Category Archives: Peacemakers

Pursuing Peace

Tuesday Re-mix:

Turn from evil and do good;
    seek peace and pursue it.  Psalm 34:14

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Romans 12:18

dove

I am still thinking here about the very difficult debates raging through the church today over the same-sex issues and what scripture says (or what it does not say) about the issue. It occurs to me that seeking peace with each other around this issue has less to do with WHAT we have to say and much more to do with our HEARTS as we engage each other in this conversation.

Peace can be a tricky thing.  As high a value as scripture makes it, as many times as we are instructed to pursue it among God’s people, the way toward peace and the way toward conflict often move in the same direction.  That makes it tricky.

Peace, you see, is NOT necessarily just the absence of conflict.  As long as people are involved, there will be conflict…there will be disagreement…and there will be hurt feelings.  In the midst of those things, peace does NOT require moving away from each other.  Rather, peace requires moving toward each other.  It requires having difficult conversations…even painful conversations.  Avoiding those conversations may bring a temporary peace, at least it may feel more peaceful for a short season, but the long term result is just the opposite of peace…it is chaos and frustration and complication.

So, the first point here is that “pursuing peace” often requires moving toward the conflict rather than away from it…moving toward the difficult conversation rather than waiting in the wings and allowing the pain to fester over time.  The problem, then, is how to tell the difference between “pursuing peace” and fueling a fight.  Both are …

Apples of Gold

And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” Luke 20:8

He said to them,“Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Luke 20:25

apples of goldLuke 20 brings us two encounters between Jesus and his culture which centered around his authority.  By this time, of course (late in Jesus’ ministry on earth), the tension was mounting and the danger building…not unlike some of the “culture wars” in which the church finds itself today.  There are plenty of opportunities for us to speak into those divisions.  Of course we want to speak truth.  But we can speak truth with hearts at war or we can speak truth with hearts set on healing.

Our words can be “fitly spoken, like apples of gold…” or they can “curse people who are made in the likeness of God.”  The choice is ours.  And the model is Jesus.

In the first passage (Luke 20:1-8), the chief priests, scribes and elders questioned Jesus about the authority with which he was acting.  They were baiting him into what they presumed would be blasphemy, but Jesus would not bite.  He would not lower himself to engage in a war of words.  Oh, he could have…He knew the truth.  He could have justified hammering them with that truth.  He could have convinced himself that he was not afraid of the gospel and that it was time to take a stand for truth.  He could have used pretty much any of the excuses we use today to blast our culture with “the truth”.  But he sidestepped the entire engagement. He modeled restraint and held his tongue, even on a hot topic such as his spiritual authority in this world.  Sometimes, we are much better …

We Christians and Our Starbucks

Tuesday Re-mix –

 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.  Ephesians 4:29-32

Last year, companies in the Northwest U.S. came out in favor of a same-sex marriage law in Washington state, citing business reasons such as keeping quality employees (who would presumably feel compelled to leave the state, and the company, in order to live somewhere where they could enjoy their same-sex marriage).  Those announcements would not ordinarily have made national news, except for the names of some of those companies: Microsoft, Nike, and (alas) Starbucks.  Actually, not even Microsoft’s or Nike’s announcements got all that much attention, despite their HUGE place in the homes of Christians all over the world.  But Starbucks…well, then the Christian world was in an uproar, to say the least.  People were calling for a boycott.  Messing with our computers and our $200 tennis shoes was one thing, but then they were messing with our coffee!

And so, the fight within the Christian world was once again fanned into flames with a renewed energy.

IN THIS CORNER: “How can you say you believe the Bible and then support gay marriage by purchasing Starbucks coffee?!”  And IN THIS CORNER: “How can you say you follow Christ and then refuse to associate (like He did) with those with whom you disagree?!”  And with those positions, both sides dangerously agree on …

Log Removal Plans

Tuesday Re-mix –

How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.  Matthew 7:4-5

How are you at removing splinters from children’s fingers?  Yeh, me neither.  It is quite an ordeal, even under the best of circumstances.  It takes a steady hand, a soothing voice, and really good eyes.  As I write this, I am just now realizing how cool it is that so many of us did not need reading glasses until after our kids were old enough to get their own splinters out.  Isn’t God smart?  I can still remember feeling all medically superior one day when one of my girls came to me with a splinter in her finger.  I brought her into the bathroom (where the light was the brightest), got some tweezers, picked up her hand and examined the finger closely.  “Wow, this must be a tiny one” I told her, “I can’t even see it!  Where is it?”  And she answered, “It’s right here”, as she held up her free hand!

Being able to clearly see the splinter, it seems, is pretty critical to the entire process of removing it.  And so it is with helping a brother with the “Speck” in his eye.  Notice: Jesus’ aim in this lesson is for us to “see clearly”…that is the goal, so that we can help our brother.  When you cannot see clearly, you simply are not capable of being any help.

It appears to me that commentators are all over the board regarding what, exactly, the “log in your eye” …

The Routine Maintenance of Every Relationship

Tuesday Re-mix –

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,  not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another…  Hebrews 10:24-25

As a teenager starting to drive, I spent one Saturday afternoon learning from Dad how to change the oil in my car.  It was actually pretty interesting to me.  I was fascinated with the whole process.  Dad was very careful to show me how to change the oil filter without damaging it, how to drain the oil and properly dispose of it, how to tighten the drain plug again without stripping it, and how to put the new oil into the engine.  It was a whole process.  I learned it all.

Then, by the time I was 40 years old, I had paid to replace two different automobile engines as a result of NOT changing the fluids regularly enough.  It seems that, while I did learn HOW to change the oil…I had not learned THAT I must change the oil regularly!  I am a slow learner.  🙂  The truth is, I have had a hard time learning about routine maintenance in lots of respects…appliances (both major and minor), household, landscaping, automobiles, computers…you name it, if I have owned it, I have struggled with routine maintenance for it.

Relationships have routine maintenance requirements as well.  All relationships do…even Christian relationships.  Relationships between really good people still need maintenance.  Relationships among experts on relationships still need maintenance.  Without that maintenance, even the strongest of relationships will tend toward breakdown.

I am always amazed in my counseling endeavors when I find two otherwise intelligent, personable, Christian leaders who spend little time actually nurturing their friendship with one another and who then seem befuddled by the …

When All Else Fails, Read the Instructions

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Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. James 1:23-24

When installing an appliance or putting together a piece of furniture, it seems to me there are levels of understanding. The lowest level is when you know you don’t know anything at all, so you sit down with the instructions first, before you do anything.  The next level is when you think you know something about it, so you start without the instructions and soon find that your are in fact an idiot and then sit down with the instructions. The third level of understanding is when you know enough about the task to know that each case is a little different, so you start by sitting down with the instructions.

If there are higher levels of understanding than this, I admit to being totally out of touch with them.  I myself typically float back and forth between the first two levels. When my wife sees me walking through the house carrying a tool, she immediately drops what she’s doing and follows me as she grabs the phone and calls for help. I have learned (mostly the hard way) how helpful it is to read and follow the instructions from the beginning.  In my case, it doesn’t guarantee success, but it at least prevents me from screwing my table top into the floor, or other such embarrassing results.

When asked how I can mediate congregational conflict in such a wide variety of denominations and churches, how it is possible to effectively navigate church conflict even with little understanding of the culture, the answer seems obvious to …

Conflict Resolution 101: Starting with What We Know

Tuesday Re-mix –

On the contrary, they saw that I had been entrusted with the task of preaching the gospel to the Gentiles, just as Peter had been to the Jews. For God, who was at work in the ministry of Peter as an apostle to the Jews, was also at work in my ministry as an apostle to the Gentiles. Galatians 2:7-8

Most of us approach a jigsaw puzzle (or any other problem) the same way, whether we know it or not.  We start with what we absolutely know to be true.  When chaos and confusion abound and there is so much we do NOT know, we all have an intuitive notion to go back to what we know and then slowly work forward from there.  In the case of the traditional jigsaw puzzle, it is the corner pieces.  They are what we know, they define the parameters of the puzzle.  Whatever else comes along, we know that the answer lies within the four corners of the puzzle.

Finding solutions to conflict within the church, even interpersonal conflict, works the same way.  We always start with what we know: what we know about God, what we know about God’s Word, and what we know about what God is doing.

I don’t think the conflict in the early church was any small thing.  I think the prejudices and potential doctrinal conflict between Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles and Peter’s ministry to the Jews was every bit as dangerous and troubling as our conflicts today.  It had a cultural (racial) element, a doctrinal element (e.g., circumcision) and even a leadership style element (Peter was not the only leader with whom Paul’s temperament clashed).  Reading Acts 15 and Galatians 2 and other similar accounts, you see that the potential for devastating conflict …

Understanding the Rules of Engagement

Tuesday Re-mix –

My South African friend, Frank, tells a great story about being in a motorcycle gang when he turned his life over to the Lord.  A member of the gang confronted him: “So, I hear you’re a Christian now.”  “That’s right,” said Frank.  The gang member continued, “So, if I hit you, you have to turn the other cheek.”  “That’s right,” said Frank, “That’s what the scripture tells me.”  So the gang member belted Frank, right across the face.  Frank obediently turned the other cheek.  The gang member hit him again, maybe a little harder this time.  Frank straightened himself out, looked back at the gang member…and flattened him.  Then Frank told him, “Scripture gives no further instructions after that.”

It’s important to know the rules of engagement.

In the Christian church, the rules of engagement are all spelled out for us in God’s Word.  The Bible, then, becomes the cultural guideline for all of our interaction with one another, whether in times of conflict or in times of agreement.  In most Christian churches, the Bible is held among the very highest of values.  Understanding that culture (i.e., the rules of engagement), then, requires understanding God’s Word.  I think it is fair to say that, in the church today, one of the critical limiting factors to finding peace with one another is Biblical illiteracy.  By the same token, all of the most effective peacemakers I know in the church, past or present, have had a pretty good working knowledge of scripture.

In the secular world, at least in our culture, the highest value in mediation is the agreement.  In other words, that the parties agree is what matters most.  It doesn’t matter so much whether the agreement is fair or unfair or good or bad.  If the parties

Unleashing the Spirit of Peace…Through Prayer

Tuesday Re-mix –

“To often we treat prayer as the preparation for the work of the church…do you not see, prayer IS the work of the church.” Oswald Chambers

Two true stories from my ministry:

1.  “God, I’ve got this one…I’ll check with you on the next one.” I had not yet really started a ministry.  I was a lawyer, a seminar speaker, and somewhat of a Bible teacher.  As a negotiator, I had been involved in hundreds of secular mediations, and I had only just begun experimenting with mediation in the church.  I received a call from a minister friend who needed a mediation done at a small church he knew.  The pastor was in trouble and the church leadership was dividing.  I asked how many people this included and he told me about a dozen or so.  I told him to get them all together on a Saturday morning and I would fly out, mediate with them for a half-day or so, and take care of it.

Yes, I really did say that.  Looking back on it, I can’t believe the arrogance.  I had been in all these mediations, most of which had resulted in resolutions, and I genuinely thought to myself, “How hard can this be?”  There was no prayer involved, other than the obligatory prayer at the beginning of the Saturday meeting.  I showed up, began the mediation, and the whole thing fell apart within a couple of hours.  A church was all but destroyed and a man’s ministry was ended.  My own lack of any Spiritual preparation or focus was the reason.

2.  “God, I cannot do this without you.” I was speaking to a congregation about some severe conflict in their church.  It was actually just one stage of a full-blown intervention involving a

“I see broken relationships…they’re everywhere.”

Tuesday Re-mix –

Peacemaking means a lot of things to a lot of people, even within the context of the church.  There are gentle, non-anxious leaders who are often called peacemakers.  There are true mediator-like people who help resolve conflict.  I believe there are even those who have a Spiritual gift of peacemaking.  In my ministry, I suppose I am a bit of a “collector” of peacemakers.  That is, I have people from all walks of life who have joined me in peacemaking in churches all over the world.  So I can say with some confidence that peacemakers come in all shapes and sizes, and how they do what they do comes in many forms as well.

But I have also come to see some commonalities among them.  There are common experiences and common reactions to circumstances.  There are things all peacemakers do, whether they know it or not.  And that is what this series of posts will address.  I am calling it Habits of Peacemakers.

The first observation is the clearest for me.  Every true peacemaker I have ever known has been given an ability, a “gift”: peacemakers see broken relationships.  Usually, peacemakers see them before most other people see them.  Often, peacemakers see them before the parties themselves even realize the brokenness is there.  I’m sorry for this connection, but I just couldn’t help drawing from a favorite movie of mine.  Maybe you remember it.  M. Night Shyamalan’s best effort yet, in my opinion.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u2sDw-XBuKc&hl=en&fs=1&rel=0]

“I see dead people.” Haley Joel Osment’s line will go down in movie history.  And real peacemakers relate to his  character’s problem.  When a genuine peacemaker looks across the landscape of a congregation, even a relatively happy, healthy congregation, he/she sees broken relationships.  Other people see wholeness and happiness and progress.  But for