A New Year’s Resolution that Will Really Work

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Paul realized that a true peacemaker is guided, motivated, and empowered by his or her identity in Christ. This identity is based on faith in the most amazing promise we could ever hear: God has forgiven all our sins and made peace with us through the death and resurrection of his Son. And he has given us the freedom and power to turn from sin (and conflict), to be conformed to the likeness of Christ, and to be his ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:16-20). It is the realization of who we are in Christ that inspires us to do the unnatural work of dying to self, confessing sin, addressing others’ wrongs graciously, laying down rights, and forgiving deep hurts–even with people who persist in opposing or mistreating us.

 

Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 248.

 

Food for Thought

 

New Year’s resolutions are so notorious for being broken that many of us don’t even bother to make them. After all, doesn’t our determination to lose weight, to get along with our co-workers, or (fill in the blank!) dissolve the minute temptation strikes?

The apostle Paul recognized that change does not happen by making resolutions to try harder. In fact, our nature is such that even when we do our best, we inevitably stumble and fall. This is because we are trying to change who we are in our own strength, rather than living out of our true identity in Christ. Real change must flow from our identity as the sons and daughters of God, who through Christ have been forgiven of our past sins and given the Holy Spirit to guide us into obedience.

What are some New Year’s resolutions that you can make that result from your identity as a peacemaker? Here is a potential resolution that demonstrates the way our obedience arises out of what God has done for us in Christ (it might look familiar to you because it is the Peacemaker’s Pledge):

“As people reconciled to God by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, we believe that we are called to respond to conflict in a way that is remarkably different from the way the world deals with conflict. We also believe that conflict provides opportunities to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be like Christ. Therefore, in response to God’s love and in reliance on his grace, we commit ourselves to respond to conflict according to the following principles…”

Because we are still fallen people living in a fallen world, we will stumble as we seek to live out these resolutions. But do not lose heart, because we have God’s promise that “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).

We at Peacemaker Ministries wish you a blessed New Year, and we encourage you to go in peace and to serve the Lord, knowing that Christ has already called you and empowered you with all you need to be a true peacemaker!

Our Year-End Letter from Our CEO

Dear Ministry Partner,

Greetings in the name of the Lord Jesus. I hope this letter finds you well, loving God, and serving his children. Been thinking a lot about loving and serving, especially as the holidays approach.

As we enter into a season of family gatherings, festive holidays and the celebration of Christ’s birth, I find it remarkable that what could be the most wonderful time of the year has long been recognized as the most stressful time of the year because of (you guessed it) conflict in relationships. Here is a question for all of us: Is family conflict inevitable, or do we believe something can be done to change relationships and people’s lives forever?

Speaking of tension, you will not believe what happened between yours truly and our new neighbors just last weekend. Hint: There is nothing like a good conflict to help see what your neighbors (or you) are like.

Here’s the story: Our neighbors in our new neighborhood filed a complaint against me for parking my car on their property. Though it was unintentional, I was guilty. I was culpable, but I have to confess I was a bit offended. I asked the patrolman, “Why didn’t they just come and tell me instead of going to the community patrol?” His response was interesting; I’ll share that in a minute.

But the truth is my feelings were hurt. I was embarrassed and offended. As I started wrapping my emotions around the situation, I complained to the officer about the several barking dogs owned by this particular neighbor. The officer reminded me of my prerogative to file a nuisance complaint against them about their yapping mutts. I actually said, “Yes, I’ll file a complaint!” After all, I thought, that seems to be the way we handle things in this neighborhood. By the way, this all took place within less than 5 minutes from the time the officer drove up.

Yes, you are reading this true story correctly. The CEO of Peacemaker Ministries, who had just moved into a new town to share the good news of peacemaking, was rushing headlong into a feud with his neighbor over an issue of property lines and barking dogs. Hmmm. I began to remember some casework in my Peacemaker Ministries conciliation training where these very issues were the cause of conflicts that eventually escalated way out of control. I distinctly remember asking myself back then, “What is wrong with those people? Don’t they know there is a better way?” And yet, in a matter of minutes, I had become one of “those people.”

ack to what the patrolman said when I asked why the neighbors sent him instead of coming directly to me. He made two significant statements: (1) “The association handles 100 neighbor complaints per month.” “Why?” I asked. He replied, (2) “People don’t approach neighbors anymore. They just complain to everyone else—and then to us.”

Wow! We are living so far from what God calls us to be that we have forgotten, or don’t even know, how to honor him or love our neighbor. But I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise. This is exactly what peacemakers often see in families and churches: Serious and sinful conflict erupts over small issues, some as simple as the one I experienced last weekend. All of this is at tremendous financial, relational and Kingdom expense.

But this isn’t news to any of us, is it? Whether it is property lines or worship music, barking dogs or preaching style, neighborhood rules or church policies, the desires of our hearts can take us down the wrong path, can’t they?

Here is another question: Why does the church (that’s you, me, and other believers) often get so bent out of alignment in our relationship with God and others? I believe there could be two reasons: either we don’t care about what God wants for us in our relationship with him and others, or we simply do not know or have forgotten how to have reconciled relationships.

Now I firmly believe that the vast majority of people in the church do care about effectively resolving conflict. Beyond that, I am absolutely certain that fewer of us would go down the painful road of quarreling if we knew the significant value and blessing that come from understanding God’s intentions for us, and we lived in obedience to his Word by the power of his Spirit.

As peacemakers, we know there is a better way. Many of us have experienced first-hand the peace, the healing, and the blessings God brings through biblical peacemaking. Time and again, we have witnessed the impact that the practice of biblical principles of peacemaking can have on families and the church. As I think about the Great Commission, I believe the most effective way to reach those who are not yet Christians is for believers to be winsomely attractive through their remarkably different approach to life in relationship with God and others. To test my point, go ask the typical 25-year old why he or she doesn’t go to church; that young person’s response is likely to have something to do with the unresolved conflict that results from inconsistencies between our words and actions.

Here is the rest of my neighbor story: the Spirit of the Lord intervened in my heart and showed me my sinful response to this situation. In the midst of our conversation I apologized to the officer for creating the problem and told him I did not want to file a complaint against my neighbor, because I wanted to make a friend, not an enemy.

I immediately went over to the neighbors’ home, introduced myself and apologized for parking on their yard. They were gracious. I learned that the two prior owners of our home were “troublemakers” in the neighborhood, which made our neighbors reluctant to approach me directly. As we walked together in the yard, identifying the property boundaries, we had a cordial conversation that led to invitations to have dinner together. Friends, this is the core of peacemaking. There was no need for mediation or arbitration and no one needed to coach us about our heart issues, because the spark of conflict was extinguished before it burst into flame.

The Lord used the core of Peacemaker Ministries’ training to bring me to my senses during this conflict with my neighbor. By the grace of God, my weekend conflict started and ended within an hour. Terri and I now have new friends and an opportunity to minister in our own neighborhood.

Imagine what could have happened. This could have been the beginning of a multi-year feud with who-knows-what-kind of bad experiences for our family and other neighbors. Then it would have been like dozens of situations I have mediated in the past, a rotten witness to our neighbors and many others.

Peacemaker training helps every believer recognize that our actions, our words, and our investment in others can completely change the way we approach life together. We can bring others the message of hope, the message that proclaims by word and example the path to inward and outward peace. Hear my heart: The peacemaking message is not complicated, and it is entirely possible for any believer to learn and apply. My desire is to get the core message of biblical peacemaking out to the millions of believers in churches and faith-based organizations, delivered in ways that will reach more people than ever before.

In order to accomplish this, the focus of Peacemaker Ministries will sharpen in these ways:

A. Emphasizing specific conflict needs, including marriage, pre-marriage and blended families. Marital conflict is the #1 staff-time consuming, family-relationship destroying, and financially-draining issue impacting the church today. Over the next two years, we will develop a brand-new resource that focuses on marriage—not just on conflict, but on the relationship. It might be titled Navigating Life in Marriage. This series will include a professionally developed video and workbook focused on infusing the message of peacemaking into the hearts of millions of engaged or married couples. The idea? Conflict can be entirely avoided in many situations, but when there is conflict, it can end extraordinarily well with results that preserve family relationships, have a profound impact and witness, and bring glory to God. We would like to see married couples worldwide using this resource within 24-36 months.

B. Delivering the gospel message of peacemaking to millions of people from Alaska to Cape Town via the internet, DVD and workbook formats, so these extraordinary discipleship tools are much more accessible to the body of Christ. Professional training or certification will not be necessary for facilitators of these “turn-key” programs. This reduces church leader workload and makes it possible to implement the programs more easily.

C. Improving the effectiveness of our present curricula. In the coming months, we are improving the Resolving Everyday Conflict (REC) workbook to facilitate (among other things) daily reflection on relevant Scriptures and journaling opportunities between the eight sessions. This will significantly enhance the impact of Resolving Everyday Conflict on each learner’s personal experience and on classroom interaction.

Peacemakers, let me make this clear. The mission of Peacemaker Ministries is dynamic, vital and absolutely necessary: assisting and equipping Christians and their churches to prevent and/or respond to conflict biblically. Peacemaker family, our greatest opportunity to serve the church lies with the distribution of the message of peace-keeping and peacemaking to the masses.

But hear this important message as well. I am fully committed to Christian conciliation, the Institute for Christian Conciliation (ICC) and our extraordinary cadre of Certified Christian Conciliators™ and candidates. Raising the standard for conciliators under the ICC through improved oversight and expanding conciliator skillsets is an essential part of our strategic plan. Here’s why: When we distribute this life-changing message of peacemaking to the church and the greater Christian world, the demand for conciliator ministry and services, including conflict coaching, mediation and arbitration, will increase exponentially because the awareness of the opportunity for faith-based alternative conflict resolution will expand significantly.

As I said during our annual conference in Ohio, the lack of demand for Christian conciliation services is in no way a reflection of a lack of need. Rather, it reveals a lack of awareness of the opportunity to handle conflict differently. The lack of awareness on the part of the vast majority of folks in the faith-based world inhibits our ministry growth and impact. We must increase awareness!

Dear friend, this is where you can help. You know the ugly statistics on marriage, pastoral and missionary failure, as well as what happens during church conflicts. There are tens of thousands of church boards and pastors, along with millions of people, who need to know how biblical peacemaking addresses their painful situations. If these groups had the tools we can provide for them, all of them would be healthier, happier and better witnesses to the billions of hurting souls within their reach. Do you see where it all starts? It begins right inside the church and grows outward from there. You and I can be the catalyst, so that connections and referrals among those who discover gospel peacemaking will carry the message of peacemaking forward as it penetrates their spheres of influence.

Therefore, we have an opportunity. Peacemaker Ministries can help churches get what they desperately need— and we are the right organization to deliver it to them. We seek alignment with passionate people like you who believe our brothers and sisters in Christ need peacemaking skills. We invite you to invest in these souls, in accordance with your faith, passion and ability to do so.

In his grace,

Dale Pyne, CEO

P.S. Remember that I asked if we could do anything about the strain of family life in conflict? Now you know the answer: Yes, absolutely! Terri and I believe in this message, mission, and ministry. For Kingdom impact we are investing ourselves and our personal financial resources through Peacemaker Ministries to make an eternal difference. Will you join us?

Empty Gifts

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…forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Eph. 4:32

I could see the weariness in his face. “I’m sure both of you are in terrible pain, Rick. But I don’t think divorce is going to end it. You’ll just trade one kind of pain for another. There is a way to keep your marriage together and to truly put the past behind you. But you won’t find it with the empty forgiveness you’ve offered Pam.”

“What do you mean, ’empty forgiveness’?”

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 202

 

Food for Thought

 

Does your forgiveness promise a lot but deliver a little?

“Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday” are both in the past, and many of us have gotten a jump on our Christmas shopping. Now that you’ve worked so hard to find a gift for a loved one, would you neglect to actually include it in the box when you give it to him or her?

Empty forgiveness. What if we confessed a serious sin to God and He said, “I forgive you…but I can’t be close to you, ever again?” We’d probably have a very strong reaction to that, countering with something like, “Well, that’s just empty forgiveness!” And it is. It’s not how God acts. But that’s how we act sometimes.

Consider for a moment those times this past year where it looked like you gave the gift of forgiveness; however, once the person opened it, they found the box was empty. For whatever reason(s), you’ve withheld intimacy or friendship, and you’ve just traded one kind of pain for another. As you head into the Christmas season, make sure the gift of forgiveness is more than a bright covering of wrapping and bows with nothing inside. Instead, by God’s grace, make your gifts jam-packed with true forgiveness, modeling the forgiveness that you have received from God in Christ (Eph. 4:32).

Overcome Evil With Good

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Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” Romans 12:21

Peacemaking does not always go as easily as we would like it to. Although some people will readily make peace, others will be stubborn and defensive and resist our efforts to be reconciled. Sometimes they will become even more antagonistic and find new ways to frustrate or mistreat us. Our natural reaction is to strike back at such people, or at least to stop doing anything good to them. However, Jesus calls us to take a remarkably different course of action: “But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. … Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful” (Luke 6:27-28, 35-36).

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 247

 

Food for Thought

 

Think about someone who could be described by one of the following:

• Your enemy
• Someone who hates you
• Someone who curses you
• Someone who mistreats you

Maybe someone pops right to mind. Or maybe it’s a little hard to identify one (though “someone who mistreats you” is quite a one-size-fits-all descriptor of a person who make your life difficult). But in each case, Jesus has called us to this “remarkably different course of action.” He calls us to love, do good, bless, and pray. But in our own strength, this command is impossible to obey. Pray that God would give you a special measure of grace today to overcome evil with good, even when it seems the most difficult thing in the world to actually do.