Biblical Peacemaking… Coming to a TV Near You?

Ken Sande has some great and intriguing news over at his blog for Relational Wisdom360 that I’m cross-posting here in it’s entirety:

 

Peacemaking and The Good Wife

Nine million people will soon be introduced to biblical peacemaking through an hour-long television show called The Good Wife.

The Good Wife is a prime time CBS legal and political drama. Its central character is a woman named Alicia Florrick (played by Julianna Margulies), whose husband, a former state attorney general, was jailed following a moral scandal. After thirteen years as a stay-at-home mother, Alicia is forced to go back to work as a litigator to provide for her children.

The show has been highly acclaimed by critics and has picked up several major awards, earning it a sixth season, which premieres September 21. One of the show’s most popular and exciting features is when Alicia is faced with something completely new … like biblical arbitration.

How does she get into this unfamiliar forum? I can’t tell you the plot line for this particular show, but I can tell you how the idea for the script originated.

An Interesting Phone Call

Last February, I was interviewed by the New York Times for an article on conciliating a lawsuit between Christian leaders. Someone on The Good Wife production team saw the article and floated the idea of developing an episode involving Christian conciliation.

A few days later I received a call from one of the executive producers, who spent over an hour asking insightful questions about biblical peacemaking. Shortly afterwards, their team decided to build an episode around this concept.

This led to several more conversations, including a conference call with their entire writing team. They asked dozens of questions about the biblical basis of Christian conciliation, how it compares to other faith-based processes, what types of issues it can address, and its legal enforceability. They also dug deeply into the details of a typical conciliation process, such as where the parties sit, what they wear, and what role their attorneys play.

An Opportunity to Pray About

Although they’ve offered me no guarantees as to how they will portray this process or the parties involved in it, I have been impressed with their evident desire to be as realistic as possible. I’ve explained how the gospel informs a conciliation process and described several actual cases where God turned bitter lawsuits into dramatic reconciliations. This, of course, is what I hope will come through in the program, but that is in God’s hands (Prov. 21:1).

The screenplay is being finalized and filming should begin in a few days. So please join me in praying that the Lord will move the screenwriters, producers, and actors to portray Christian conciliation in a positive light and introduce millions of people to the benefits of resolving conflict—including civil lawsuits (1Cor. 6:1-8)—in a biblically faithful manner.

This episode is presently scheduled to air on October 5, but it could be bumped back a week or two by competing sports events. So if you want to see it, keep your eye on your Sunday evening television schedule in October, or visit The Good Wife web site to see the rerun.

Warning

Although the series is highly acclaimed by secular critics, many Christians would find the frequent sexual content to be offensive, which is why I do not recommend this series in general.

Some reviews indicate, however, that the program has presented Christian characters in a relatively positive light. One of them is Alicia’s daughter, whose conversion and growth as a Christian is portrayed through four seasons without the typical Hollywood clichés. Another positive portrayal involves a pastor who counsels and supports Alicia’s husband as he seeks to overcome his past.

Worldly themes certainly outnumber Christian themes, but as ReligiMedia writes, “The Good Wife has proven itself to be one of the most religiously nuanced and innovative shows in network broadcast.”

Let’s pray that the upcoming episode on biblical arbitration continues this pattern.

Learn More about Biblical Peacemaking

If you’d like to learn more about the basic principles of biblical conflict resolution, please visit the Relational Peacemaking section of our website. For more detail, read The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Appendices B and D focus specifically on the mediation and arbitration of lawsuits between Christians).

If you’d like to be trained as a biblical mediator or arbitrator, please visit the Training and Certification section of Peacemaker Ministries’ website.

Better yet, attend Peacemaker Ministries’ Living a Legacy of Peace Conference in Colorado Springs (Sept. 25-27), which will feature keynote addresses, workshops, and training courses by some of the most experienced Christian conciliators in the world, whom I’m privileged to count as dear friends and respected colleagues.

May God use all of these channels (whether a prime time television show, our RW360 website, or a peacemaking conference) to draw people closer to a gospel-centered way of resolving conflict and preserving relationships.

– Ken Sande

Reflection Questions

What are the benefits and pitfalls of watching secular television shows and Hollywood movies?
How could Christians be tempted or misled by secular media?
How can we use these forms of entertainment to develop our powers of discernment, improve our relational abilities, and engage our culture in constructive ways? (See RW in the Movies and the movie books listed at the bottom of our Recommended Reading page )

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

Take Time to be Wrong

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Agreeing with others, especially when they are pointing out your faults, is not easy, but it can play a crucial role in peacemaking. When you are talking with another person, first listen for the truth, resisting the temptation to defend yourself, blame others, or focus on points of disagreement. Ask yourself, “Is there any truth in what he or she is saying?” If your answer is “yes,” acknowledge what is true and identify your common ground before moving to your differences. Doing so is a sign of wisdom and spiritual maturity. “Let a righteous man strike me–it is a kindness; let him rebuke me–it is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it” (Ps. 141:5). “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke will be at home among the wise” (Prov. 15:31; cf. 15:5; 17:10; 25:12). By agreeing with the other person whenever possible, you can resolve certain issues easily and then focus profitably on matters that deserve further discussion.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 168-169.

Food for Thought

Think back to arguments you’ve had. Can you recall a single instance when quickly defending yourself from the criticism of another brought peace? In contrast to a quick defense, James exhorts us to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (Jas. 1:19). Consider the beginning of Proverbs 15:31: “He who listens to a life-giving rebuke…” Simply put, listening requires time–and reflection on what’s been said. You have literally nothing (except pride) to lose and everything to gain by listening and not responding quickly when someone points out what they believe to be a fault of yours.

The next time someone brings a rebuke your way, restrain yourself from offering your verdict on their rebuke–whether that verdict be positive or negative–until you’ve had time to check in with the Lord about it. Tell the other person, “That’s hard for me to hear, but I know I need to be quick to listen and slow to speak. I’d like some time to think deeply about what you’ve said.” If it turns out that you still disagree with the other person, at least you’ll both have the benefit of knowing that you’re not responding at the jerk of a knee.

The Nuclear Power of the Gospel in Conflict

At our conference this year, we’re excited to be offering some workshops taught by Christian Muntean, Executive Director of Beyond Borders. His friend and colleague, JP Oulette, at Conflict Resolution Center wrote a great blog article explaining how relationships can be like an atom and conflict can have a nuclear power to it. He also does a spectacular job illustrating how the Gospel is crucial:

Atomic StructureIn the picture of an atom, we see a nucleus (bound protons and neutrons) surrounded by a cloud of orbiting electrons. This is a good picture of how the gospel relates to the conflicts we face in our lives every day.

The protons and neutrons in the center are the people in relationship. The electrons swirling around them are the issues that often create a cloud of mystery and awkwardness.

These issues seem to orbit our lives so fast that even one or two issues can create the illusion of a barrier between the relationship (nucleus) and the clarity of life outside the conflict. The more issues that exist, the harder it becomes to see the possibilities for resolution.

The people in relationship are tightly or loosely bound depending upon their foundation and conflicts that exist within. When relationship is severed through unresolved conflict, it can be a weapon of mass destruction leaving an aftermath of pain and bitterness in the lives of many.

Much like the individuals in the nucleus of conflict, those on the outside of the relationship often judge the situation by the cloud of issues surrounding it. It can be hard to get a clear view of the relationship or even see the potential for reconciliation. Intimidated by the cloud, we tend to back away from the situation all together.2f7e7a014c184d17ff7c9c45b2255e7c_f34

When we understand and appreciate, however, that the power of the gospel demonstrated on the cross was found in the midst of conflict, right in the nucleus, we are compelled to press past the issues and into the relationship.

Read the rest here.

Agonizing for Peace… Like a Gladiator

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Paul’s letter to the Ephesians focuses heavily on peacemaking. The first three chapters provide a glorious description of God’s plan of salvation. In the fourth chapter, Paul begins to explain how we should respond to what Christ has done for us. Note carefully what Paul places at the top of his list of practical applications of the gospel: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:1-3). The Greek word that is translated “make every effort” in this passage means to strive eagerly, earnestly, and diligently. It is a word that a trainer of gladiators might have used when he sent men to fight to the death in the Coliseum: “Make every effort to stay alive today!” So too must a Christian agonize for peace and unity. Obviously, token efforts and halfhearted attempts at reconciliation fall far short of what Paul had in mind.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 66.
 

Food for Thought

Are you struck by the call to agonize for peace and unity–like a gladiator? Do you know who agonizes for peace and unity like a gladiator? Christ Jesus! Before you get down on yourself by thinking, “Wow, I should really be agonizing more about my peacemaking…”, hear the good news: Christ himself is a “peacemaking gladiator.” When you “fight” for reconciliation, even in a seemingly lost cause, you’re fighting back to back with the greatest warrior who ever lived–the Lord himself. The battle may turn out differently than you expect or prefer, but take comfort in this:

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Ps. 51:17).

Fight the good fight of reconciliation with the Lord, not you, in the lead. Follow his lead, leaving the results in his hands, and you will see that, far from despising your efforts, the Lord will accept them as a sacrifice–and he will honor them, in his own way, in his own time.

Forgiven But Not Trusted?

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Loving actions can do much more than change your feelings; they can also communicate in unmistakable terms the reality of your forgiveness and your commitment to reconciliation. Thomas Edison apparently understood this principle. When he and his staff were developing the incandescent light bulb, it took hundreds of hours to manufacture a single bulb. One day, after finishing a bulb, he handed it to a young errand boy and asked him to take it upstairs to the testing room. As the boy turned and started up the stairs, he stumbled and fell, and the bulb shattered on the steps. Instead of rebuking the boy, Edison reassured him and then turned to his staff and told them to start working on another bulb.

When it was completed several days later, Edison demonstrated the reality of his forgiveness in the most powerful way possible. He walked over to the same boy, handed him the bulb, and said, “Please take this up to the testing room.” Imagine how that boy must have felt. He knew that he didn’t deserve to be trusted with this responsibility again. Yet, here it was, being offered to him as though nothing had happened. Nothing could have restored this boy to the team more clearly, more quickly, or more fully. How much more should those of us who have experienced reconciliation with God be quick to demonstrate our forgiveness with concrete actions.

 

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 222-223.

 

Food for Thought

 

One of the central (and often most neglected) elements of forgiveness is offering our trust again to the one who failed us. In some cases, it is entirely appropriate and necessary for us to set restrictions on a person who has violated trust (for example, prohibiting an adult who has hurt children from being alone with other children in the future, even when the adult is forgiven). But in many cases, withholding trust from those we forgive can be just a subtle form of continuing punishment or failure to truly reconcile. Isn’t it good that God doesn’t require that we “earn his trust” when we fail him? Each day he gives us opportunities to experience his restoration and his trust, not just his forgiveness. Is there someone you have forgiven who needs to feel your trust today?

Material Prosperity or TRUE Peace and Prosperity?

The Generosity Monk (one of our keynote speakers at conference, Gary Hoag) has a great meditation on his blog about the differences between true, biblical peace and prosperity and the counterfeit versions that the world produces.

Here’s an excerpt of the portion he quotes from Justin Borger’s “Personal Peace and Prosperity”:

“The bigger house, the higher salary and the comfortable retirement are poor substitutes for the Bible’s idea of peace and prosperity: shalom. Rather than defining prosperity as many Christians typically do in terms of personal affluence and professional success, shalom is a far richer sort of prosperity that encompasses every dimension of life. Perhaps most importantly, shalom measures material abundance in terms of a community’s ability to flourish as a whole, not just as individuals.

One of the Old Testament’s clearest illustrations of what true prosperity looks like can be found in a letter written by the prophet Jeremiah. Remarkably, this letter was written to a group of Jewish exiles who were anything but prosperous. Their homeland had just been destroyed, and they—along with all their material resources and possessions—had been carried off into captivity in Babylon. Nevertheless, it was in the midst of this economic disaster that God wanted to teach his people how to achieve true peace and prosperity.”

Read the rest here.

 

Going the Wrong Way Down a One-Way Street

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Because most of us do not like to admit that we have sinned, we tend to conceal, deny, or rationalize our wrongs. If we cannot completely cover up what we have done, we try to minimize our wrongdoing by saying that we simply made a “mistake” or an “error in judgment.” Another way to avoid responsibility for our sins is to shift the blame to others or to say that they made us act the way we did. When our wrongs are too obvious to ignore, we practice what I call the 40/60 Rule. It goes something like this: “Well, I know I’m not perfect, and I admit I am partially to blame for this problem. I’d say that about 40% of the fault is mine. That means 60% of the fault is hers. Since she is 20% more to blame than I am, she should be the one to ask for forgiveness.” I never actually say or think these exact words, but I often catch myself resorting to this tactic in subtle ways. By believing that my sins have been more than canceled by another’s sins, I can divert attention from myself and avoid repentance and confession.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 120.

 

Food for Thought

“It’s two-way street, you know … I did stuff, but he did stuff, too! Why aren’t we talking about HIS stuff?” These words, which were spoken in the midst of an actual conflict, reflect another variation of the 40/60 rule Ken mentions above. We say it’s a two-way street, but the problem is that in reality we still treat it like a one-way street. “When the other person is willing to ‘drive’ to me, only then will I think about confessing my part of the conflict.”

But that’s not the way Jesus spells things out in Luke 6:41-42. There he gives his famous words on “getting the log out” of your own eye first, before you ever get around to removing the splinter from your brother’s or sister’s eye. And just a few verses earlier, Jesus tells us to love our enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. (Luke 6:35)

What about the confessions we make? Do we withhold our confession until we have assurance that the other person will confess his or her part? Or are we willing to confess “expecting nothing in return”? It is a two-way street, but the responsibility that God calls each of us to is all one-way.

Outstanding Testimony: I could have SUED and WON

Over at her blog, Tara Barthel has a great reflection on how God provided the means for her to go to The Gospel Coalition’s Women’s Conference and provided much grace in a situation that could have easily ended differently. I’m just going to include a snippet here so be sure to go read the whole (amazing and funny) thing:

Again, the lead flight attendant rushed to my side and offered to have a “medical team” meet us at the [connecting big city]. Again, I didn’t think that was necessary, but I did ask for some towels/bandaids. And that time? I did cry. No sobbing or sounds, just hot, frightened tears rolling down my cheeks as the flight crew (finally!) emptied the obviously defective overhead storage bin so that this would not be a triple-play kind of injure-the-passenger-situation.


As my tears subsided and my barf-bag-of-ice melted against my scraped and sore body, I pretty much re-read in my mind Appendix D in Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker (“When Is It Right To Go To Court?“) and the “Biblical Conflict Resolution” Appendix of the PCA’s Book of Church Order. It was clear what I had to do:

“Discourage litigation. Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man. There will still be business enough.” Abraham Lincoln

The next morning, when the Vice-President of the airline’s insurance carrier called me, I violated every mantra of legal negotiation and just told him the truth: I was a Christian and a peacemaker and I had no intention of suing the airline, as long as I was treated fairly and justly. I told him honestly what happened (on the phone and in writing) and, after a few short weeks, I was offered a fair settlement. The dollar amount was just enough to send me to Orlando so that I could have the joy of serving The Gospel Coalition on the LiveBlog. And that’s exactly what I did.

Read the rest here.

Tara will be leading two workshops at our annual conference, Living a Legacy of Peace, in September in Colorado Springs. If you’re interested in seeing her live there, check out our conference website for more information.

Easy Does It

 

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A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Proverbs 15:1

Gentleness is especially appropriate if the person who wronged you is experiencing unusual stress. If so, the wrong done to you may be a symptom of a deeper problem. By responding in a gentle and compassionate manner, you may minister powerfully to the other person.

Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 86.

 

Food for Thought

 

A gentle answer turns away wrath and could possibly open up the door to peacemaking.

Directly confronting an unusually stressed-out person rarely proves effective. The defenses go up and the door of conversation usually gets slammed shut. Consider how this happens in your own life. When you’re unusually stressed, are you just wishing someone would come up and directly confront you? Even if you’re the one in the wrong? Probably not.

But is an unusually stressed-out person grateful when someone treats them with gentleness? Even if they’re in the wrong? Almost always. The defenses are lowered and you just might be invited in; in where the deeper issue resides that may not have anything to do with you. So think about who you might be particularly gentle with this week, and pray that instead of stirring up anger, you might minister powerfully to that person.