Peacemaking Q&A

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Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there
remember that your brother has something against you, leave
your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to
your brother; then come and offer your gift.
Matthew 5:23-24

If you learn that someone has something against you, God wants you to take the initiative in seeking peace — even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 148.

 

Food for Thought

Q: What if I had no idea that I had offended Jim?

A: If you had no idea, then you’re not responsible. But if you learn or overhear or even get a vague sense that things aren’t quite right between you and Jim, then you are responsible.

Q: So I’m responsible to do what? Talk with Jim? Confront him? What?

A: We must remember that taking the initiative always has a goal — seeking peace. Peacemaking may begin with conversation and progress to confrontation. Then again, it may involve extending kind words or clarifying hurt feelings. There are many different facets, but the gem is called making peace. And the first step is to “go.”

Q: But what if I haven’t done anything wrong to Jim? To take the initiative seems so counter-intuitive.

A: It’s all a matter of obedience. The heart of the matter is not, “Were you right or wrong?” but “Will you be obedient?” God asks you to take the initiative in seeking peace. In this way, you are imitating God himself, who took the initiative to seek peace with you. Yes, it may feel counter-intuitive, but the ways that seem right to us oftentimes lead to death. God’s ways lead to life. It’s not just because He said so. It’s because He loves us so.

Discovering our “New Vision”

By Chip Zimmer, VP of Global Ministries

I enjoy receiving e-mails. A regular part of my work is responding to people who have met God through something Peacemaker Ministries has produced. Their notes are always fresh and charming. Here – misspellings, mis-punctuations and all – is one of my recent favorites:

“By gods grace we conducted our evening seminar on April 4, 2014 at Lutheran Church Veliyannoor Kerala india, It was a blessing for the people.

“In that meeting we introduced your 7 A’s of confession. The people appreciated it. Rev Rooban paras conducted the class and our patron Rev.a.J.Joseph lead the interaction session.In this session we divided people in to small groups and congregation members shared with pastors their problems.People were moved by the 7A understanding ,they said it is a new vision they got through it.”

I love this letter. You can sense the excitement and gratitude in his voice as he struggles to communicate in English what he experienced among the members of his congregation, the “understanding” of confession that has led to a “new vision.” What may not be so obvious is just how difficult it is for people who come from more traditional backgrounds in Asia, Africa and elsewhere, to accept responsibility for their sins and confess to those they have wronged.

In much of the world, preserving personal honor and avoiding shame are critical social dynamics. This goes by many names – “saving face,” “preserving harmony,” even “machismo” come to mind. They are all descriptors given to respecting individual dignity and maintaining relationships. In many societies, truth speaking, directness, and individual accountability matter less than respecting others and promoting social cohesion.

Jesus lived in a culture, the Middle East, which then as now is driven by such values. Honor, status and rank matter. In such settings, admitting fault, asking for forgiveness, and committing to repentance and change are all viewed as shameful. And what brings shame and dishonor is, typically, avoided. A Lebanese friend of mine put it this way: “Shame and honor have trained our community to build masks. According to our culture, confession, humility, and submission, are all signs of weakness.”

Yet, into this mindset, Jesus taught that the meek would inherit the earth, that asking for forgiveness is to be a normative practice, and that honor accrues to the least and the lowliest. If you want to be first, you must become last and a “servant” of all. No wonder he stirred up controversy.

Jesus is no less controversial today. What he taught regularly confronts each of us in those places where we are least comfortable, wherever we may live. The good news for us is that Jesus’ death and resurrection not only deal with our guilt. They also deal with our shame. Incredible as it may seem, we are honored children of the high king, prodigals who have been welcomed home.

Reading about believers in far-off Kerala who are learning to embrace personal responsibility and confess sins raises a question each of us should ask: Where have I become complacent, allowing dominant social norms to dictate how I live out my faith? What “new vision” is God showing to me?

It is a question worth considering as we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection.

This article originally appeared in our April edition of Reconciled. If you’d like to receive Reconciled, subscribe here

The OTHER Great Commission

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If you learn that someone has something against you, God wants you to take the initiative in seeking peace–even if you do not believe you have done anything wrong. If you believe that another person’s complaints against you are unfounded or that the misunderstanding is entirely the other person’s fault, you may naturally conclude that you have no responsibility to take the initiative in restoring peace. This is a common conclusion, but it is false, for it is contrary to Jesus’ specific teaching in Matthew 5:23-24: “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 148.

 

 

Food for Thought

 

Do you recall the “Great Commission?” This was Jesus’ command to his disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 to “Go and make disciples of all nations.”

Think about Matthew 5:23-24 as “The Other Great Commission”– and it may be even more challenging for us to fulfill. Going to reconcile with someone who has a complaint about us involves humility (“Why should I go to them if they’re the one who’s upset?”), empathy (attempting to see the situation from someone else’s perspective), and obedience (we go because Jesus commands us, not because we want to or even because we feel that reconciliation is possible). Are there any people in your life to whom you need to “go” today in order to reconcile? Maybe there is a long-standing feud between you and a family member or former friend that God is inviting you to begin to address today through this reminder.

A Faith That Forgiveness Requires

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Above all else, remember that true forgiveness depends on God’s grace. If you try to forgive others on your own, you are in for a long and frustrating battle. But if you ask God to change your heart and you continually rely on his grace, you can forgive even the most painful offenses. God’s grace was powerfully displayed in the life of Corrie ten Boom, who had been imprisoned with her family by the Nazis for giving aid to Jews early in World War II. Her elderly father and beloved sister, Betsie, died as a result of the brutal treatment they received in prison. God sustained Corrie through her time in a concentration camp, and after the war she traveled throughout the world, testifying to God’s love. Here is what she wrote about a remarkable encounter in Germany:

It was at a church service in Munich that I saw him, the former S.S. man who had stood guard at the shower room door in the processing center at Ravensbruck. He was the first of our actual jailers that I had seen since that time. And suddenly it was all there–the roomful of mocking men, the heaps of clothing, Betsie’s pain-blanched face.

He came up to me as the church was emptying, beaming and bowing. “How grateful I am for your message, Fraulein,” he said. “To think that, as you say, he has washed my sins away!”

His hand was thrust out to shake mine. And I, who had preached so often to the people in Bloemendall about the need to forgive, kept my hand at my side.

Even as the angry, vengeful thoughts boiled through me, I saw the sin of them. Jesus Christ had died for this man; was I going to ask for more? “Lord Jesus,” I prayed, “forgive me and help me to forgive him.”

I tried to smile, I struggled to raise my hand. I could not. I felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. And so again I breathed a silent prayer. “Jesus, I cannot forgive him. Give me Your forgiveness.”

As I took his hand the most incredible thing happened. From my shoulder along my arm and through my hand a current seemed to pass from me to him, while into my heart sprang a love for this stranger that almost overwhelmed me.

So I discovered that it is not on our forgiveness any more than on our goodness that the world’s healing hinges, but on him. When he tells us to love our enemies, he gives, along with the command, the love itself.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 217-218.

 

Food for Thought

 

Why do we agonize over whether we ourselves will be able to forgive those who have sinned against us? Our forgiveness is a pale substitute of what is needed. Instead, what is necessary is just this: that we allow Christ’s forgiveness of us–the forgiveness that flows through us and brings life to us–to flow outward from us to reach the others in our lives who, like us, are equally undeserving of his mercy. For “[i]t does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.” (Rom. 9:16).

Promises for You

 

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As far as the east is from the west, so far has he
removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:12

I once heard a joke that described a frequent failure in forgiving. A woman went to her pastor for advice on improving her marriage. When the pastor asked what her greatest complaint was, she replied, “Every time we get into a fight, my husband gets historical.” When her pastor said, “You must mean hysterical,” she responded, “I mean exactly what I said; he keeps a mental record of everything I’ve done wrong, and whenever he’s mad, I get a history lesson!”

 

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

Take a moment today to remember the Four Promises of Forgiveness:

1. I will not dwell on this incident.
2. I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
3. I will not talk to others about this incident.
4. I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship.

Then take a moment to remember something else: This is the way God forgives you. It’s natural for us to read the Four Promises of Forgiveness as another set of laws to which we’re presently failing to live up; however, the gospel reminds us that they should be read first and foremost as God’s commitment to us because of the sacrifice of his son. That commitment says that he will never “get historical” in bringing up sins for which we have been forgiven!

Is there an area in life where you feel condemned even though you’ve genuinely repented before God? Take a moment to hear God speaking the Four Promises of Forgiveness to you with regard to that particular issue. As you read them again, try adding your name to the beginning of each promise as a reminder that God speaks them personally to you. Remember Romans 8:1 applies to you, not just other Christians: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

When you accept this and apply it to your own life, prepare to be pleasantly surprised how much easier it will become to apply the Four Promises of Forgiveness to others who have hurt you.

 

Ssshhhhh!

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He who answers before listening — that is his folly and his shame.

—Proverbs 18:13

Waiting patiently while others talk is a key listening skill. Without this skill, you will often fail to understand the root cause of a conflict, and you may complicate matters with inappropriate reactions.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 166.

 

Food for Thought

How often are you thinking about what you’re going to say while the other person is finishing what they’re saying?

This is a hard one, right? But a little bit of discipline can go a long way in the listening department. One suggestion Ken makes is learning to be comfortable with silence. For example, the next time you jump in your car to go somewhere, resist the urge to turn on the radio. Roll down the window (unless it’s winter!) and drive in silence. Whether it’s two blocks or twenty-seven miles, drive in silence.

Silence… it’s not the absence of sound, but the absence of noise. Take the noise away and you’ll be amazed at what you can hear. It might be the song of mockingbirds. Or maybe the heart of a significant matter.