Thanksgiving and Peacemaking

This is an article by Fred Barthel reprinted from a 2008 eNewsletter. It’s an oldie but certainly a goodie to remember during this holiday. 

It’s a bit of a tradition to include Colossians 3:15 in the eNews that comes out closest to Thanksgiving: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” The apostle Paul makes a clear and intimate connection between peace and thankfulness here. Have you ever meditated on this connection? Do peace and gratitude go together in your mind?

Paul uses an interesting word here (the only time it is used in the New Testament) when he exhorts us to let the peace of Christ “rule” in our hearts. The original sense of the word “rule” was that of the role of an umpire. In sports, an umpire is the administrator of the game, making sure rules are not broken and order is maintained, and making key decisions as to what happened on a certain play. In the same way, the peace of Christ is to be the administrator of our lives. It will govern the decisions we make. It will keep us from “breaking rules.” It will maintain order in our churches. And when any situation is in question, the peace of Christ will make the final call. So a peacemaker is one whose heart is truly “umpired” by peace–not just any peace, but the peace of Christ.

After emphasizing why the peace of Christ is to reign in our hearts (because we are members of one body who are called to peace), Paul then adds, “And be thankful.” The idea of being thankful is much more than an afterthought–it is intimately connected with the peace he just discussed. This peace of Christ is a grand and glorious gift from God, and we are to be thankful for it. We should consider it as precious to us. By recognizing its value and being openly grateful for it, we have even more motivation to both make and keep peace. A thankful church is not likely to be a conflicted church. Yes, thankful people demonstrate the reconciling peace of Christ ruling in their hearts.

So among all the other things you give thanks for as you gather this Thanksgiving–the blessings of the past year and God’s faithfulness to you–we hope that you pause to give thanks for the peace of Christ. And may it rule in your hearts throughout this coming holiday season.

Give Thanks… for CONFLICT?

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As usual, Paul [in Philippians 4:2-9] urges us to be God-centered in our approach to conflict. Moreover, he wants us to be joyfully God-centered. Realizing we may skip over this point, Paul repeats it: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” What on earth is there to rejoice about when you are involved in a dispute? If you open your eyes and think about God’s lavish goodness to you, here is the kind of worship you could offer to him, even in the midst of the worst conflict!

O Lord, you are so amazingly good to me! You sent your only Son to die for my sins, including those I have committed in this conflict. Because of Jesus I am forgiven, and my name is written in the Book of Life! You do not treat me as I deserve, but you are patient, kind, gentle, and forgiving with me. Please help me to do the same to others.

In your great mercy, you are also kind to my opponent. Although he has wronged me repeatedly, you hold out your forgiveness to him as you do to me. Even if he and I never reconcile in this life, which I still hope we will, you have already done the work to reconcile us forever in heaven. This conflict is so insignificant compared to the wonderful hope we have in you!

This conflict is so small compared to the many other things you are watching over at this moment, yet you still want to walk beside me as I seek to resolve it. Why would you stoop down to pay such attention to me? It is too wonderful for me to understand. You are extravagant in your gifts to me. You offer me the comfort of your Spirit, the wisdom of your Word, and the support of your church. Forgive me for neglecting these powerful treasures until now, and help me to use them to please and honor you.

I rejoice that these same resources are available to my opponent. Please enable us to draw on them together so that we see our own sins, remember the gospel, find common ground in the light of your truth, come to one mind with you and each other, and restore peace and unity between us.

Finally, Lord, I rejoice that this conflict has not happened by accident. You are sovereign and good, so I know that you are working through this situation for your glory and my good. No matter what my opponent does, you are working to conform me to the likeness of your Son. Please help me cooperate with you in every possible way and give you glory for what you have done and are doing.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 84-85

Food for Thought

 

When you are gathered around the Thanksgiving dinner table this week, instead of giving thanks in spite of the present conflicts in your life… give thanks for those conflicts! Pray the above prayer, substituting the names of those from whom you are estranged each time the prayer reads, “my opponent.” Does this change your view of the conflict? Of God’s role in it? Of your opponent? Of what it means to give thanks?

The Peacemaker’s Harvest

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When someone has wronged you, it is also helpful to remember that God is sovereign and loving. Therefore, when you are having a hard time forgiving that person, take time to note how God may be using the offense for good. Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God? How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith? What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed for the sake of your growth? What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise? When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 216.

 

Food for Thought

 

Conflict, along with trials, suffering, loss, and other hardships, can be what God uses to bring the most good in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. It’s often the most painful events of life that bring the biggest harvest.

Harvest is a prominent topic at this time of year. Here in Montana, the sugar beet and wheat harvest is taking place, and by all reports, this year will bring a good harvest. The hard work of tilling, planting, and watering through the year is finally coming to a fruitful end.

In the same way, God brings us through the times of conflict, trial, or suffering that can bring a great harvest. Yes, it’s work; often it involves hours (or months) of tears, heartache, and discipline, but the ultimate reward is one of becoming more like Christ. In these situations, God gives us opportunities to glorify him, to serve others, to be a part of what he is doing, and even to receive personal reward. Yet in our stubbornness, our refusal to forgive, or our demand to be right or vindicated, we fail to seize those opportunities. We miss the very harvest for which we’ve toiled.

The sowing, the tending, and the harvest all depend on each other–one could not happen without the other. But we are promised that “Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18). May your harvest be a great one as you sow peace in the midst of the conflicts you face.

Sometimes Our Sinful Desires May Be the Least of Our Worries!

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It is important to emphasize the fact that idols can arise from good desires as well as wicked desires. It is often not what we want that is the problem, but that we want it too much. For example, it is not unreasonable for a man to want a passionate sexual relationship with his wife or for a mother to want to stay at home with a newborn baby. Nor is it wrong for an employer to want diligent workers or for a pastor to desire respect from his deacons. These are good desires, but if they turn into demands that must be met in order for us to be satisfied and fulfilled, they can lead to bitterness, resentment, or self-pity that can destroy a family, business, or church.

How can you discern when a good desire might be turning into a sinful demand? You can begin by prayerfully asking yourself “X-ray” questions that reveal the true condition of your heart.

  • What am I preoccupied with? What is the first thing on my mind in the morning and the last thing on my mind at night?
  • How would I answer the question: “If only ______, then I would be happy, fulfilled, and secure”?
  • What do I want to preserve or to avoid at all costs?
  • Where do I put my trust?
  • What do I fear?
  • When a certain desire is not met, do I feel frustration, anxiety, resentment, bitterness, anger, or depression?
  • Is there something I desire so much that I am willing to disappoint or hurt others in order to have it?
 
Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 104-5
 

Food for Thought

 

What was the first thing on your mind this morning? How about the last thing on your mind last night? Is there a good desire in your life that’s beginning to becoming a recurring thought pattern for you? As you consider this, remember the good news: God has ultimately satisfied that particular “good desire” through his Son. What remains is for us to trust and, through his grace, receive God’s eye-opening insight into the ways in which we are beginning to trust, fear, or dwell on something other than God himself. Spend time today in prayer to ask God to reveal areas of your life where you might be elevating a good desire into a sinful demand.

What Jesus Desires in His Followers

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My prayer is not for [my disciples] alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.” (John 17:20-23, emphasis added )

Jesus prayed these words during the final hours of his life. As death drew near, the Lord focused on a single concept he knew to be of paramount importance for all those who would believe in him. He did not pray that his followers would always be happy, that they would never suffer, or that their rights would always be defended. Jesus prayed that his followers would get along with one another. This was so important to him that he tied his reputation and the credibility of his message to how well his followers would display unity and oneness.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 48.

 

Food for Thought

 

Read Jesus’ prayer once more and think about how important unity is to him. Is it equally important to you? How can you demonstrate this unity in your own life today? In your family? At work? In your church? How might the world see that God sent his Son by the way you relate to those around you? Pray that God through his Holy Spirit will strengthen and sustain you to glorify God, serve others, and grow to be like Christ in the crucible of conflict.