Forgetting the Golden Rule

I’m reviewing some of the principes of confession from chapter 6 of The Peacemaker, and I thought this was a great excerpt:

Perhaps the most common cause of conflict is our failure to follow the Golden Rule, which Jesus taught in Matthew 7:12: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” To see whether you have violated this teaching, ask yourself questions like these:

Would I want someone else to treat me the way I have been treating him?

How would I feel if I found out people were saying about me what I’ve said about her?

If our positions were reversed, how would I feel if he did what I have done?

If someone broke a contract for the same reasons I am using, would I feel that was right?

If I was an employee, how would I feel if I was treated the way I have treated her?

If I owned this business, woudl I want my employees to behave the way I am behaving?

Anytime you see that you would not want someone else to treat you the way you are presently treating others, you have fallen short of the standard Jesus established to govern all human relations. If you admit your failure to God and the person you have wronged, you can start moving down the road to forgiveness, agreement, and reconciliation.

Ken Sande, The Peacemaker, pages 124-125

Automatic forgiveness?

Chris Brauns (author of Unpacking Forgiveness) has a thought-provoking and Gospel-saturated post over at Reformation 21, where he contemplates implications of believing that forgiveness should be automatically, unconditionally granted to someone who has wronged us.  Among other things, Brauns says that believing this shortchanges justice, breeds bitterness and, above all, misses the point of the Gospel. 

Here are three quotes that I think point to the crux of the article:

[Some might say,] “You say, ‘offer forgiveness’. I say, ‘give it’. What’s the difference?”

There is a big difference. If we say that everyone is forgiven, then we redefine forgiveness. Instead of it being something that happens between two parties (as it is in when God forgives us), forgiveness becomes something that I decide to do on my own–independent of the one who has hurt me.

Furthermore, forgiving in this privatized, automatic kind of way has become far less than what the Gospel requires. It seems fair to assume that Grammer has no intention of ever offering anything to Freddie Glenn, yet this is exactly what God did. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Indeed, those who put their faith in Christ can say, “. . . He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.(Col 1:13-14, emphasis added).” Christians are called to follow the Savior’s example, offering the handshake of forgiveness to those receive it in repentance.

Automatic forgiveness packs unforgiveness. It redefines forgiveness as far less than what it means biblically.  It hardens hearts with bitterness, isolation, and pessimism. In contrast, conditional forgiveness centers on the Cross. It offers the Gospel to all, recognizes that because of Christ any offender can be forgiven, believes that all relationships can be redeemed, and rests knowing that justice will be served.   

Read the whole thing here.

One-handed Claps

In today’s devotions, we had the opportunity to listen to a sermon by one of our upcoming Keynote Speakers, Dave Harvey, on ambition and contentment. He wisely pointed out that discontentment often comes from comparisons to others. I am one of those people who find myself measuring myself against my own interpretation of success. And I do this in alot of areas of life, but one way I do it is with my running, a hobby I took up late in life. As a late-life runner, I can’t possibly compete with younger runners who can go farther and faster than myself, so how do I define success?

 John Stumbo, a keynote speaker from our Peacemaker Conference last year, wrote a powerful blog that helped me see a new definition of success. As some of you may know, shortly after the conference, John, an ultra-marathoner, was suddenly stricken with a muscle crippling disease that has left him very weak, more often in a wheelchair than walking. But as John faces this new challenge, like him, I want success to be defined not by how much I can do, but that the “spirit is more alive than the body” and that spirit is alive in Christ. Take the time to read his blog for yourself, and…applaud!

Satan loves conflict

Last week in our staff devotions, one staff member mentioned how he’d spoken to a number of pastors within the last few days whose churches were going through serious crisis. This led to a discussion of Satan hates to see unity within the body and so targets his attacks to undermine unity; church leaders seem to be especially vulnerable. The article Strike the Shepherd talks about precisely this subject — statistics showing how frequently our church leaders are under attack, and the high costs to our churches (both financial and spiritual) when they fall. 

The video below talks about the same thing, but from a somewhat different — and humorous — perspective … Note: this video is intended to be a parody, so please don’t take it too seriously!

Christlike Character in Relationships

Good thoughts today from Paul Tripp and Tim Lane (emphasis is mine):

If our relationships are going to produce Christlike character in us and if Christian community is going to flourish, it is going to take lots of human beings who naturally want position, power, and recognition being transformed into people who gladly throw off self-glory and self-love to be servants in the image of Jesus. This is what will turn average relationships into something glorious. Serving others is a simple way of consolidating all the Bible’s “one another” passages under one big idea. When we serve one another, we carry one another’s burdens in practical ways. We get our hands dirty as we come alongside people and pay attention to the details of their lives. If our professed commitment to Jesus does not lead us to resemble him in our actions, then we are mocking him and not representing him accurately to the world.

When you think about your relationships, how many of them ultimately revolve around making sure your concerns are heard and your self-defined “needs” are met?  Start with those you love the most. I am married and have four children, and most of the time I am committed to thinking about how they can make my life more fulfilling. I know this is true because of how easily I get irritated when I have to give up personal comfort to serve them. This is with people I say I love; I haven’t even begun to think about the difficult people. And let’s not even bring up our enemies!  Do you see this in yourself? This is the first step to becoming a servant. You have to see how much of a servant you aren’t before you can start to become one. That is the abiding irony of the Christian life. Up is down, life is death, power is found and expressed in serving.

Relationships: A Mess Worth Making, page 119.

Living in Christ

I can’t resist sharing a wonderful excerpt of a book that was recently posted on Boundless.  The author of a previous post has been asked what he meant by the statement, I can tell people my sins because my identity doesn’t hang on what they think of me.”

Doesn’t this hit right at the heart of what we do as peacemakers?  So much of reconciliation depends on being about to freely and truly confess our sins to God and to one another.

Here is the author’s response (which is an excerpt from a free e-book called Fight Clubs:Gospel-Centered Discipleship):

Living for Approval

When our identity is hung up on what people think of us, it becomes difficult to be honest with them. Some of us approach others from below, fearing their rejection or disapproval. In order to keep their approval intact, we refrain from allowing them to see the real, broken us. We may not lie to them (though we probably do), but we certainly don’t confess our sin to them. Why? Because we treasure their approval more than we treasure Christ. We are afraid that, if they know the real us, then they will disapprove. We lose face and friendship when we confess our sin.

Living for Applause

Others of us approach others from above, not fearing their rejection but expecting their applause. In order to keep their applause, we refrain from showing any weakness or sin. We want to be perceived as a mature Christian, a strong leader. Therefore, we do not share our sin and brokenness with others. Our identity is bound up with the applause and opinions of others. We tell white lies to keep them thinking we are mature, intelligent, etc. We say we have read a book, seen a movie, or know a person that we have not read, seen or known. We continue to build our identity, not only on the applause of others, but on what we “think” they will clap for. We get further and further from our true identity in Jesus.

Living in Christ

However, if we stake our identity in the acceptance of Jesus, this frees us to be honest about who we are, about our sin and failure. The more I rest in Jesus perfect death and resurrection for me, to make me right, loved, and accepted by the perfect Father, the less I need to appease or impress others. Chasing the approval and applause of others takes a backseat to the vastly superior love and acceptance of God in Christ. As a result, we share our real selves more. We confess sin more. Not haphazardly but earnestly. We call others to fight sin and treasure Christ. Our identity goes deeper into Christ and further away from what others think of us. this is freeing. This is the gospel.

This is powerful, freeing and life-giving stuff.  I pray that we will grow in our ability to live out of this freedom ourselves, as well as to powerfully apply the truth of who we are in Christ for those whom we serve as peacemakers.

Getting There is the Hardest Part

Guest post from Peacemaker Conference Manager Kerri Takeuchi…

The prospect of going on a road trip always brings excitement and anticipation for me. Friday was no exception. I had packed my bags, charged my iPod, and was ready to hit the road as soon as possible. 2:00pm was my leave time. My morning started out great with a skip in my step and a song in my heart. However, technology made my smile turn into a frown and my patience fly out the window. I was working on a project and the program kept kicking me out or freezing up so I continually had to close the program, restart, sign in, and redo what I had just done. It became very frustrating. At one point I sent up a quick prayer “God, please help me. Help me to be patient as there is nothing I can do. Calm me down.” I tried to resist throwing my computer down the hall. Finally at 2:04pm I finished my project, shut down my irritating piece of machinery and jumped in my car. A check I couldn’t cash, red lights at every point, and construction slowed down my long awaited trip out of town. I couldn’t wait to get on the freeway, roll down the window and breathe in the fresh air. I needed a stress release.

As I think about the theme “Church on a Journey” for our conference this road trip experience seems typical of life. Once I finally sat back to relax and reached my destination it was well worth it; it was the getting there that was the hardest part. Maybe you are experiencing this in your life. Maybe you see a glimpse of the better marriage down the road but the stress of raising children, balancing the ever-decreasing checkbook, and the irritating behaviors of your spouse make you want to give up now. Or maybe you see your church trying to live out the gospel of peace but right now the gossiping and the back biting and the cold stares cause you to feel hopeless. The journey is NOT always easy. It’s not always “a walk in the park.” You may know from experience that the end is worth it but right now that seems so far off when you are in the midst of it.

“Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen.” Psalm 77:19

This is a psalm about the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. The Israelites could not physically see God; they could not see his footprints. Their circumstances seemed impossible and daunting but God was still leading them though they could not see and their experience was not what they wanted. How often am I like the Israelites? Think about their complaining throughout the journey to the Promised Land. We give them grief but their circumstances weren’t like walking through a field of flowers. Instead they were thirsty without water in sight, hungry with no food, surrounded by enemies, walking endless miles, and living in less-than-ideal situations.

Maybe you’ve heard about the conference. You think in your head that it would be great to attend but, again, the circumstances seem too difficult. You may have lost your job, your investment, your savings, your budget, your hope. The state of our economy forces many of us to live in less-than-ideal circumstances. Coming to the Peacemaker conference seems to be an unattainable dream. Sure it would be beneficial but there are obstacles in your way – too many seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

However, like the Israelites, God asks you to see above your circumstances. He calls you, as his beloved child, to utter a quick prayer to him. “God, I can’t do this on my own. I ask you to help me.” We are called to approach the throne of grace with confidence and find help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16). Your circumstances may seem bleak but you have a Heavenly Father who has given you everything you need…not the least being his one and only Son for your sin so that you would have a reconciled relationship with him.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32  

Obviously we can’t provide everything you need but we would like to help. Use discount code: 2009BLOG for $75 off the conference price. Register now. Offer valid until Friday, August 14th. We pray that the Lord would provide the rest as you step out in faith and take the journey. Don’t you think it will be worth it?

The Paradox of Repentance

Chris Brauns shared a great quote over the weekend from Cornelius Platinga:

It’s hard to repent.  And while it’s hard enough to repent before a perfect God, it’s even harder to repent before an imperfect human being.  To admit that you have injured or neglected another person, then to go the person and say, “I’m sorry.  I’m ashamed.  Will you forgive me?”—to do this is mortifying.  It kills us to do it.  You need to be a big person to give it a serious try. That’s the paradox of repentance, says, C.S. Lewis.  Only a bad person needs to repent.  Only a good person can do it.  (Beyond Doubt: Faith-Building Devotions on Questions Christians Ask, 242).

Thanks, Chris!