Grace for the Difficult Assignments

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When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what you might 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.” We never actually say or think these exact words, but if we’re honest we can often catch ourselves resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that our sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, we can divert attention from ourselves and avoid repentance and confession.

Confession is hard. But God gives us the grace for even the most difficult assignments.

Adapted 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

Take a few minutes to read Romans 5:1-11. This may be a familiar passage for you, but as you read it, think about the implications of Paul’s words for you in the context of a conflict. Focus specifically on how this passage might shape a confession you need to make.

“A Greater Miracle Than the Parting of the Red Sea”

This is a cross-post by Jerry Wall from the Peacemaker Support Blog, Making Peace

A peacemaking team recently had a chance to see God do a powerful work of reconciliation in a family. A couple in the church had become completely estranged from the husband’s sister. Hurts that went back many years were compounded by fresh hurts and sinful words recently. The relationship had completely broken down.

But everyone wanted to be reconciled: they just needed help…and asked their church’s peacemaking team for a mediation. To make a long story short, God did an amazing work in everyone’s heart. The power of the Gospel transformed their relationship: they repented and confessed, asking for and receiving one another’s forgiveness.

But the mediators were concerned about “buyer’s regret” once the initial emotions had subsided. So they sent the following email (names are omitted):

Hi [Husband] and [Wife]!

I hope you’re doing well. I’ve been thinking lately about you guys and [Party B] and thought I’d check in.

It’s been month today since our mediation. How do you feel like it’s been going? I know reconciliation in personal relationships takes time. I’ve not spoken to [Party B] since that Saturday, but just sent her essentially the same email you’re getting right now.

More than anything, just keep working on trusting God through all this, in the knowledge and joy of the forgiveness that’s yours in Christ.

If there’s any way we can help, I’d be glad to talk.

Praying still for you,
[your mediators from the church peacemaking team]

Minutes later, they received this reply from the husband:

[Team member],
Since you haven’t known all of us for years I don’t know if you realize the magnitude of the miraculous changes in stone hearts to flesh that took place (probably mine the most).

I know you could see some change [at the mediation] but probably did not know that what was happening was a greater miracle than the parting of the Red Sea. I know my heart and that of my wife, this is NOT an exaggeration.

Thank you and [the other team member] so much for your time and effort, you participated in a mighty and gentle work of Almighty God.

[Husband]
By the way it’s been going great.

To find out more about Peacemaking Teams, check out their blog and the page on our website that describes what they do.

Return to Ethiopia

From our VP of Global Ministry, Chip Zimmer

View from HotelIn February I returned to Ethiopia after an absence of nearly ten years.  In a way, it was a homecoming, for it was while working at the U.S. Embassy in Addis Ababa in 2000 that I decided to leave the Foreign Service and join Peacemaker Ministries.

It was not an easy decision and I labored over it for months.  Then, one morning in early December that year, the decision crystallized.  I sat in my office looking over the morning newspapers.  The previous day, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister and Eritrea’s President had signed a treaty formally ending their brutal 2-year border war.  Among many of the Ethiopians I knew there was a strong expectation that the two leaders would reconcile and that political and economic relations would return to normal.

But, it was not to be.  “Peace, But No Reconciliation,” one headline read.  The accompanying story described a scenario in which the P.M. and President had barely acknowledged each other.  There would be no normalization, at least not yet.  I shared the disappointment that my Ethiopians friends felt.  But, while the spotlight was on the two leaders and on their intertwined history, my thoughts turned to the church.

Ethiopia is about two-thirds Christian.  The Ethiopian Orthodox Church was established around 400 A.D. and the evangelical church is growing rapidly.  Of all the groups that should be speaking about reconciliation, I thought, it had to be the Christian community.  After all, our faith is founded on the grace and peace of Jesus Christ.  Scripture is full of instructions regarding how we should treat our enemies.  History has many examples of brave Christians who have acted as peacemakers and reconcilers.  But, as far as I could tell, the church was silent.

For me it was a defining moment.  In ten years as a diplomat I had learned that there is much that can be accomplished through gentle and, sometimes, not so gentle persuasion.  But, diplomacy seldom reaches the human heart and it is at the heart level that the battle for peace and reconciliation is won or lost.  In a moment, I knew that my direction needed to change, that I needed to work at that deep level where lasting transformation occurs.  I resigned from the State Department and we moved to Billings a few months later to begin work with Peacemaker Ministries.

July 2011 Ethiopia Trip - ECLFWhen I returned to Ethiopia earlier this year it was to help a group of lawyers establish a Christian Alternative Dispute Resolution Center.  Their invitation brought me full circle.  Where the church had been silent previously, it now spoke through the 50 to 60 lawyers, pastors and other leaders who took part in peacemaking training.  Their goal, they told me, is to transform the way Christians deal with conflict in Ethiopia.  I pray that God works in and through them to bring his peace to this ancient land.

More Than Words

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The tongue has the power of life and death… Proverbs 18:21

Words play a key role in almost every conflict. When used properly, words promote understanding and encourage agreement. When misused, they usually aggravate conflicts and drive people further apart. If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict 
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 162

Food for Thought

The power of life and death is at the tips of our tongues.

Words play a key role in almost every conflict. Other factors come into play, but Ken reminds us of one that’s almost always there–words. Words often get a conflict started and just as often, it’s words that keep it going. But with God’s help, words can also bring resolution, closure, and peace to a conflict.

In Luke 9, we’re told the story of an argument that got started between, of all people, the disciples. The reason? They were conflicted over who would be the greatest in the group. We can only imagine what kinds of words were exchanged between these closest to Christ. But Jesus could read the moment and their hearts. So he took a child and spoke words: For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest. Jesus gives us an example of the proper use of words to bring understanding… and peace. He desires us to follow His lead and He promises his ever-abiding presence to guide us in choosing our words wisely.

Lessons from “The Help”

Over at the Her.meneutics blog, Natasha Robinson offers some good insight as to what the church would need to do in order to see racial reconciliation. While her post is meant to be a type of review of the new film “The Help,” I found in it a very astute understanding of what reconciliation of human relationships (not just the ones broken from racial bigotry) looks like and what we need to do to achieve it.

Here’s one of my favorite paragraphs:

“That’s what I loved about The Help. It sends a powerful message that reconciliation does not happen primarily through speeches, books, diversity initiatives, or training and it should send a clear message to the church that reconciliation cannot happen with programs, goals, “special” services, and activities. Reconciliation is the result of intentionally building intimate relationships, one day at a time, with one person at a time.”

Read the whole thing.

Minimized, But Still There

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If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves

and the truth is not in us.
1 John 1:8

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.”

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

Regardless of how you look at it, there’s nothing small about sin.

Think about it this way: on your computer, depending on the operating system you use, there are probably several little boxes at the bottom of your screen. They exist down there because they’ve been minimized — they were the primary window, but in order to give attention to something else, they were minimized and they’ll be returned to later. They are out of sight, but they’re still there — with all the nouns and all the verbs, all the email messages, and all the stuff to buy.

Ken wisely shows us that we do the same thing with sin. Sin may be the primary thing going on in our lives at the time, but in order to keep life going or give attention to something else, we minimize the wrongdoing and tuck it away, somewhere in the margins of our hearts. However, it’s still there. In all of its ugliness, in all of its selfishness, in all of its rebellion… Instead of minimizing our sin, it’s best to leave it in the forefront and then fully confess it to a faithful Father, who will remove it as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). And that’s a whole lot better than just sending it to the recycle bin!

Friends at Work in Guatemala

The Charlotte Observer wrote this piece about a mission trip some friends of Peacemaker Ministries took to teach Peacemaking to an actively serving church in Guatemala. It’s a pretty awesome look into the work God is doing through Castillo Fuerte:

Most mission trips are about helping communities with building projects, providing medical help or sharing a faith.

The mission trip five Hickory residents experienced June 24-July 3 was a bit different. Pastor Brandon Martin of St. Stephens Lutheran Church, Bob Rinehart, Nancy Thomas, Mark Dickerson and Erica Frye went to Guatemala to find out how the church Castillo Fuerte (“Mighty Fortress” in Spanish) is doing such an exemplary job of training youths to be service oriented.

About 25 of Castillo Fuerte’s approximately 40 young people age 12-24 travel many Saturdays to Amatitlan, a poverty-stricken Guatemalan town, to assist in the establishment of a new church. All regularly participate in Castillo Fuerte’s home church activities as well.

Read the rest.

A Testimony of God’s Moving at Quail Springs

Here’s a video testimony from the leaders at Quail Springs Church talking about the conflict in their church and how God moved to unify the church through the work of some committed peacemakers. For a bit more background on the story, I recommend reading this article from that Fred wrote a while back.

Conflict and Reconciliation in the Church: The Quail Springs Story from Peacemaker Ministries on Vimeo.

The story of a church that faced a deep conflict and pursued reconciliation.

 

Hard to Say You’re Sorry?

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Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation
and leaves no regret… 
2 Corinthians 7:10

If you want someone to respond positively to a confession, make it a point to acknowledge and express sorrow for how you have hurt or afflicted them. Your goal is to show that you understand how the other person felt as a result of your words or actions. Here are a few examples of how this can be done:

“You must have been terribly embarrassed when I said those things in front of everyone. I’m very sorry I did that to you.”

“I can see why you were frustrated when I didn’t deliver the parts on time. I’m sorry I failed to keep my commitment to you.”

Adapted from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 130.

Food for Thought

How easily do you say, “I’m sorry”?

There was a pop song back in the 80’s that got a lot of radio play; the title was Hard for Me to Say I’m Sorry. The lyrics accurately named the tension of “I really want to say it, but it’s really hard for me to do it.” Does that tension feel familiar? Yeah, me too.

My, how quickly we forget. We forget how incredibly powerful those two little words are — “I’m sorry.” They can defuse a tense situation in a heartbeat. When we honestly express sorrow for what we’ve done, we’re taking the initiative to level things. Rather than looking down our nose at someone, we look him square in the eyes. And it is there, on that face-to-face level, where words like “confession” and “forgiveness” really mean something.

A life lived without regret is a tall order. But being able to say, “I’m sorry” — as hard as it is — is a step in the right direction. So move beyond just wanting to say you are sorry and actually do it.