By Annette Friesen, Conciliation and Training Specialist at Peacemaker Ministries. Taken from our latest edition of Reconciled.
There are times when the opportunity to serve reminds us what it was like to first learn God’s peacemaking principles and the incredible power contained in them. A recent weekend experience was one of those times for me.
I had the privilege of leading a Peacemaker Seminar, but before I even arrived, I knew it might be just a bit different. I had been told that four “conflicted” sisters would be at the event—a conflict had erupted years ago that had been devastating to their family life and was severely damaging their collective witness to the cause of Christ. Yet they were all going to be at this seminar, willing to hear words of hope and see a practical, God-honoring path toward reconciliation.
As we began the teaching, to build a foundation for the peacemaking principles, we spent quite a bit of time unpacking the context of Matthew 18—examples of God’s great grace and mercy and ultimately unpacking the gospel and how it applies to our relationships (and our conflicts). I was reminded again how much people resonate with the truth of the God’s Word!
During a break, one of the sisters came up to me and said she thought her two sisters (who were at the center of the conflict) were ready to try to be reconciled. But they needed my help. Would I be willing to stay afterward to help them? Of course I agreed.
I finished the teaching, grateful for how God had worked. One woman told me she had been scared to come because the woman she was in conflict with was in the room. Yet after the first session, her heart was totally at peace and ready to hear what God had for her. She knew now what to do. Two other women—one African-American and one white—held an impromptu “reconciliation session” to heal over an offense between the two. Many more expressed their thanks.
But soon after the seminar was over, I was hustled off to a room to begin the sisters’ quickly-arranged mediation. After clarifying what we were doing, setting some basic ground-rules, and separating out the sisters not in conflict (they watched from the side), the two began to share.
Nearly three hours later, emotions were still running high as we moved toward making an apology. I was praying—I honestly didn’t know how this was going to end. Finally, with more hard work, we reached a point where they could begin to apologize to one another. One sister made a sincere apology, but the other struggled. That sister began by acknowledging what she had heard, but had trouble taking ownership of any specific wrongdoing. I asked gently if she believed she had done anything wrong, and she was honest in saying she struggled. With a little help, she was able to move on to a genuine apology.
It wasn’t until they made the Four Promises of Forgiveness to each other that the dam broke. With tears running down their faces, they both continued to confess and extend forgiveness, hugging one another. The two watching sisters hugged and cried, too, and then, unable to contain themselves, rushed across the room for a group hug. This went on for about five minutes while I slowly packed up, gratitude flooding my heart for God allowing me to witness His precious and beautiful work of reconciliation in the lives of those women that day.
The next day, I was approached by oldest sister, who said that after the mediation their evening together was precious and just like old times. She simply couldn’t thank me enough.
So whether you are someone who helps others in conflict or someone who could use some help, let this story be an encouragement to you. God’s Word is powerful—it penetrates the heart, “opens blind eyes” and brings about reconciliation. And it’s a joy and privilege when you get to see it happen in right in front of you