Using the Young Peacemaker Materials

It’s always fun for us to hear how others are using and adapting the materials we produce in their own contexts. Recently, I’ve received a couple of encouraging notes about how folks are helping young people to live out the peacemaking principles using the Young Peacemaker materials. Perhaps they will be an encouragement and help to you, too.

STORY #1: Scott, a 5th grade teacher all the way over in Thailand, created all sorts of extra teaching materials (songs, scripts for skits, etc.) that he used in his classroom. He created a simple website to share these materials with anyone else who might be interested. He includes some great advice on how he’s had success using the scripts, helping kids really get into the lesson. For instance:

Using these scripts is much more effective than merely having the teacher read the stories to the students. I can think of two reasons this is so. First, students are more involved because they are part of the presentation, not merely listening. Second, students can “feel” conflict from the inside, but in a safe, controlled manner because they are within the confines of a script. And it’s easy! Unlike skits and drama – readers theater is meant to be READ. No memorization.

Thanks, Scott! Great job putting this together!

STORY #2: Gail, from a church in Ohio, wrote the following note to us:

Hi all, 

One of our kids’ ministry directors sent me the following:

“This week, and next week as well I will present lesson 7 of the Young Peacemaker curriculum in the public school.  I had to delete some of the information due to my restrictions of presenting God. I was able to teach the 5 A’s. I taught them as the 5 A’s of Apology. I then taught the kids the sentences that they would say to correlate to each A. 1. ADMIT “I did it.” 2. APOLOGIZE “I’m sorry” 3. ACCEPT “I deserve it.” 4. ASK “Will you forgive me?” 5. ALTER “I will change.”

The kids started to use the rhymes on the handout as a rap song. So, 5 kids each took 1 step of an apology and rapped about it! It was so fun! They were clapping and stomping and moving in rhythm. They can’t wait till next week when other kids will get to take the rap lead for each step. They will remember this, and they will be able to use it. The teachers that I have been working with were very impressed with the skill that this taught the children. They said they very few of these kids even knew how to say “my bad” or “sorry” and now they are learning how to make an apology that will “turn any anger into a pile of mush.” They are excited to see the kids use it and have each made a flip chart of an apology that is hanging in their rooms.”

How exciting to know these young children are learning peacemaking principles at such a young age!

Yes, Gail, it is exciting! Praise God for his work through you and your church!

If any of you have a story of how you’ve used The Young Peacemaker, we’d love to hear about it. Please post a comment here or send it to us at mail@peacemaker.net.

Public and Private Apologies

I was flipping through Time Magazine a couple nights ago, and read the column by Nancy Gibbs entitled, “The Lost Art of Saying I’m Sorry.” This article is a commentary on the whole AIG situation, pointing toward the stated desire on the part of many that the AIG bonus recipients should publically apologize. Now I don’t have any idea what Ms. Gibbs’ worldview is (though she did quote GK Chesterton), and I don’t necessarily agree with all her assertions. But it seems to me that she captured why these “public apologies” don’t usally go over very well when she wrote:

Public apologies now play like vaudeville: the extravagant remorse of disgraced televangelists, the snarled “I’m sorry” of celebrities who exude regret at being caught rather than being wrong, the artful admissions of politicians who want credit for their confessions without any actual cost. We’ve learned to peel them apart with tweezers, find the insincerity and self-interest: If I caused any offense (you thin-skinned morons), I regret it. And so apologies are drained of their healing powers.  “A stiff apology is a second insult,” G.K. Chesterton argued, and a coerced one already trades at a discount, repentance offered only in exchange for immunity from further prosecution.

It’s rare to hear a public apology that comes across as geniune and not vetted by a lawyer. “I’d like to read this statement,” they begin, and we collectively roll our eyes. And I’m struggling even to think of a situation where such an apology really and truly promoted healing, restoration, and reconciliation. That usually happens during a private apology — sitting in a one-on-one situation where you can speak directly to the one you’ve offended, going back and forth, listening to one another, and giving a meaningful apology. (The 7 A’s of Confession give a helpful structure if you haven’t read them before.) 

But to bring it closer to home, how often does this describe our private apologies? Could they be termed “stiff” or “coerced” or “self-interested” or done just to avoid “further prosecution”? When I apologize to my wife, is it to get her to leave me alone on that issue? Is it because I got caught in a misdeed and the only way out is to admit it? Or is it out of a geniune and sincere “Godly sorrow” (2 Cor. 7:10) that will truly leave no regret.

It’s easy to point the finger at these inadequate public apologies, but today, I’m convicted of my own inadequate private apologies. May God grant us all the grace to move beyond self-interest in the way we apologize to others.

Guard the Unity, Peace and Purity of the Church – Tullian Tchividjian

On Monday, Tullian Tchividjian posted an excerpt on church unity from his upcoming book Unfashionable.  He is specifically looking at the way that gossip, slander and “God-defaming rumors” destroy the unity of the church and our Christian witness:

 God intends his people to be a visual model of the gospel. He wants us to live our lives together in such a way that we demonstrate the good news of reconciliation before the watching world.

When new members join New City Church, they promise “to promote the unity, purity, and peace of the Church.” One of the quickest ways to break this vow is to gossip-to “chatter idly about others.” This seemingly innocent activity can cause a world of hurt. The corrective is found in the Ninth Commandment, as the Heidelberg Catechism explains:

God’s will is that I never give false testimony against anyone, twist no one’s words, not gossip or slander, nor join in condemning anyone without a hearing or without a just cause. Rather, in court and everywhere else, I should avoid lying and deceit of every kind; these are devices the devil himself uses, and they would call down on me God’s intense anger. I should love the truth, speak it candidly, and openly acknowledge it. And I should do what I can to guard and advance my neighbor’s good name.

I’m convinced that most divisions in the church would never happen if we kept this one commandment. When we sin against our brother or sister, what we fail to realize is that, in Christ, we are united. A sin (such as slander) against any one of us is a sin against all of us. When we sin against a brother or sister, we sin against ourselves.

Tchividjian goes on to cite some powerful quotes from Chuck Colson and Francis Schaeffer about the need for peacemaking to be a high priority in churches and the powerful impact that can result from living a lifestyle of reconciliation.  Do take the time to read the whole excerpt that Tchividjian has posted.

The Cross & Criticism

Yesterday, Justin Taylor highlighted on his blog one of my all-time favorite resources, Dr. Alfred Poirier’s article “The Cross and Criticism.”  It was originally published in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, but it’s also available online  or in booklet form from our bookstore (under the name “Words that Cut”).

It’s not an exaggeration to say that Dr. Poirier’s article was revolutionary for me in that it helped me to understand for the first time how Christ’s death and resurrection had a tangible impact on the way that I thought and conducted the day-to-day details of my life. Whenever I teach on behalf of Peacemaker Ministries, I usually manage to squeeze in a reference to this article — it’s a great complement to both the 2nd and the 3rd G’s!

JT points out some helpful portions of the article, including application points on how to receive criticism in a godly way.

Carolyn McCulley revisited the article today and examined the question of how we receive criticism, especially in tough times.

Like Carolyn, I particularly appreciate this paragraph:

In light of God’s judgment and justification of the sinner in the cross of Christ, we can begin to discover how to deal with any and all criticism. By agreeing with God’s criticism of me in Christ’s cross, I can face any criticism man may lay against me. In other words, no one can criticize me more than the cross has. And the most devastating criticism turns out to be the finest mercy. If you thus know yourself as having been crucified with Christ, then you can respond to any criticism, even mistaken or hostile criticism, without bitterness, defensiveness, or blameshifting. Such responses typically exacerbate and intensify conflict, and lead to the rupture of relationships. You can learn to hear criticism as constructive and not condemnatory because God has justified you. “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? (Rom. 8:33-34a).

Do yourself a favor and read the whole article – online or in booklet form!

“I’m sorry.”

It seems so difficult to say, “I’m sorry” sometimes. Why is that? What makes it so difficult?

Okay, you guys.” Tony gathered everybody’s attention. “Here’s the catch.” He leaned in a little and collected his thoughts. “We are not actually going to accept confessions, “We are going to confess to them. We are going to confess that, as followers of Jesus, we have not been very loving; we have been bitter, and for that we are sorry. We will apologize for the Crusades, we will apologize for the televangelists, we will apologize for neglecting the poor and lonely, we will ask them to forgive us, and we will tell them that in our selfishness, we have misrepresented Jesus on this campus. We will tell people who come into the booth that Jesus loves them.”—Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller

Donald Miller points out our struggle with confession in this illustration. It can be a bit awkward and vulnerable to admit my own sin to others, especially unbelievers. If I am to be a strong witness, shouldn’t I act like I have it all together? Perhaps as Christians we want to rebel from that expectation of being different and “set apart”. We just want to have fun and be accepted by those around us. But, I think we are called for something that is bigger.

I really enjoyed this illustration in Blue Like Jazz because it gave me a reminding glimpse of how the world sees the church. In my talks with unbelievers who struggle with the concept of church, it is often a distrust that was caused by watching those who claimed to be united with Christ and yet were not united with one another. I have often heard from female and male friends that they stopped dating believers because unbelievers treated them better.  As Christians, we have lost the trust of one another.

I think we can regain this trust by starting in our relationships, through a drive to actively pursue peace, admitting our wrongs even when we might feel naked. If our greatest joy was to confess, repent, follow, trust, and respect what would that look like? What if unbelievers only heard Christians saying kind words about one another? Perhaps the world might peek in a little bit, and think “I want to be treated like that!”

The world will never understand God’s reconciliation through his Son, if the church doesn’t model it.

All this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”–2 Corinthians 5:18-19

Run with Endurance

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.”  – Hebrews 12:1

I thought alot about this verse while doing my long run this last weekend. In preparation for my first race of the season I doned the requisite gear for 12 miles and headed out. Down the first street, up the muddy, snowy path, along the trail, down the hill into a northern neighborhood and finally the last two miles.

Endurance became a real issue for me this time. At the beginning, I was focusing on keeping an even pace. In the middle I was watching my footing  In the northern neighborhood I was feeling weary, but kept going. In the last two miles over flat, clear pavement, I lost my energy. The part that provided the least obstacles took the most endurance.  I was tired, weary and simply wanted to sit down and stop running. Doubts crept in “I am going to do lousy in this race.” Recriminations were next, “You are 53, what are you doing running at your age?”

This is when I remembered the verse in Hebrews, “run the race that is set before us.” Life is like a running a race and conflicts are like endurance races. Romans 5:3 says, “We rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance character…” and Romans 15:4 reminds us “that through endurance and through the encouragement of scriptures we might have hope.”

Conflicts seem to drag on (just like my long runs). In the beginning, we are doing the right thing, showing love, listening well, not assuming motives. As the conflict continues though, we can lose our focus and sometimes it is when we are close to the end that we grow weary, tired, and just want to give up. We are tempted to snap back, slam a door, respond with an angry retort. Doubts creep in, “this is impossible” and recriminations follow, “if I had only…” Sometimes it isn’t the intensity but the length of the conflict that makes us so weary.

Weariness is no surprise to God and so he says,

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

“As for you, brothers, do not grow weary in doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:13

Where are you in your conflict today? Are you at the beginning, on the hill, running through a pretty muddy patch? Or are you at what should be the easy part but feeling very weary. May I encourage you to keep focused on Christ, not running aimlessly (I Corinthians 9:26 a) but running to win!

“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives  the prize? So run that you may obtain it” I Corinthians 9:24

Humility

This post was contributed by Chip Zimmer, Vice President of International Ministries

I read a comment on humility the other day that has stuck with me.  We cultivate humility, the writer noted, not by tearing ourselves down, but by building others up.  I think that’s a profound insight.When I mess up, the time I’m most likely to feel in need of humility, my thoughts turn to how dumb I was, or thoughtless, or unworthy. I’ve frequently mistaken these adventures in self-castigation for genuine humility.  But, here’s the thing.  I no longer believe that thinking lowly thoughts about myself has much to do with humility at all.  Such reflections are still all about “me.”  I remember CS Lewis writing somewhere that a genuinely humble person doesn’t think about himself, but focuses on others.  I’m far from that.

Some verses come to mind that capture this, Philippians 2: 3-4:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.      

 I’ve read these verses for years, but never fully understood their implication until now…”in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  The secret to cultivating humility is to consider the needs of others as more worthy than my own, to be concerned for what’s important to them, as well as what’s important to me.  How could I have missed it?


While traveling in India last month, I met a man who for me embodies Christian humility.  He recently took over leadership of a seminary, coming on board at a time of great division and pain.  The previous seminary head had been a daunting personality, authoritarian and feared by faculty and students.  My new friend has set out to proactively rebuild relationships with every group and person that participates in seminary life.  His day is consumed with meetings, with listening and responding to concerns, weaving together the seminary policies and priorities that he is bound to uphold with the legitimate needs of those who make up the seminary family.  He  regularly gathers together students, faculty and staff to discuss issues of mutual concern and leads a weekly Bible study for maintenance staff, some of the lowest status folks on campus.  In doing so, God is working through him to create a “culture of peace” where there was previously a “culture of strife.”  He is living out Paul’s words, in humility considering others better than himself, and God is restoring to wholeness the community he leads.

Coming to My Senses

I’ve been listening to some excellent (and free) sermons by Rev. Timothy Keller in a series called The Prodigal God.  In one particular sermon (He Came to Himself) Keller focuses on a phrase in Luke 15:17-18, where it says of the Prodigal Son,

When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death!  I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you.

The phrase, “Came to his senses” refers to coming to a point of repentence.  Keller poses the question, “How do we come to our senses?”  He points out that it doesn’t just happen and that often we need others to help us get there.  He goes on to say that one of the many blessings of being part of a church – a community of people who love you and love God – is to be surrounded by people who will help us to come to our senses and to remind us of the hope and forgiveness we have in Christ.  I am grateful to be part of such a place!

He does not treat us as our sins deserve

I had the privilege of leading devotions for our weekly staff time yesterday, and I wanted to take some time to share what I put together for our staff.

I started out with a question, one that I found very intriguing from William P Smith’s book Caught Off Guard: Encounters with the Unexpected God.

If you only saw God’s wisdom (Molly: or power, love, mercy, etc.) displayed in the lives of worthy people, how would your faith suffer?

Here are a few thoughts I put together in response to that question, and others’ response fit generally into these themes as well.  I think my faith would suffer tremendously, in a number of ways:

  • Always feeling I needed to “clean myself up” before I came to God for help, in sin or in suffering,
  • OR, self-satisfaction in believing that if I was blessed, it was because I deserved it,
  • OR, would my faith suffer at all? Do I functionally believe that God does reward me because I am worthy?
  • Self-righteousness in believing that others should clean themselves up before coming to God for help
  • In this vein, I also was thinking about how believing that our God is a God of mercy is what makes the Christian faith distinct from other faiths. Most other faiths believe that it is through works that we gain God’s favor, and because they’re never sure if they’re doing enough or if they’re being good enough, they have an alarming level of uncertainty and fear with respect to their relationship with God.

I read from Matthew 15:22-38, which tells the story of the Canaanite woman who begs Jesus to heal her daughter (he does) and the feeding of the 4,000. The key verse for me here is verse 31: “The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.”
So again I ask: If you only saw God’s wisdom (power, love, mercy, etc.) displayed in the lives of worthy people, how would your faith suffer?

I would propose that maybe a “flip side of the coin” of that question is the word “amazed.” I chose this passage of Scripture because I used a word search in the Bible for “amaze” and came up with verse after verse describing how people were amazed at Christ’s ministry – they were amazed at his power, at his mercy – generally to the worst of the sick and sinners, and at his wisdom, which so often seemed to turn the wisdom of the world upside down.

So the flip side of my operative question: “When you see God’s wisdom (power, love, mercy, etc.) displayed in the lives of unworthy people, how does your faith grow?”

Now there’s a warning here, because it’s not automatic that our faith will grow when we see God’s wisdom displayed in the lives of unworthy people. Examples are the Pharisees and the “older brother” who resented God showing mercy to the unbelieving.

However, the whole of Scripture is story after story of God showing mercy to the unworthy.  And that’s the point of Caught off Guard — Smith is retelling stories of Scripture with a view to surprising his readers with a fresh look at God’s grace. The stories Smith looks at a really basic ones, the ones that most of us know by heart through songs we learned in Sunday school, but he tells them from a fresh perspective, one that’s designed to highlight the insecurities, doubts, fears and failings of the main characters.  As I’ve been reading the book on my own, I’ve loved how he shows what we expect of God in these situations, according to our own fears, or according to how we would respond to people who are in our situation. And he blows our preconceptions out of the water by showing how “totally other” God is in his love and grace.

A few examples, from chapter titles and then Scripture stories Smith looks at to show how God consistently responds in unexpected ways to people who are plagued with doubts, fears and rebellious behavior (these are just my notes from the devotions, so sorry if they are a bit sparse — gives you incentive to pick up the book and dive into it!):

  • Do you feel lost and confused? (Zaccheus – so searching for meaning that he’s willing to publicly humiliate himself to get a glimpse of Jesus – not idle curiosity; we see Jesus respond by ‘seeking and saving the lost,’ not by rejecting or mocking him)
  • Do you feel as though Jesus has to put up with you (and wishes he didn’t)? (Lot – has it all and makes poor choice after poor choice, “a Jerry Springer show candidate;” and yet God keeps rescuing him, full of grace and compassion, literally dragging him out of destruction that Lot was too foolish to leave on his own)
  • Are you scared he’ll hurt you when he’s angry? (He looks at how God treated the rebellious people of Israel in the dessert)
  • Are you afraid he’ll threaten you to make you behave? (Talks about how fearful the people were when God appeared in thunder, smoke and lightening to deliver the 10 Commandments in Exodus 19-20. Even when giving them the law, he communicates in such a way that he shows he doesn’t want slavish fear, but reverent fear – recognizing God’s authority but having confidence that Christ will receive us when we fail)
  • Are you scared he’ll reject you when you let him down? (He looks at the story of Elijah – after seeing God’s power displayed so greatly in the challenge against the prophets of Baal, Elijah flees from Queen Jezebel and totally loses confidence in God. Under conviction of his failure, Elijah tells God to just “take my life right now,” but God sends an angel to feed him, physically and spiritually.)

I happen to have an inscribed copy of the book. I know, I know, I’m so special!  But that’s not why I bring it up; I mention it because Dr. Smith wrote a Scripture reference there that I think captures the heart of what this whole post is trying to say:

“He does not treat us as our sins deserve
or repay us according to our iniquities.”
(Psalm 103:10)