Peacemaker or Peace Faker?
Has anyone ever apologized to you by saying, “I’m sorry IF I offended
you”? I can say from firsthand experience that it neither satisfies,
nor brings about true reconciliation. It seems that our natural human
response to conflict is to minimize our contribution to it, as
demonstrated in the following story.
A friend, I’ll call Tricia, explained to her long-term friend,
“Brad,” how his actions had hurt her. Brad denied any part in causing
the conflict and implied that the problem was 100% hers. When it
happened again and Tricia brought it up, Brad still denied any
wrongdoing. Much later Brad finally owned up to causing some of the
friction, but his apology was so weak that instead of healing the
relationship, it prolonged and intensified the existing tensions. If
Brad had known the significance of acknowledging Tricia’s hurt as
part of an effective apology, the tensions between them could have
been diffused. The Bible calls this making “every effort to keep the
unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph 4:1-3). We are
commanded to do whatever is in our power to preserve peace and unity
with gentleness, humility, and patience.
Another common response to an offense is to simply try to overlook
it. While this is sometimes commendable, have you ever tried to
overlook an offense only to have it corrupt your thoughts of the
other person even after repeated attempts to forgive and forget? In
the past this has been my favorite method, but it usually has
resulted in bitterness and resentment growing in my heart.
A third popular response is the “let’s move on” approach. Have you
ever gotten so weary of a conflict that you just wanted to “move on
from here?” There may be situations where everything possible has
been done without complete resolution taking place, in which case a
“let’s move on” approach is warranted. However, are we really doing
the work of reconciliation that Jesus calls us to, if broken
relationships are strewn by the roadside? Not only are our
relationships not at peace, but our Christian witness also has been
seriously marred. Jesus dared to put his own reputation on the line
by saying that God’s true character would be revealed by the unity
and peace we exhibit in our relationships. (John 17:21-23). Perhaps
we need to rethink some of our ideas about reconciliation.
God’s perspective on unity and peace in relationships is so paramount
that he was willing to send his own son for the purpose of
reconciling us to himself. Scriptures abound exhorting us to seek
and pursue peace (“seek peace and pursue it” Psalm 34:14; “let the
peace of Christ rule in your hearts…” Col 3:15; “live at peace with
all men and be holy” Heb 12:14; “live in harmony with one another; be
sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble…because to
this you were called” I Peter 3:8-9). Peace and unity are so utterly
important to God that he tells us to pursue reconciliation with a
brother even ahead of worship! “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” (Mt
5:23-24). These truths are challenging me to dig deeper into God’s
character and his ideas about peace in many of my relationships.
I used to think peace meant the absence of conflict, but God promises
that we can have peace in the midst of conflict if we submit to his
ways. The apostle Paul exhorts us to bring our anxious concerns to
God, and then the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:7). In
fact that kind of peace is one that can bring rest and harmony in the
bleakest of circumstances. What a promise!
Recently while attending the “Foundations for Peacemaking” seminar at
Newman Conference Center, I became aware that I had some faulty
beliefs about relationships that had been affecting one person in
particular. I went to her and shared where I had fallen short and
asked her forgiveness. Now, with God’s grace and help, we are
beginning to build a new kind of meaningful relationship.
Perhaps you have been reading this article thinking, “There’s no hope
for me. You don’t know how bad my conflicts are. How could I ever
live at peace?” I would urge you to attend the seminar. The concepts
are solidly biblical, and while they were not new to me, the seminar
showed me how to apply them to the conflicts in my life.
Remember Tricia? Her tense friendship ended up in frustration. Did
she want that? No! Did Brad want that? No! Yet that is exactly where
they landed, because they didn’t know a better way. Tricia attended
the seminar and learned the biblical principles for true peacemaking.
At last her friendship with Brad is being healed and God’s love and
unity are being restored.
A good friend of mine is a lawyer who deals with conflicts every day.
He said, “It has always impressed me how mediations using God''s
principles of reconciliation are so much more effective than the
traditional world’s way of reconciling broken relationships. Biblical
peacemaking goes to the heart of the conflict, restoring human
relationships, whereas secular mediation techniques can only achieve
resolution of the surface issues, at best. “Foundation for
Peacemaking” at Newman Conference Center is an excellent seminar for
resolving personal conflict in a manner that brings honor
glory to God. I would highly recommend it.”
If you’d like to get more information about this and other pertinent
seminars go to www.newmancc.org or call 509-226-5390 to register. The
“Foundation for Peacemaking” seminar is June 26-27. I like what one
recent participant said, “I found a ‘new vision’ of my mission - one
that enables me to give grace, not scars!” Now who doesn’t want