A Proof Text for Polite Revenge

We often say that loving your enemy sounds fine until you have an enemy. As I came across this article from Ed Welch at CCEF, “Heaping Burning Coals on Your Enemy”, I liked how he described Romans 12:20 as a “proof text for polite revenge”. What in the world does it mean to heap burning coals on one’s enemy’s head. Surely that’s not a good thing, right? Here’s a bit of what Dr. Welch says:

The gospel is about enemies—that is, us—who have been overcome through powerful, pursuing love until we laid down our weapons. We are, in turn, to look for opportunities to overcome our enemies using similar strategies. When possible, we engage in guerilla warfare that takes enemies by surprise, as we were taken by surprise by God’s tender mercies.

Then we come to the burning coals’ imagery. Apparently, coals might start falling on an enemy’s head when we use battle strategies that are the opposite of what the enemy expects. No doubt, burning coals will get a person’s attention. They might even arouse a dormant conscience, and an awakened conscience is a step toward repentance and faith. There is nothing shocking about retaliation and revenge. Everyone does that. We aim for the unexpected.

Read the whole thing.

The Gospel: “La Clave” of Biblical Peacemaking

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Through the gospel, the foundational G, the Lord enables us to live out the Four G’s of peacemaking. As we stand in awe of his matchless grace, we find more joy in glorifying God than in pursuing our own selfish ends. When we realize that God has mercy on those who confess their sins, our defensiveness lifts and we are able to admit our wrongs. As we accept and benefit from the way the gospel lovingly shows us our sin, we are inspired to gently correct and restore others who have done wrong. And as we rejoice in the liberating forgiveness of God, we are empowered to go and forgive others in the same way. Through the gospel, God provides both the model and motivation for peacemaking! 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 13-14

Food for Thought

From The University of Salsa comes the following definition of clave: “Clave rhythm is the basis of Afro-Latin musical styles and is considered the key, the identity, the root, and the ‘soul’ of the music. It is the temporal key, the main organizing principle, to which every element of arrangement and improvisation in the music must be aligned. The clave rhythm pattern (‘La Clave’ in Spanish) is therefore embedded in all parts of a piece, from vocals to violins, whether the instrument…is actually played, or not (‘implied clave’). Clave is the primary rule and the chief factor that defines all the music called ‘Salsa.’ Most musically connected, authentic, or culturally/traditionally trained dancers use the clave rhythm as a focus or “metronome” in salsa music to stay in time to the foundation and ‘soul’ of the music, allowing for a natural appearance and rhythmic, free expression of the music.”

When biblical peacemaking is practiced by someone who has not drunk deeply and personally (and recently) of the grace of God, the result is a “chalky aftertaste” for everyone involved. It’s like salsa dancing with someone who went to a class and learned all the steps but who doesn’t feel “la clave”. The key to successful peacemaking isn’t certification through Peacemaker Ministries; it’s having your heart pierced regularly by “la clave” of the gospel.

Practice Makes Peacemakers

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Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine
and puts them into practice is like a wise man… Matt. 7:24

As Paul warned the Philippians, we cannot change unless we put what we are learning into practice (Phil. 4:9). In other letters, he used athletic metaphors to teach that godly character qualities must be developed through disciplined practice in which we seek to overcome our weaknesses, master the proper techniques, and make a desired behavior natural and automatic (1 Cor. 9:24-27; Phil. 3:14; 2 Peter 1:4-8). As we have seen, conflict provides excellent opportunities for such practice. When an argument develops, give close attention to controlling your tongue. When your desires clash with another’s, recall Jesus’ example and willingly submit. Or, if you have been offended, ask God to help you resist resentment and forgive as he has forgiven you. With God’s help and faithful practice, you can develop a Christ-like character, which will demonstrate your repentance and enable you to enjoy the benefits of peace.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 135

Food for Thought

Can you imagine what would happen in a game if a football team never practiced? Players would run wild, unsure of where they were supposed to be and what they were supposed to do. It would be a comedy of errors, with each player relying on his own instincts to try to succeed, but failing miserably.

Is that an apt description of what happens when you get into a conflict situation? A comedy of errors? Relying on your instincts? Failing miserably? As Ken notes, maybe you could use some disciplined practice.

The professional football season is now coming to a climax, but the hard work for today’s best teams began long ago. Champions were forged during the long hot days of summer, practicing in their training camps. They took what was written in their playbooks and worked it out on the practice field, even though their first real game would not be played for weeks. Yet the work they put in paid off later in those critical moments — with their techniques mastered, doing the right thing had become second nature.

If only Christians put that kind of disciplined effort into developing our own characters. Let us learn the “playbook” of God’s word and put it into practice in our own relationships and churches, so that when conflicts come, we’ll be ready, and our natural response will be to do the right thing — exactly what God desires.

What kind of extremists will we be?

But though I was initially disappointed at being categorized as an extremist, as I continued to think about the matter I gradually gained a measure of satisfaction from the label. Was not Jesus an extremist for love: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” Was not Amos an extremist for justice: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” Was not Paul an extremist for the Christian gospel: “I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” Was not Martin Luther an extremist: “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise, so help me God.” And John Bunyan: “I will stay in jail to the end of my days before I make a butchery of my conscience.” And Abraham Lincoln: “This nation cannot survive half slave and half free.” And Thomas Jefferson: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal …” So the question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Letter from Birmingham Jail


How to Disagree Online without Being a Jerk

I liked this short article by Stephen Altrogge. It seems like a lot of common sense, but too often, we Christians seem to forget these things when we go online. I like how he introduced the problem:

It can start off very innocently, with two Christians on Facebook debating the relative merits of Calvinism. But after several comments, the innocence is usually gone, and is replaced with comments like, “I can’t believe that you would believe in such a stupid thing like free will! Have you ever heard of the Bible? You should try to read it sometime.” If it keeps going, someone will inevitably say something along the lines of, “I suppose you think Adolf Hitler didn’t have free will either!” At that point, the conversation is officially dead in the water.

We’ve all seen that one, haven’t we? Please read the whole piece, but here are his 4 things to remember:

  1. Remember That Your Opponent Is Created In the Image of God
  2. Remember That Your Opponent Is Your Fellow Brother Or Sister
  3. Don’t Say Anything You Wouldn’t Be Comfortable Saying To Their Face
  4. Ask Forgiveness Quickly  

What else would you add? I think I’d say to be careful, since the Internet doesn’t forget (easily)–what you say may seem fleeting and off-the-cuff to you, but it may just stick around as a public record for many years.


Don’t Drop Your Weapons!

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Paul also understood that God has given us divine weapons to use in our quest for peace. These weapons include Scripture, prayer, truth, righteousness, the gospel, faith, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control (Eph. 6:10-18; Gal. 5:22-23). To many people, these resources and qualities seem feeble and useless when dealing with “real” problems. Yet these are the very weapons Jesus used to defeat Satan and to conquer the world (e.g., Matt. 4:1-11; 11:28-30; John 14:15-17). Since Jesus chose to use these weapons instead of resorting to worldly weapons, we should do the same.

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 248

Food for Thought

What weapons do you tend to use when you are in a conflict?

When we finally decide to reconcile with an enemy, we sometimes approach them with an attitude of “dropping our weapons”. But Jesus never calls us to be unarmed or passive among our enemies. To the contrary, he calls us to lay down our ineffective worldly weapons (like defensiveness, anger, self-justification, and gossip) in order to take up the truly heavy artillery (like love, peace, patience, kindness, and self-control). Take time today to read Romans 12:14-21 and resolve to take up again the weapons for which the Lord sacrificed so much to equip you.

The Right Kind of Friends

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As Paul says, it is difficult to battle evil alone (Rom. 12:15-16). This is why it is important to develop relationships with people who will encourage you and give you biblically sound advice. These friends should also be willing to correct and admonish you when they see that you are in the wrong (Prov. 27:5-6).

Godly advisors are especially helpful when you are involved in a difficult conflict and are not seeing the results you desire. If a lack of noticeable progress causes you to doubt the biblical principles you are following, you may be tempted to abandon God’s ways and to resort to the world’s tactics. One of the best ways to avoid straying from the Lord is to surround yourself with wise and spiritually mature people who will encourage you to stay on a biblical course, even when the going is tough.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 250

Food for Thought

Some time ago, I was miserably slogging my way through a painful conflict. I knew all of the biblical peacemaking principles by heart–but here I was having to live them out after having been terribly hurt by someone. During that time, I wanted to surround myself with “yes men” who would pat me on the shoulder, tell me how “wrong” and “mean” the other person was, and basically just feed my idols, unbelief, and selfishness.

Thank God that instead, he sent me godly and wise advisors who loved me enough to tell me the truth:

“Tara, you are focusing on yourself, your circumstance and the other person. Of course you will only despair! Look to the Cross! Remember Christ! Fix your eyes on eternity!”

“Dear one, we are praying against anything or anyone that would enable you to get out of this situation.” (I wanted to run far, far away–both figuratively and literally!) “Instead, we are praying for the grace for you to persevere in love. How can we help?”

“It’s OK that you don’t have any faith right now, Tara. Take comfort in the Lord and his Body. I’ll believe for you. Trust in him. Let me serve you. Let’s go to the Lord in prayer.”

Even though my heart cried out, “No!”, I knew they were right. I am so grateful for these godly advisors.

So the next time you are facing a conflict or broken relationship, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I surrounding myself with people who only tell me what I want to hear? Or do I have true friends, wise and godly advisors, who love me enough to tell me the truth?
  • Are my “friends” just placating my complaining and whining? Or are they leading me in repentance, confession, and faith?
  • What kind of advisor am I? Do I bring others the hope of the gospel and the practical help of biblical peacemaking?

— Tara Barthel (Billings, MT) is a former attorney and the author of our Women’s Study.
She currently serves her family as a homemaker while regularly speaking at
women’s events and blogging on God’s considerable grace.

Our theme for 2012

We just finished a brief prayer meeting to kick off the new year as a staff. The verse we focused on (which also happens to be the theme verse for our Peacemaker Conference this year) was Romans 15:5-6:

“May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

What a great summary of our calling here at Peacemaker Ministries (and for all of you in your families, churches, and communities)! Let’s glorify God together in this new year.