At Least As Good As Before

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Being reconciled does not mean that the person who offended you must now become your closest friend. What it means is that your relationship will be at least as good as it was before the offense occurred. Once that happens, an even better relationship may develop. As God helps you and the other person work through your differences, you may discover a growing respect and appreciation for each other. Moreover, you may uncover common interests and goals that will add a deeper and richer dimension to your friendship.

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 219.

Food for Thought

When a relationship has been seriously damaged because one person violated another’s trust or deeply hurt the other person, how can that relationship be made “at least as good as it was before?”

The first step is to note that biblical reconciliation is not an effort by both parties to “make things exactly as they were before.” Clearly, things can never be the same again. However, for Christians, while the relationship will indeed be different on the other side of the offense, it can, by God’s grace, be “at least as good”–if not better.

While the repentance of the offending party is key in the reconciliation process, much of the “difference that makes better” does not come from the offending party’s repentance at all; in fact, it cannot. To look to the offending party for the fullness of reconciliation can only lead to grossly failed expectations at best and idolatry at worst (as we look for a person to do something that only God can do). Arguably, the most important move in reconciliation is when the offended party moves more deeply toward God and the cross of Christ.

When we, as offended parties, move toward the cross, our view of ourselves changes. Instead of seeing ourselves primarily as offended parties, we come to see ourselves as ones who have offended infinitely but been forgiven infinitely. Out of this identity, we find the resources to imitate God by offering rich and lavish forgiveness to those whose repentance (like ours to God) is weak, feeble, and woefully inadequate.

2012 Peacemaker Conference Details Now Available

Peacemaker Ministries is delighted to announce  that their 2012 Peacemaker Conference website is now available! Check out information on keynote speakers, conference schedule, hotel information and more. Visit www.peacemakerconference.net for all of the details. And stay tuned because there is more information coming…

 

Join us for the 2012 Peacemaker Conference
September 13-16, 2012
Denver, CO

Register before March 2nd for the best price!

 

 

Getting to the Heart of Conflict

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…

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE

Universal Idols

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“Dear children, keep yourselves from idols.” 1 John 5:21

Most of us think of an idol as a statue of wood, stone, or metal worshiped by pagan people. But the concept of idolatry is much broader and far more personal than that. An idol is anything apart from God that we depend on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure. In biblical terms, it is something other than God that we set our heart on … in short, it is something we love and pursue more than God (see Phil. 3:19). 

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 104

Food for Thought

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When was the last time you heard a pull-out-the-stops sermon on idols? How about a straight-up-tell-it-like-it-is book on personal idols? What about a conversation over coffee that kinda-sorta-talked about idols? Maybe every once in a while, but for the most part, we don’t like to talk about idols. As Ken reminds us, they are always something very personal.

The Food For Thought line above usually has a question of some sort to prompt reflection. This time it has nothing but question marks — four to be exact. Allow those four question marks to raise this question, “What are four things, besides God, that your heart is set on?” In other words, take time and identify four idols in your life. Not your spouse’s life, or your co-worker’s, or your neighbor’s. Your life. Your idols. What are you depending on to be happy, fulfilled, or secure?

 

Evil Has A Name

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“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like
a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)

Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts. As long as we see other people as our only adversaries and focus our attacks on them, we will give no thought to guarding against our most dangerous enemy. Both James and Peter were aware of this danger, and they warn us to actively resist Satan’s schemes (James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Paul gives a similar warning, reminding us that “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Eph. 6:12). 

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 50-51

Food for Thought

“There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about the devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an excessive and unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors and hail a materialist or a magician with the same delight.”
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Who is your most dangerous enemy?

Think about it for a moment. What would you say? Odds are that among both non-Christians and Christians, most of us would answer in terms of flesh and blood; in other words, someone or some group of people. But as Ken reminds us, that’s just not the case. Three scriptural authors — Peter, James and Paul — all echo the reality that our most dangerous enemy in this life is Satan.

There is an enemy out there and we’re basically oblivious to his schemes – we’re asleep at the wheel. We just keep on blaming each one another, a.k.a., flesh and blood, for everything that’s going on. Ken says it well: Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts.

If we have any intention of living as peacemakers, it’s imperative that we live with an awareness of our most dangerous enemy. Now it is true that most of our struggle comes through flesh and blood, but we’ve got to be self-controlled and alert, remembering that it’s not ultimately against flesh and blood that we battle.

Hope for Troubled Marriages

I have counseled many people who felt like their marriage had died and there was no point in going on. In response, I always remind them that we serve a God who resurrected His dead Son from the grave, and who promises to make that same resurrection power available to those who trust Him (Ephesians 1:18-20). Although many cases have still ended in divorce, I have personally witnessed God giving new life to countless marriages that seemed utterly beyond repair. So even if your marriage seems beyond repair, put your hope in God, depend on His grace, make every reasonable effort to reconcile, and trust God to work things out according to His plan. 

Although many things can cause divorce, hopelessness is often the factor that pushes people over the edge. They have often endured years of frustration and disappointment, hoping that things might somehow improve. Then one day something happens, and they just give up hope. “Why should I go on being miserable,” they say, “when there is no hope of things ever getting better?”

A hundred years ago, people stayed in hopeless marriages out of commitment, but today even among Christians commitment is often not sufficient to see them through tough times. Therefore, one of the most important steps in turning a divorce around is to rebuild hope as quickly as possible. Hope is like a transfusion for someone who has lost a great deal of blood: Unless this essential element is quickly restored, the patient (or the marriage) will die, and there will be nothing left to work on.

One way for hope to return to a marriage is by understanding what genuine confession looks like. For example, assume a wife has decided to leave her husband. When she told him of her plans, he was crushed. Trying to get her to change her mind, he said, “I know I haven’t been a very good husband. I’m really going to work hard to change. Please stay!”

The wife responded, “I’ve heard your promises before. You’ve said this again and again, but you never change. I’m not going to stay in a hopeless marriage the rest of my life.”

The husband’s bland confession indicates that he doesn’t have a clue as to how he needs to change. Empty promises and broad generalizations will not turn things around. The best way he can persuade her to give him another chance is to clearly demonstrate that he has truly come to grips with his sins and is earnest about making concrete changes to be the kind of husband God wants him to be.

This change in the husband will be neither simple nor painless. Through the prayerful application of God’s Word and the working of the Holy Spirit, the husband needs to see how his own selfish desires have ruled his heart and destroyed his marriage (see Matt. 15:19; Jas. 4:1-3). He needs to be truly broken before God. He needs to clearly identify his sinful desires and habit patterns—the self-centeredness, the idolatry, the pride—that contributed to the disintegration of their relationship. And he needs to do this without trying to diminish his guilt by focusing on all of the ways she contributed to their problems.

As he comes to grips with his own sin, he needs to plan how to confess them to his wife in a thorough and specific way. He should understand that the purpose of his confession is not to manipulate her or force her to come back. He needs to confess because he is guilty and God commands it, regardless of how his wife responds. One way to do this is to use what I call the “Seven A’s of Confession.”

If his heart has truly been broken before God, and if he has properly prepared, he will give a very different confession to his wife than he did before. Instead of the bland “I haven’t been a very good husband,” he will say, “Connie, I’ve sinned against God and you. I haven’t lived up to the standard He gives me. He says I’m supposed to love you as Christ loved the church. I haven’t even come close to that. I’ve loved myself and my own desires far more than I’ve loved you or God. I’ve made my job into an idol, and I gave myself to it. I’ve neglected you, and I’ve broken my word again and again. I have not kept my vows to you. I have left you with the whole burden of raising the kids because I’m too selfish to turn off the TV and help. I can understand why you are so hurt and disappointed and why you feel like you can never be happy with me. I have wronged you in so many ways…”

Time after time when the husband makes such a confession, the color comes back into the wife’s face. In many cases, the cold hopeless look is replaced by a softer expression. As she hears her husband’s words, the Holy Spirit uses them to put hope back into her heart. She begins to realize that something really is different and to believe that things might truly change. And she may be humbled herself and feel led to give her own heartfelt confession—the seeds of reconciliation may begin to grow.

As hope is rekindled, the disillusioned spouse will often be willing to postpone the divorce and to try to work out the problems that have plagued their marriage. This is seldom a quick process. The sinful desires and behavior patterns that led people to the point of divorce usually require weeks or months of counseling to understand and change. But at least they are moving in the right direction, and as God works through the church, most couples can experience a genuine reconciliation and steady improvement in their relationship.

Sometimes couples find it extremely difficult to work through the root causes of marital conflict alone. In these cases, it is appropriate to seek help from others. It is not a sign of weakness or failure—all of us struggle in relationships and need help from time to time. There are many skilled and qualified people in the body of Christ, and we should not hesitate to reach out to the church for assistance—whether it is a pastor, church leader, wise and trusted friend, or trained biblical counselor.

As you think about getting help with your marriage, consider these specific suggestions:

  • Seek counsel for yourself first – We all have blind spots and habits that are difficult to see and change. It may be that a neutral counselor can help you see your contributions to the problem more clearly and find ways to change.
  • Gently persuade your spouse to join you – Your spouse may be reluctant, but try to understand and appeal to his/her interests.
  • Choose the right counselor – Seek counseling from people who will offer you sound biblical advice and who are willing to say difficult but necessary things to you.
  • Follow these Keys to Counseling Success
    • Focus on your own responsibilities rather than your spouse’s.
    • Deal with the heart of your problems—not just the surface issues.
    • Remember the gospel of grace!
    • Ask for prayer support and accountability from your church.
    • Persevere—commit to keep working as long as it takes to overcome the problems that threaten your marriage.

Many times, involving others can relieve some of the burdens on your own shoulders and can help bring about change in both you and your spouse. But even if things do not go quite as you plan, remember that ultimately, you are responsible for what you do, not for what others do (Romans 12:18). Continually look to Jesus for your hope, follow what He commands, and leave the results to him.


This article is based on a portion of the chapter entitled, “Church Discipline: God’s Tool to Heal and Restore Marriages,” written by Ken Sande. This chapter is included in the book Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood (edited by Wayne Grudem and Dennis Rainey, Crossway Publishing, 2003).

 

R before I, except after T

Don BubnaLast fall Peacemaker Ministries lost one of the finest Board members we’ve ever had. Don Bubna pastored churches in the Christian & Missionary Alliance for forty years. After stepping down from the pulpit at sixty-four, he went on to be an adjunct seminary professor, a mentor to dozens of young pastors, and Pastor-at-Large for the C&MA. He often joked that his title simply meant that the police had not caught up with him yet.

Don joined our Board in 1997 and served us diligently for fourteen years, not only as a director but also as a chaplain to our staff, a fundraiser, a teacher and trainer, and a highly sought-after conciliator and consultant. Most importantly to me, he was a true friend and confidant, calling me regularly to learn what challenges I was facing, to offer encouragement, and, best of all, to pray with me.

Perhaps his greatest contribution to our Board and staff was frequently reminding us, “R before I, except after T.” This catchy little saying stands for “Relationships before issues, except after trust has been established.”

Don challenged us to apply this principle every time our Board met. He taught us to start our meetings by reading Scripture together and sharing transparently where we and our families were struggling, telling of the ways God was refining or comforting us, and joining together in prayer. Having reinforced our relationship in Christ, we entered into our business discussions with greater humility, sensitivity, and eagerness to listen to one another.

But that was just the beginning. “R before I” eventually penetrated every part of my life. When I was dealing with a tense management issue, I heard Don’s voice, “R before I.” If my wife or children frustrated me and I was about to go into lecture mode, there it was again, “R before I.” When I was mediating a volatile dispute … you guessed it, “R before I.” Even when teaching in Cairo or Beijing, I sought to share this wisdom. Don’s voice and example affected every corner of my life.

Whenever I listened to his voice, I was more successful at navigating difficult problems. I took time to pray for understanding, to listen to others’ perspectives, to ponder their feelings and needs, to affirm their value, and to do all I could to serve them and look out for their wellbeing.

In contrast, my biggest blunders, both personally and professionally, can all be traced to my failure to remember Don’s words. That happened recently, I’m ashamed to say. I was facing a difficult issue that would impact others deeply. At a time when I should have been especially sensitive to others’ concerns, I failed to invest nearly enough time and prayer seeking to understand the situation from their perspective and to engage them in a way that protected their interests and feelings, as well as our relationships. As a result, I deeply hurt people whom I dearly love.

God is slowly healing the wounds, but I keep asking myself, “Why, oh, why did I forget Don’s timeless counsel and example?” I know that he would not berate me, but would simply say, “Yes, you stumbled, Ken. Now get up and move on, never forgetting, R before I.”

Missionary Brings Peacemaking to Prisons in Chile

Don’t let Claudia Christen’s gender, diminutive size or Swiss-Israeli accent fool you. She is highly respected by the inmates of Colina II, one of Chile’s five most violent prisons. Having been abused by men in the past, this is the last place a 5’2” woman should want to be. But the opportunity to teach peacemaking there was too extraordinary to pass.

Claudia with a group of students from Colina II

Claudia with a group of students from Colina II

Since completing Peacemaker Ministries’ Conflict Coaching & Mediation course at our annual conference last September, Claudia graduated a group of Colina II men, as well as a class of ladies at the women’s prison. As she prepares for three new classes to start in March, she answered our questions about her latest peacemaking adventure.

What is the history of prison ministry in Chile, and how did you become involved?

“Prison Fellowship International has been working strongly in Chile since 1985. In March 2010, I got an email from the National Prison Chaplain asking if I could help them with some specific workshops. First I was pretty scared and had no idea if they would kill me in there! But while we were waiting for the governmental permissions to start the workshops, God was working in my heart. I can honestly say that I have enjoyed every day I’ve been working in prison so far.

I first started by teaching at the most dangerous women’s prison in the country. It’s such a joy and privilege to be allowed to enter a place where so few are allowed to enter, and share with our sisters and brothers in Christ who often suffer deeply. There’s a huge need for love, for someone who listens and cares; but they also need someone who lovingly points out where change is needed. It’s a true privilege to point them to our Lord and Savior!”

What advice do you have for people who want to teach peacemaking in prisons?

“After teaching peacemaking in two prisons, I realized that I needed to address the topic of anger. I also spend two sessions teaching on forgiveness, which can be a difficult topic to touch with them as there’s lots of opposition.

It takes time to do a course on peacemaking with inmates—at least 16-20 sessions (6 months). It’s important to make it practical, using their experiences from within prison and from their former lives. Give them time to talk, to analyze cases, and apply it to their own situations. Most of all, give them hope in Christ. Assure them that nothing is impossible for Christ, that he has already done everything for us, that he provides what we need, and that we are new creatures in him. It is possible to change and learn new ways to relate with each other.”

 In Claudia’s experience, peacemaking principles “know NO cultural boundaries”. When Peacemaker Ministries licensed her to translate Corlette Sande’s The Young Peacemaker into Spanish last year, we had no idea she’d use it to change the lives of convicts (for whom The Young Peacemaker had a more appropriate reading level). She uses this and other PM resources free of cost thanks to our generous financial supporters. Join us in praying for Claudia and her continued fruitful ministry in Chile.

The Indirect Approach (Football Style)

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“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be
as shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” Matt. 10:16

We should also note that Scripture provides numerous favorable examples of approaching others indirectly instead of bluntly describing their wrongs. Jesus did not directly confront the Samaritan woman at the well about living in adultery. Instead, he approached the issue indirectly by using questions and assessing her own life (John 4:1-18). Jesus frequently used parables and stories as roundabout ways to help people see their sins (see, e.g., Matt. 21:33-45; Luke 15)…As these and many similar passages indicate, we need to let go of the idea that showing someone his fault always requires direct confrontation. 

Taken from  The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 145

Food for Thought

What role does shrewdness play in your peacemaking?

For you football fans out there, you probably enjoyed the Super Bowl this past Sunday — an exciting ending to be sure. It is an exhilarating experience to watch a finely tuned football team play. The finesse and intricacy of some plays is simply beautiful (nice catch, wasn’t it?). And more importantly, effective. But compare that to the way most schoolyard football games are played — give the ball to the kid and he runs it straight up the middle. No grace here or shrewdness, this is just head-tucked-knees-high-full-steam-ahead-force. And sure, it can be pretty effective.

But sometimes this direct confrontation results in yardage gains measured in inches and a weary ball carrier. Possibly even an injured ball carrier. Would those phrases describe your peacemaking plays lately? Yardage in inches? Maybe even some yardage losses? A weariness that’s causing you to question even wanting to stay in the game? Or an injury to the heart that’s got you sidelined? OK, call a time out, catch your breath, and return to the field as innocent as a dove, but as shrewd as a snake. Stop making every peacemaking attempt a direct confrontation. Start being open to the Coach showing you ways of running plays that you’d never considered before. Wise up – the game is a full four quarters. Do not grow weary in doing good. Do not lose heart. Let go of the idea that showing someone his fault always requires direct confrontation. And hear the Coach say, “Well done!”

Reconciliation and Revival

In 1907 Canadian missionary Jonathan Goforth had already been praying many years for revival in China. He traveled from China to Korea, where he saw the aftermath of Korea’s revival. He was deeply impressed with what he saw, including the “burning zeal to make the merits of the Savior known.”

When Goforth returned home to China’s Henan Province, his accounts of the Korean revival inspired fellow missionaries and the Chinese alike. Crowds were riveted by his stories of hidden sins confessed, rivalries healed, and masses saved. Yet Goforth did not see revival in China until the Lord dealt with one lingering conflict. Goforth had felt convicted about the need to reconcile with a fellow missionary, but he hadn’t yet acted. He was sure he was in the right, and the other missionary had even apologized. But Goforth could not put the issue to rest, despite perceiving nearly audible commands from God. Finally, in the middle of a talk, Goforth silently resolved to reconcile. He was sure that God would not go with him on an upcoming tour of mission stations unless he made things right. This seemingly simple resolution brought immediate changes. Without telling anyone of this silent commitment, Goforth saw the crowd’s demeanor change. When people stood to pray, they began weeping instead and could not continue. Never before in twenty years in Henan had the missionaries seen such genuine penitence from the Chinese.

No one gushed over Goforth’s speaking skills, as if he could subliminally compel audience reactions. But crowds heeded his heartfelt, plain-spoken pleas for confession and repentance. They shared his confidence that the Holy Spirit would work. They followed his admonitions to pray, trust the Bible, and exalt Jesus.

from A God-Sized Vision: Revival Stories that Stretch and Stir (Collin Hansen & John Woodbridge, Zondervan 2010), pages 142-143