No Right of Refusal

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If you are struggling with unforgiveness, take another look at the enormous debt for which God has forgiven you. Turning to the Bible and reminding yourself of God’s holiness will help you see more clearly the seriousness of even your smallest sin (see Isa. 6:1-5; James 2:10-11). Make a list of some of the sins for which God has forgiven you. In particular, ask yourself whether you have ever treated God or others the same way you have been treated by the person you are trying to forgive. Take a long look at this list and remind yourself what you deserve from God because of your sins. Then rejoice in the wonderful promise of Psalm 103:8-11: “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love…. He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him.”

The more you understand and appreciate the wonders of God’s forgiveness, the more motivation you will have to forgive others.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217

Food for Thought

I remember when I read this part of Ken’s book for the first time, having spent years refusing to forgive an individual who had wronged me. I had rationalized my refusal by telling myself that since he hadn’t asked, I wasn’t obligated to have an attitude of forgiveness. I had decided to wait for this person to ask me for forgiveness, and had planned how much he would have to suffer in my process of forgiveness. I doubt I’m alone in thinking this way. But then I was convicted. I was reminded that Jesus went to the cross to forgive my sins long before I ever acknowledged those sins and sought forgiveness. Who was I to withhold forgiveness, as much as it depends on me, in light of this realization?

I took Ken’s challenge that very day and began to make a list of some of the sins for which God had forgiven me. I didn’t have to think back more than a few days to have a sizeable list. Looking at my list, I recognized immediately the enormous debt God had paid on my behalf, and that I was in no position to refuse that same forgiveness to anybody else.

Are you withholding forgiveness from somebody today? Perhaps it’s time for you to accept the same challenge from Ken. Take a few minutes and write down some of the sins for which you’ve been forgiven. Then write down the sins this other person has perpetuated against you. How do the lists compare? Do you recognize the enormity of the mercy you have been shown? It is only when we first meditate on how much we have been forgiven that we can even begin to follow the exhortation to “forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Col. 3:13b).

When Love Leads

We wanted to share this beautiful video from The Austin Stone’s stories series that gives us a glimpse of one couple’s marriage and forgiveness and redemption:

When Love Leads from The Austin Stone on Vimeo.

David and Marlena, on the brink of divorce, discover where true Love and satisfaction are found in this story of redemption and forgiveness.

To view more stories visit: http://austinstone.org/stories

Ask, Seek, Knock… And Knock Again

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If a brother sins against you, go and show him his fault,
just between the two of you. Matthew 18:15

Be prepared for the fact that your first meeting may not be successful. Since the other person may doubt your sincerity or may not be accustomed to dealing with differences in such a direct and honest way, your initial attempt at reconciliation may do nothing more than plant seeds that you will need to cultivate in following days. The Greek verb used for “go” in Matthew 18:15 implies a continual action.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 157.
 

Food for Thought

How often do you give up after only one try?

Her name was Carol. She had been hospitalized for almost a month when the young chaplain knocked on her door. He entered the room and greeted her warmly; however, the temperature in return was nothing but cool. He tried again to initiate deep, spiritual, peacemaking conversation but she would have none of it. Direct eye contact and putting his best foot forward was going nowhere fast; after a few more one-sided questions, he promised to return tomorrow and check on her. She said, “I hope I’m gone by then.”

Unfortunately, the same scenario played itself out the next time he visited Carol and the next time and the next time and the next. But he kept on knocking. And then one day, in the fullness of time, he knocked on her door, announced “it’s the chaplain” and she said, “Please come in.” He found her previously hardened face now softened by tears. She talked, wept, and his visit lasted almost an hour. She seemed peace-full when he left. During the three months of her stay, there were numerous visits after that, sometimes talking and other days just playing cards. But the young chaplain learned a valuable lesson in walking with Carol in her illness: your initial attempt at reconciliation may do nothing more than plant seeds that you will need to cultivate in the following days. In peacemaking, it’s not three strikes and you’re out — no, it may be six knocks and you’re finally in. Keep on knocking.

Scabs and Scars

Welcome back to another installment of our “Remarkably Different” series as we look forward to our 2013 Peacemaker Conference in Columbus, OH this September. This time we are sharing a message written by Advanced Training instructor Judy Dabler. Judy Dabler has taught Reconciling Marital Conflict and workshops at Pre-Conference and Conference in the past and will be joining us again this year. 

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Everyone who comes to the Peacemaker Ministries conference has either scabs or scars. Conflict has touched everyone’s lives, and we are all in the process of healing from it. For some of us, our scabs are raw and the injury is painful… divorce papers have been served, our home church has lost half of its members because of a dispute over bylaws, or a close friend has betrayed their commitment to love us. A scab covers a throbbing wound.

For others of us, the years have gone by and the wounds have lost their pain, but evidence of the injury remains… broken relationships never to heal on this side of heaven, lingering fears over bullying experienced at school or in the workplace, or an aching desire for a sorrow-free eternity. The scars might be nearly invisible, or they might be disfiguring.

Either way, scabs or scars, the Peacemaker Ministries Annual Conference holds something for you. The workshops are given by wounded peacemakers who offer comfort and encouragement, the plenaries inspire us to pursue peacemaking as an act of war against our one shared enemy, and the worship sessions lead us into a deeper communion with our Prince of Peace. For those who are ready to join the army of peacemakers, or who have already joined and desire deeper equipping for the battle, come early for the pre-conference training events.

After years of teaching at this conference and seeing people with scabs and scars changed, I cannot recommend this conference enough. I hope you will consider joining me in Columbus this year.

Let It Begin With Me

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All it takes is one person who hears the call of God and responds, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8). Perhaps for your church, that person is you. Please pray about it and reflect on the Scriptures given above. Ask God to give you a longing to see a culture of peace in your church that reflects the love and power of his Son. If he gives you that longing, hard work awaits you, but great blessing is also in store, for Jesus’ promise in Matthew 5:9 is absolutely dependable:

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.”

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande,
Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 297

Food for Thought

It just takes one.

There is a theory in the study of family systems that says if just one person begins to change, then the family changes. For example, if a passive son begins to be more assertive in his decisions and behavior, then the whole family changes. They may look the same, drive the same old Honda, and still play Monopoly every Saturday night. But since he changed, the family is no longer the same. And the courage of one member to change often inspires others to change as well.

So who will begin to change your church’s culture to one of peacemaking? Ken writes: “Perhaps…that person is you.” What? Me? Surely not! I mean, doesn’t that need to come through the pastor or the elders or the deacons or the Sunday school teachers? I’m just one person.

Exactly! That’s where change begins–always has, always will. It begins with the man or woman in the mirror. If you begin to practice biblical peacemaking in your church, your church will change. It may keep the same street address, sing the same hymns, and keep the steel-blue pew cushions, but it will be different. It all begins with the courage of one with the power of One.

The Glory of Overlooking an Offense

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Overlooking offenses is appropriate under two conditions. First, the offense should not have created a wall between you and the other person or caused you to feel different toward him or her for more than a short period of time. Second, the offense should not be causing serious harm to God’s reputation, to others, or to the offender.

Overlooking is not a passive process in which you simply remain silent for the moment but file away the offense for later use against someone. That is actually a form of denial that can easily lead to brooding over the offense and building up internal bitterness and resentment that will eventually explode in anger. Instead, overlooking is an active process that is inspired by God’s mercy through the gospel. To truly overlook an offense means to deliberately decide not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness. If you cannot let go of an offense in this way, if it is too serious to overlook, or if it continues as part of a pattern in the other person’s life, then you will need to go and talk to the other person about it in a loving and constructive manner.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 83.
 

Food for Thought

 

Overlooking an offense is deeper than we like to believe. It is so much more than giving lip service because it seems the right thing to do. It is truly a heart issue. In a society where letting people off the hook is seen as a weakness, we have great opportunity to show God’s love and forgiveness in the midst of our conflicts. Ken provides excellent criteria to help decide if it is appropriate to overlook an offense. In light of God’s mercy, is there an offense you can truly overlook today?

Proverbs 19:11 says “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense.” The first step to resolving a conflict is to think seriously about whether it is appropriate to overlook an offense. If it is, then put the matter to rest and commit, with God’s help, not to dwell on the issue. If not, then it is appropriate to go to your brother and discuss it between the two of you.

Forgiveness: A Costly Activity

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“Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” Matt. 6:12

Forgiveness can be a costly activity. When someone sins, they create a debt, and someone must pay it. Most of this debt is owed to God. In his great mercy, he sent his Son to pay the debt on the cross for all who would trust in him (Isa. 53:4-6; I Peter 2:24-25, Col. 1:19-20).

But if someone sinned against you, part of their debt is also owed to you. This means you have a choice to make. You can either take payments on the debt or make payments.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 207

 

Food for Thought

 

What thoughts or feelings does the word debt stir in you?

There’s a phrase of the Lord’s Prayer that you may not hear much anymore: “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” You usually hear “forgive us our sins” or “forgive us our trespasses“; both are correct in translation and meaning. But many have gotten away from this word debt. Ever wonder why?

The words we choose to use say much about us. Words are vehicles for meaning. Ponder this for a moment. Maybe, just maybe, using the word sin or trespass helps up to keep this phrase at arm’s length. Trespass is so old fashioned, we can say it and just keep on moving. It’s not a word we use everyday, so we just recite it, robot-like, and go to the next phrase. Sin is this big category that contains so many thoughts and feelings that it’s almost overwhelming, so much so that we say it and then stick our heads in the ground, hoping it will go away. And keeping this phrase at arm’s length unfortunately keeps our hearts at arm’s length from God and others.

But debt — now that means something. We’re free of debt, we’re trying to get out of debt, or maybe we’re deep in debt. Using that word forces us to remember, as Ken writes, that forgiveness is a costly activity. Now that has specificity to it — someone or something has to pay. As a human being, you and I can decide to either take payments or make payments on the debt that comes from someone sinning against us. If we’re interested in being a peacemaker, well, then the choice is made — make the payment in light of the payment He made for your debt, pray the prayer, and live the life as He taught us — as we forgive our debtors.