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Be imitators of God… Ephesians 5:1

God may even call you to give up a right that would be morally and legally justified. One way to imitate his mercy is to show sympathy, kindness, and compassion toward someone who is in need of help, even if he does not deserve it…One way to do this is to refrain from exercising legitimate rights and thus release others from their obligations…The Bible is filled with examples of this kind of mercy that leads to a willing relinquishment of rights.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 93

Food for Thought

 

The goal is to imitate God, not some interpretation of God. It’s the difference between being an imitator and an imitation.

I’m not a preacher. I don’t know the Bible very well. What can I possibly do to spread peace in the world for Jesus’ sake?

Ken reminds us of the answer that’s always right — imitate God. And a specific way of doing that is to show sympathy, kindness, and compassion to someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Well, OK, but shouldn’t I go to South America as a missionary or take online Bible classes or get involved in a small group study on the gospel of John?

Sure — all those things are great things if that’s what God is leading you to do. But be careful.

We must stay alert to the fact that the deceiver would like us to frame “peacemaking for Jesus’ sake” in terms of missionary service or some formal role in a church. It is quite likely that the greatest impact we can have for the Kingdom of God is to show sympathy, kindness, and compassion on a daily basis to those closest to us — our spouse, kids, family, friends, and co-workers. Extending God’s mercy to the undeserving people around us finds us being imitators of God, the gracious Father who extended mercy to us when we didn’t deserve it.

Is There Someone You’re Trying to Change?

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Whenever you are trying to show someone his fault, remember that there are limits to what you can accomplish. You can raise concerns, suggest solutions, and encourage reasonable thinking, but you cannot force change. God may use you as a spokesperson to bring certain issues to the attention of another person, but only God can penetrate the other person’s heart and bring about repentance. Paul clearly describes this division of labor in 2 Timothy 2:24-26: “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful. Those who oppose him he must gently instruct, in the hope that God will grant them repentance leading them to a knowledge of the truth, and that they will come to their senses and escape the trap of the devil, who has taken them captive to do his will” (emphasis added).

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 182

 

Food for Thought

 

Is there someone you’re trying to change? Here’s some biblical counsel: Stop! You may want to take a moment to write these words down on a note card and tape it to your mirror so that you see it every morning:

MY JOB: To speak the truth in love
GOD’S JOB: To change people

Our sense of what’s “workable” or “practical” may be our biggest enemy in biblical peacemaking. God doesn’t call us to be peacemakers in a given situation because it “works” (though often it does–even in ways we can never imagine); God calls us to be peacemakers so that people can see Christ in us. So next time you’re in a conflict and in thinking about peacemaking you find yourself tempted to say, “Well, that’ll never work in this case!”, remember the difference between God’s job description and your own.

Prayer Request From Bishop Mouneer in Egypt

We received this email today from our friend and one of this year’s conference keynote speaker, Bishop Mouneer, asking for prayers regarding what’s going on in Egypt and we wanted to pass it along so you can be praying right along with us:

Dear Friends,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ!

As I write these words, our St. Saviour’s Anglican Church in Suez is under heavy attack from those who support former President Mursi. They are throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the church and have destroyed the car of Rev. Ehab Ayoub, the priest-in-charge of St. Saviour’s Church. I am also aware that there are attacks on other Orthodox churches in Menyia and Suhag in Upper Egypt (see attached photo), as well as a Catholic church in Suez. Some police stations are also under attack in different parts of Egypt. Please pray and ask others to pray for this inflammable situation in Egypt.

Early this morning, the police supported by the army, encouraged protestors in two different locations in Cairo, to leave safely and go home. It is worth mentioning that these protestors have been protesting for 6 weeks, blocking the roads. The people in these neighborhoods have been suffering a great deal—not only these people, but those commuting through, especially those who are going to the airport. The police created very safe passages for everyone to leave. Many protestors left and went home, however, others resisted to leave and started to attack the police. The police and army were very professional in responding to the attacks, and they used tear gas only when it was necessary. The police then discovered caches of weapons and ammunition in these sites. One area near Giza is now calm, but there is still some resistance at other sites. There are even some snipers trying to attack the police and the army. There are even some rumors that Muslim Brotherhood leaders asked the protestors in different cities to attack police stations, take weapons, and attack shops and churches.

A few hours later, violent demonstrations from Mursi supporters broke out in different cities and towns throughout Egypt. The police and army are trying to maintain safety for all people and to disperse the protestors peacefully. However, the supporters of former President Mursi have threatened that if they are dispersed from the current sites, they will move to other sites and continue to protest. They also threatened to use violence. There have been a number of fatalities and casualties from among the police as well as the protestors, but it seems that the numbers are not as high as expected for such violence. However, the supporters of former President Mursi claim that there are very high numbers of casualties. The real numbers will be known later on.

Please pray that the situation will calm down, for wisdom and tact for the police and the army, for the safety of all churches and congregations, and that all in Egypt would be safe.

May the Lord bless you!

+Mouneer

The Most Rev. Dr. Mouneer Hanna Anis
Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican Diocese of Egypt
with North Africa and the Horn of Africa
President Bishop of the Episcopal / Anglican
Province of Jerusalem and the Middle East

Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

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In responding to an angry reaction, remember that “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1). Respond to anger with a gentle voice, relaxed posture, and calm gestures. Communicate in every way that you take the other’s expression of anger seriously and want to help resolve the problems that prompt it. Plan ahead how to respond to possible objections and deal with them specifically and reasonably.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 178

 

Food for Thought

 

If you’re counting on excellent self-control or a naturally sunny disposition to keep you from responding harshly to a burst of anger from someone else today, you’re drawing from an awfully shallow well. Chances are your “well of gentleness” will run dry … at exactly the worst moment.

The source of the “gentle answer” to anger that’s recommended in Proverbs isn’t you at all. It is none other than Christ, as he desires to make an appeal through us precisely at the moment that another unloads anger. As Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:18-19, “All this”–including the ability to respond to anger with a gentle answer–“is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”

So if you find yourself on the receiving end of a blast of anger today, don’t rely on yourself to respond gently. Instead, pray briefly, then invite Christ to make his appeal through you. As Paul notes, God has committed the message of reconciliation to you; it is your birthright as a Christian. Far more reliable than your own pleasant demeanor, it is a constant within you. Pray for God’s guidance to draw upon it even in the most trying circumstances.

Reacting to Criticism and Confrontation

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When you need to show others their fault, do not talk down to them as though you are faultless and they are inferior to you. Instead, talk with them as though you are standing side-by-side at the foot of the cross. Acknowledge your present, ongoing need for the Savior. Admit ways that you have wrestled with the same or other sins or weaknesses, and give hope by describing how God has forgiven you and is currently working in you to help you change … When people sense this kind of humility and common bond, they will less inclined to react to correction with pride and defensiveness.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 172
 

Food for Thought

 

How do you respond to criticism and confrontation? As Ken reminds us in the above passage, our natural tendency all too often is to respond with pride and defensiveness.

• We emphasize our strengths and make excuses for our weaknesses. Then when we compare ourselves to others, we naturally think, “Hey! I’m not as bad as they are!”
• Rather than humbly listening to the criticism and striving to grow in wisdom and grace, we attack the person who is confronting us. Such arrogance blinds us and dooms us to immaturity.

There is a better way. Rather than focusing on our strengths or even focusing on our confronter, we can focus our passions, energies, and attention where they rightly belong–the cross of Jesus Christ.

When we gaze at the holiness of God and see the awesome price that had to be paid for our salvation–the very death of the very Son of God–we see beyond a shadow of a doubt that whatever criticism a person might lay on us, they don’t know the half of it. As Alfred Poirier reminds us in his article, The Cross and Criticism, the depth of our depravity is so great that our only hope is to rely solely on Jesus. And his death is sufficient. His resurrection is sufficient. Because he lived and died and rose again, we need never despair.

Even when confronted? Even then.

In fact, I would go so far as to say especially then. Whether the confrontation is gracious or graceless; redemptive or just plain-ol’ mean … we can humbly listen, give it its due, grow in grace, and move on. Because just as Ken reminds us above, “God has forgiven us and is working in us to help us to change.”

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.

Worlds Apart, Yet So Much Alike… Reflections on Jordan and Mexico

By Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministries  (Taken from our recent edition of Reconciled) 

Viewed from afar, Jordan and Mexico couldn’t be more different. Different languages, different cultures, different ethnic and racial mixes, even different foods. Yet, Christians in both countries share a common Lord and Savior and a common need for God’s grace. They also share a common passion for reconciling differences and healing relationships, as I learned during recent trips to both countries.

jordan-walidIn May, I visited Jordan at the invitation of Walid Nimry to introduce peacemaking at a conference for leaders of the local Christian community. Walid is a businessman who shepherded the Arabic edition of The Peacemaker through translation and publication in 2007. Since then he and his wife, Lubna, have had another peacemaking project in mind – the creation of a “Peacemaking Center” for Jordanian Christians.

The dream behind the Center is to create a place where family members can work through differences and learn to practice forgiveness toward one another. I was puzzled when I first heard Walid describe their vision. Why focus on families, I wondered, when the Middle East is overrun by issues of war and peace? “Because without strong families there cannot be a strong church,” Walid told me. “And without a strong church there cannot be the opportunity for Christians to speak persuasively into the many issues that confront us here in Jordan.”

Roger and Marcy Oliver live in Puebla, Mexico, half a world away from Walid and Lubna, but they share the same passion for peacemaking and for its transformative power. For nearly a decade, Roger has shared this devotion by teaching peacemaking courses and classes at Puebla Bible Seminary, where he served for many years as Director.

rec-0713-mexico-roleplayHis enthusiasm and commitment were contagious and his students asked for more. So, he and Marcy invited me to Puebla for a 3-day Conflict Coaching and Mediation training program just last month. More than 30 graduates of Roger’s courses participated and 16 completed all three days, including the final-day role plays. It was great fun to watch our students try on mediation for the first time in their role plays and find out they were more capable than they thought.

As I engaged with brothers and sisters in Jordan and Mexico, it was clear we wrestle with many of the same things – with pride and denial, as well as the sense that conflicts with others somehow keep us from the “good life” to which we think we are entitled. In fact, Jordanian Christians may struggle with peacemaking more than most, as several people told me there are no equivalent words in Arabic for either “apology” or “forgiveness.”

Above all, I observed that Christians in both countries possessed the same underlying attitude of heart that desired to serve God and others when in conflict. My trips reminded me that whatever our language, reconciliation is at the center of the Christian calling. God is raising up people from every tongue and tribe to serve Him as peacemakers. Whether we live in Jordan, Mexico, or the United States, we are privileged to be part of what He is about.