us put it in it’s proper place. I find myself recommending and referencing this article time and time again.

A Time for Peace or War?

by Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries

The following article was first written by Ken in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks and recently revised, in light of the debate regarding Syria.  While the geography has changed from the U.S. to the Middle East, many of the issues and peacemaking principles remain the same.

The recent use of poison gas in the Syrian civil war has heightened global concern for this increasingly deadly conflict and triggered many challenging questions. Chief among these questions is, “How should we respond to these violent acts?”

This question is especially challenging for those who follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, who said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”

Teachings on peacemaking are difficult to apply in the shadow of a war that has killed over 100,000 people, 1,400 of whom died in clouds of poison gas. As a result of these deaths, President Barack Obama is seeking Congressional and international support for military intervention. Other U.S. and global leaders are calling for restraint and continued diplomatic negotiations.

So, is this a time for peacemaking or a time for war? The answer can be both.

But how can both paths be right, especially when they seem to go in opposite directions? Both can be right, because God himself has assigned different paths to different people.

The Bible teaches that God has delegated some of his authority to civil governments and assigned them the responsibility of promoting justice, protecting their people from aggressors, and punishing those who do wrong (see Isa. 1:17; Rom. 13:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:13-14). This is a heavy responsibility, especially when it involves the exercise of lethal force—but without this restraint, evil would run rampant and innocent people would suffer. Thus there are times when those who lead and protect a nation can and must walk the path of war.

Whether this is such a time, I am not qualified to say. But since our leaders are publicly contemplating such action, they certainly need our earnest prayers.

But even as we pray for our civil and military leaders as they contemplate or pursue military action, we are often called by God to walk a different path as individuals. Just a few verses before God describes the government’s right to wield the sword in Romans 13, he describes the individual Christian’s responsibility to be a peacemaker:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn…. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom. 12:14-15, 17-21).

This passage echoes Jesus’ earlier teaching on how individuals should respond to those who wrong them: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you…. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Most Christians think that these are fine and noble concepts … until someone actually hates us, curses us, and mistreats us. Then these words seem naïve and simplistic. But it is precisely at times when much wrong has been done that these words take on their greatest power and offer their greatest benefit. Here are some practical ways that you can put these commands into practice in your personal life, regardless of what world leaders decide to do in Syria.

  • Mourn with those who mourn. All of us should grieve deeply with those who have lost loved ones, have been personally harmed by these attacks, or are distraught over the trouble and destruction they are facing (Rom. 12:15). In doing so, we Christians should share not only our tears and words of comfort, but also our time, energy, and material resources to minister to others and help rebuild their lives. We should also pray that these events would make all of us more compassionate for people throughout the world who suffer such violence.
  • Pray for our leaders. Our President and a multitude of other civil and military leaders will be making difficult decisions in the days ahead, many of which will either save or end lives. They carry an agonizing burden. Therefore, we should pray for our leaders every day, asking God to give them humility, wisdom, discernment, courage, and strength, so that they will act wisely, promote justice, protect the innocent, and restore peace as quickly as possible (1 Tim. 2:1-2).
  • Remember God’s mercy to you. All true peacemaking springs from what Jesus Christ did on the cross to reconcile a fallen world to a holy God (Rom. 5:1-8). We cannot truly love or do good to those who do wrong until we see that God has done exactly that with us. When we recognize our own sin, acknowledge the eternal judgment we deserve, and stand amazed at his offer of mercy and forgiveness, then and only then can we respond lovingly to acts of violence and do the hard, unnatural work of peacemaking.
  • Fight against anger and vengeance. In the face of acts of evil, it is natural for us to be filled with anger. Sometimes that anger is appropriate and will move us to do all we can to stop such evil. But at other times our anger is contaminated with sin. As the psalmist realized, “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before you” (Ps. 73: 21-22). To counter these feelings, whether in yourself or those around you, read the rest of Psalm 73, which reminds us that God will eventually avenge all wrongs, and remember Jesus’ promise that his final judgment is more severe than anything a worldly army can impose (see Luke 12:5).
  • Pray for those who have done wrong. Praying for those who do wrong is not easy. Even when we get past our feelings of hatred and judgment, we struggle to know what to pray. Should we follow David’s example and pray for justice to come upon them (Ps. 28:4), or should we follow Jesus’ example and ask God to forgive them (Luke 23:34)? As we remember our own need for God’s mercy, I believe we must do both. We can pray, “Lord, display your love for justice and prevent further acts like this by bringing the people involved in these acts to account in this life for what they have done. At the same time, Father, display your love for mercy and magnify the glory of the gospel by bringing these men to repentance and faith in Christ, so that whatever temporal judgment they face at the hands of men, they might experience the eternal forgiveness that you purchased for us by the infinitely precious blood of Christ.”
  • Stand up for the persecuted. Some of the pent-up confusion and frustration in our country is being vented toward innocent people of Middle-Eastern descent. Christians should be the first ones to stand up for the oppressed (Ex. 22:21; Isa. 1:17). In addition to preventing individual acts of hatred that would echo the violence of the Syrian conflict, your loving intervention could open the door to share the gospel with people whose faith has been shaken and whose hearts have been opened.
  • Make peace with those around you. Although you and I do not murder others with a gun or hand grenade, all too often we kill others in our hearts. As Jesus warned, “You have heard it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says, ‘You fool,’ will be in danger of the fire of hell” (Matt. 5:21-22). The violence in the Middle East could encourage a harvest of peace and reconciliation if each of us were inspired to fight the cancer of sin and estrangement in our own country on a personal level, seeking genuine reconciliation with a spouse, child, parent, friend, co-worker, or anyone else we may have offended. (For practical guidance on how to resolve personal, church, business, or legal conflicts, see the many resources at
  • Study and teach peacemaking. World violence is challenging many people to ask questions about how to deal with conflict. The time is ripe to wrestle with practical issues of confession, confrontation, justice, forgiveness, restitution, and reconciliation. Please do not let this incredible “teachable moment” pass you by. Dig into God’s Word and see what he has to say about these life-changing matters, and then teach others what you are learning about peacemaking (1 Pet. 3:15-16). Engage your children, talk with your friends, start conversations at work, lead a Sunday school class at church. Now is the time to learn and to teach!
  • Share the gospel of peace. Above all else, seize every opportunity to be an ambassador of reconciliation by pointing people to the Prince of Peace (2 Cor. 5:16-21). Death is increasingly real to many people in the world, and questions about evil and judgment abound. People who would have brushed the gospel aside not long ago may be open and interested in talking about eternal matters. The fields are truly “white unto harvest,” and there can be no greater peacemaking than to help others to be reconciled to their God.

Terrible violence is erupting in front of our eyes, not only in Syria but throughout the world, sometimes on our own streets and in our own homes. By God’s grace, however, we need not be overcome by this evil. Rather we can overcome evil with good.

Now is the time to live out the gospel of Jesus Christ as we never have before. Even as our national leaders contemplate how to carry out their heavy responsibilities of promoting justice, securing peace, and protecting innocent people from harm, let’s seize every opportunity to share the love of Christ and promote personal peace and reconciliation. In doing so, we can redeem these dreadful times and fulfill one of the most wonderful promises ever given, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God.”

Ken Sande is an attorney, the author of The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, 3rd Ed. 2003), Peacemaking for Families (Tyndale, 2002), and founder of Peacemaker Ministries (, an international ministry committed to equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically. He now serves as the president of Relational Wisdom 360 (

This article in its entirety may be photocopied, re-transmitted by electronic mail, or reproduced in newsletters, on the World Wide Web, or in other print media, provided that such copying, re-transmission, or other use is not for profit or other commercial purpose. Any distribution or use of this article must set forth the following credit line, in full, at the conclusion of the article: “© 2001 Peacemaker® Ministries, Reprinted with permission.” Peacemaker Ministries may withdraw or modify this grant of permission at any time.

Curious About Training?

Ever wondered what our training is about or what you’d learn if you attended? Check out our new video overview for our training to get an idea of what we do and how we might serve you:

Training Promo from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

Our training courses are designed to supplement and build upon the basic principles of peacemaking, which are given to us in Scripture. This training is an integral part of embedding peace into your church, your vocation, and indeed, into every aspect of your life through a Gospel-centered Biblical approach to conflict resolution. Students learn how to assist others resolve conflict according to biblical principles and applying the Gospel to their specific situation.

The Peacemaker’s Privilege – Reconciliation of a Family Conflict

By Annette Friesen, Conciliation and Training Specialist at Peacemaker Ministries. Taken from our latest edition of Reconciled

There are times when the opportunity to serve reminds us what it was like to first learn God’s peacemaking principles and the incredible power contained in them. A recent weekend experience was one of those times for me.

I had the privilege of leading a Peacemaker Seminar, but before I even arrived, I knew it might be just a bit different. I had been told that four “conflicted” sisters would be at the event—a conflict had erupted years ago that had been devastating to their family life and was severely damaging their collective witness to the cause of Christ. Yet they were all going to be at this seminar, willing to hear words of hope and see a practical, God-honoring path toward reconciliation.

As we began the teaching, to build a foundation for the peacemaking principles, we spent quite a bit of time unpacking the context of Matthew 18—examples of God’s great grace and mercy and ultimately unpacking the gospel and how it applies to our relationships (and our conflicts). I was reminded again how much people resonate with the truth of the God’s Word!

During a break, one of the sisters came up to me and said she thought her two sisters (who were at the center of the conflict) were ready to try to be reconciled. But they needed my help. Would I be willing to stay afterward to help them? Of course I agreed.

I finished the teaching, grateful for how God had worked. One woman told me she had been scared to come because the woman she was in conflict with was in the room. Yet after the first session, her heart was totally at peace and ready to hear what God had for her. She knew now what to do. Two other women—one African-American and one white—held an impromptu “reconciliation session” to heal over an offense between the two. Many more expressed their thanks.

But soon after the seminar was over, I was hustled off to a room to begin the sisters’ quickly-arranged mediation. After clarifying what we were doing, setting some basic ground-rules, and separating out the sisters not in conflict (they watched from the side), the two began to share.

Nearly three hours later, emotions were still running high as we moved toward making an apology. I was praying—I honestly didn’t know how this was going to end. Finally, with more hard work, we reached a point where they could begin to apologize to one another. One sister made a sincere apology, but the other struggled. That sister began by acknowledging what she had heard, but had trouble taking ownership of any specific wrongdoing. I asked gently if she believed she had done anything wrong, and she was honest in saying she struggled. With a little help, she was able to move on to a genuine apology.

It wasn’t until they made the Four Promises of Forgiveness to each other that the dam broke. With tears running down their faces, they both continued to confess and extend forgiveness, hugging one another. The two watching sisters hugged and cried, too, and then, unable to contain themselves, rushed across the room for a group hug. This went on for about five minutes while I slowly packed up, gratitude flooding my heart for God allowing me to witness His precious and beautiful work of reconciliation in the lives of those women that day.

The next day, I was approached by oldest sister, who said that after the mediation their evening together was precious and just like old times. She simply couldn’t thank me enough.

So whether you are someone who helps others in conflict or someone who could use some help, let this story be an encouragement to you. God’s Word is powerful—it penetrates the heart, “opens blind eyes” and brings about reconciliation. And it’s a joy and privilege when you get to see it happen in right in front of you

Anatomy of a Conflict

Over at the 9Marks blog Michael McKinley has a great piece on the anatomy of a church conflict from Mike Minter‘s seminar he attended. Here’s the breakdown:

  1. An offense occurs.
  2. A biased view of the offense is shared with friends.
  3. Friends take up the offense.
  4. Sides begin to form.
  5. Suspicion on both sides develop.
  6. Each side looks for evidence to confirm their suspicion. You can be sure they will find it.
  7. Exaggerated statements are made.
  8. In the heat of conflict those involved hear things that were never said and say things they wish they had never said.
  9. Third parties, no matter how well intentioned, can never accurately transfer information from one offended party to the other.
  10. Past offenses unrelated to the original offense surface.
  11. Integrity is challenged.
  12. People call each other liars.
  13. Those who try to solve the problem (e.g., church leadership) are blamed for not following the proper procedure and become the new focus.
  14. Many are hurt.

This reminded me of the introductory passage in Getting to the Heart of Conflict that introduces where conflict really comes from:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if people could simply renounce their bad habits and decide to respond to conflict in a gracious and constructive way? But it is not that easy. In order to break free from the pattern they have fallen into, they need to understand why they react to conflict the way they do.

Jesus provides us with clear guidance on this issue. During His earthly ministry, a young man approached the Lord and asked Him to settle an inheritance dispute with his brother. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?’ Then he said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions'” (Luke 12:13-15).

This passage reveals a common human pattern. When faced with conflict, we tend to focus passionately on what our opponent has done wrong or should do to make things right. In contrast, God always calls us to focus on what is going on in our own hearts when we are at odds with others. Why? Because our heart is the wellspring of all our thoughts, words, and actions, and therefore the source of our conflicts. “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander” (Matthew 15:19).

The heart’s central role in conflict is vividly described in James 4:1-3. If you understand this passage, you will have found a key to preventing and resolving conflict.

“What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.”

This passage describes the root cause of destructive conflict: Conflicts arise from unmet desires in our hearts. When we feel we cannot be satisfied unless we have something we want or think we need, the desire turns into a demand. If someone fails to meet that desire, we condemn him in our heart and quarrel and fight to get our way. In short, conflict arises when desires grow into demands and we judge and punish those who get in our way. Let us look at this progression one step at a time.

You can read the whole thing, including how conflict progresses in our hearts, here. Also, check out the original 9Marks post here.

Hardships as Opportunities

Over at the CCEF Blog, Ed Welch has a really great post about how hardships are a part of God’s purposes and how we, as His children, can rest in this truth. He first quotes Ken Sande:

“What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about conflict?”

Ken Sande asked this question at a conference I attended. He could have asked “what is the first thing” or “what are the first fifty things.” For me, the answers would all be variations on the same theme. I hate conflict; I want to run from it. The “things” that come to my mind about conflict are: hate, loathe and avoid.

Then he asked, “How many people thought “opportunity”?

Not me. Not in a million years, even if I could cheat by consulting a dictionary or Wikipedia. To me, conflict is misery—not an opportunity…

And then he connects this concept to the hardships we face in life:

Since God is sovereign and has good purposes, hardships are opportunities. They must be.

Many people have already learned this. Here is what some of them have said.

That “C” on the exam—is an opportunity to live by faith in Jesus rather than in my perceived successes.

That hard marriage—is an opportunity to love as I have been loved.

That miscarriage—is an opportunity to know that my Father has unlimited compassion for his children and I can trust him.

That cancer—(and this is really a hard one) is an opportunity to die well and show my children what it means to live and die by faith.

I found his whole article very encouraging and worth the read. You can read the whole thing here.