The Peacemaker (Part 3)

The Peacemaker: A Biblical Perspective on Resolving Personal Conflicts and Letting Go of Resentment.

Blessed Peacemakers Matthew 5.jpg

The goal of a peacemaker is to magnify the marvelous undeserved forgiveness that God has given to us through Christ and to inspire people to imitate such forgiveness to others. Jesus told us in the Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). As Christians, it is very important that we understand this verse correctly. Note we’re admonished to be peacemakers not peacekeepers. It would be a drastic error to misquote the Words of Jesus. Although it might sound like mere semantics, Christ urges that we make peace rather than keep the peace. The Gospel and peacemaking are interdependent. The Gospel is the very catalyst for peace. As believers, we are incapable of promoting real peace in the flesh. It requires the power of the Holy Spirit.

Peacemakers strive to make peace and attempt to reconcile things and people that are at odds with one another. Peacekeepers, on the other hand, strive to keep peace at all costs. Proverbs 10:10 says, “People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace” (NTL). Peacekeepers, by not acknowledging wrongdoings in an effort to make peace, are actually winking at them. We must be about peacemaking as believers. My church contains in its bylaws language about peacemaking being part of our mission.

Speak the Truth in Love

Peacemaking does not—indeed, cannot—happen by accident. It is a purposeful act. In fact, peacemaking is a higher priority than worship. Of course, love is the underlying commandment. John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so must you love one another. By this everyone will know that you’re my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV). People should be able to catch a glimpse of the Father when they look at us.

Ephesians 4:15 says, “Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is Christ.” Words play a key role in almost every conflict. When used properly, words promote understanding and encourage agreement. When misused, they usually aggravate conflicts and drive people further apart. If your words seem to do more harm than good when you try to resolve a disagreement, don’t give up. With God’s help you can improve your ability to communicate constructively.

Bring Hope Through the Gospel

When someone has disappointed or offended us, our human reaction is to come at them with the law, lecturing them about what they have done wrong and what they should do now to make things right. This approach generally makes people defensive and reluctant to admit their wrongs, which makes a conflict worse. The Lord is graciously working to teach us a better way to approach others about their failures. Instead of coming at them from a position of legalism, we need to bring them the Gospel. In other words, rather than dwelling on what people should do or have failed to do, we must focus primarily on what God has done and is doing for them in Christ. This is commanded throughout Scripture.

When Jesus confronted the Samaritan woman, instead of hammering away at her sinful lifestyle (as many pastors sadly do today), He spent most of His time engaging her in a conversation about salvation, eternal life, true worship, and the coming of the Messiah (see John 4:7-26). The woman responded eagerly to this Gospel-focused approach, let down her defenses, and put her trust in Christ. Although Jesus changed this focus when rebuking hard-hearted Pharisees, His typical approach to bringing people to repentance was to bring them the Good News of God’s forgiveness (see Luke 19:1-10; John 8:10-11).

The apostle Paul had a similar approach, even when he had to deal with serious sin. In his first letter the Corinthians, he had to address divisions, immorality, lawsuits, food sacrificed to idols, and the misuse of the Lord’s Supper and spiritual gifts. But before addressing these terrible sins, Paul’s gracious greeting held out hope for forgiveness and change by reminding the Corinthians of what God had already done for them through Christ. What a marvelous way to set the stage for repentance and change. Paul always kept Jesus in the center of his instruction and admonishment by first providing the believers a detailed description of God’s redemptive plan. When Paul finally got around to addressing errors in the congregation, his readers were already standing on a foundation of hope and encouragement.

Paul took the same approach with the Philippians and Colossians, who also needed correction and instruction. He begins his letters to these two churches by drawing attention to what God has done in each of them. As he continued, he frequently referred to the Gospel as he moved from issue to issue. For example, look at what Paul writes in Colossians 3:12: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Before admonishing these believers, Paul reminds them of who they are in Christ.

Be Quick to Listen

Another element of effective communication is to listen carefully to what others are actually saying. Knowing this is not in our human nature, James gave this warning: “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (James 1:19-20, NIV). Good listening is particularly important for a peacemaker. It improves your ability to understand others, it shows that you realize you do not have all the answers, and it tells the other person that you value his or her thoughts and opinions. Even if you don’t agree with what others say or do, your willingness to listen demonstrates respect and shows that you are trying to comprehend their perspective. This typically helps create an atmosphere of mutual respect that will improve communication.

Waiting…

Waiting patiently while others talk is a key listening skill that is a must for all peacemakers. Without this skill, you will often fail to understand the root cause of a conflict, and you may complicate matters with inappropriate reactions. As Proverbs 18:13 tells us, “To answer before listening—that is folly and shame” (NIV). In other words, avoid jumping to premature conclusions about what others are thinking; give them time and hear them out. Discipline yourself not to interrupt others while they are speaking. Learn to be comfortable with silence and do not respond the moment there is a pause. Moreover, do not offer immediate solutions to every problem others bring to you.

Reflecting or “paraphrasing” is the process of summarizing the other person’s main points in your own words and sending them back in a constructive way. This is the very definition of active listening. Reflecting may deal with both the content of what the other person has said and the associated feelings. Reflecting does not require that you agree with what the other person says; it simply reveals whether you comprehend another person’s thoughts and feelings. Reflecting shows that you are paying attention and you are trying to understand or empathize with them. Besides, reflecting what others are saying can make them more willing to listen to what you want to say.

Engage Rather than Pronounce or Declare

One of the fastest ways to make people defensive is to abruptly announce what they have done wrong. If you launch into a direct and detailed description of their faults, they are likely to close their ears and launch a counterattack. It is wise to think carefully about how to open a conversation in a way that shows genuine concern for the other person and engages him in listening to your words without becoming defensive. If you are going to be candid—this is often doable when speaking to a close friend—you should first affirm your respect and friendship and then describe your concern in direct terms. If strong trust has not been built between you, however, or if the issue is likely to trigger defensiveness, you would be wise to broach your concern in an indirect way that engages the other person’s heart and mind without putting him instantly on guard.

Whatever approach you use, your goal should be to describe your concern in a way that captures others’ attention, appeals to their values, and gives hope that the issue can be resolved constructively. The more you engage another person’s heart and the less you declare his or her wrongs, the more likely he or she is to listen to you. Communicate clearly enough that you cannot be misunderstood. Many conflicts are caused or aggravating by misunderstandings. People may say things that are actually true or inappropriate, but because they did not choose their words carefully they leave room for others to misconstrue what they mean and take offense. Fewer factors can derail peacemaking than miscommunication.

Use the Bible Carefully

It is often helpful to refer to the Bible as a source of objective truth when you have a disagreement with another Christian. If this is not done with great care, however, it will alienate people rather than persuade them. Never quote the Bible to tear others down, but only to build them up in the Lord. Make sure to use Scripture passages for their intended purpose. Never pull a verse out of context and try to make it say something other than its clear meaning. It’s advisable to encourage others to read the passage from their own Bibles; then ask, “What do you think that means?” This typically yields far better results than imposing your interpretation on them.

It is also paramount that you know when to stop. If the other person appears to be getting irritated by your references to Scripture, it may be wise to back off and give him or her time to think about what you’ve presented to them.

Summary and Application

Effective confrontation is like a graceful dance from being supportive to assertive and back again. This dance may feel awkward at first for those who are just learning it, but perseverance pays off. With God’s help you can learn to speak the truth in love by saying only what will build others up, by listening responsibly to what others say, and by using principles of wisdom. As you practice these skills and make them a normal part of your everyday conversation, you will be well prepared to use them when conflict breaks out.  In developing the skills of loving confrontation, you can see for yourself that “the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

God bless and thanks for reading.

Join me next Monday when I wrap up this series on peacemaking. We’ll look at the importance of taking one or two others along when confronting others in the interest of peace. Matthew 18:16 says, “But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

 

 

Invite the Holy Spirit to Walk With You Daily

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh.” (Gal. 5:16)

The original Greek word for walk means, in a metaphorical sense, habitual conduct. The phrase in the Spirit means by the Spirit as a rule of conduct. The New Living Translation says, “So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves.

If you have been living in spiritual defeat, powerless and fruitless, wondering if there is any validity to the Christian life, there is hope for you. What greater promise could Christ offer to the Christian than the assurance that he can walk daily in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ, and experience an abundant and fruitful life of purpose and adventure?

The Christian life, properly understood, is not complex, nor is it difficult. Rather, the Christian life is very simple. It is so simple that we stumble over the very simplicity of it, and yet it is so difficult that no one can live it. Why the paradox? It’s because the Christian life is a supernatural life. The only one who can help us live this abundant life is the Lord Jesus Christ, who empowers us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can help you to be more consistent in your walk with God, and to be more effective in your witness for Jesus.

The moment you invited Christ into your life as Lord and Savior, you experienced a spiritual birth. You became a child of God, and you were filled with the Holy Spirit. God forgave your sins, all of them, past, present and future, making you righteous, holy and acceptable in the sight of the Father. You were given the power to live a holy life.

When you try to control your own behavior through shear willpower, you fail. You go from one emotional experience to another, living most of your life as a worldly Christian, frustrated and fruitless. If you try to live the Christian life by your own fleshly effort, it becomes complex, difficult, even impossible. But when you invite the Holy Spirit to walk with you and direct your life, you become empowered to live the abundant life Christ wants you to live.

This is not simply a matter of positive thinking. In Galatians 2:20, Paul says, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” Remember that the Holy Spirit already dwells within you. You do not have to ask Him to come into your life. He is already indwelling you. Your body became a temple of God from the moment you became a Christian. So you simply say to the Holy Spirit, “I surrender my life to You, and by faith I claim Your fullness and power.”

Whatever happens, do not depend upon your feelings. Tied as they are to your ever-changing circumstances, feelings are unreliable in evaluating your relationship with God. In fact, your emotions will lie to you. The unchanging promises of God’s Word, not your feelings, should be the authority in your life. You need to live by faith, believing in the trustworthiness of God and His Word.

If your new life in Christ began by the Spirit, then your life from that day forward should be carried out by the Spirit. (See Gal. 3:1-5) To walk by the Spirit means to do what you do each day by the Spirit. You should live your life, in all its details from waking up in the morning until going to sleep at night, by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:17 tells us, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other, so that you cannot do the things that you would.” In other words, the flesh produces one kind of desires, and the Spirit produces another kind, and they are opposed to each other.

Walking by the Spirit is what you do when the desires produced by the Spirit are stronger than the desires produced by the flesh. This means that walking by the Spirit is not something you do in order to get help from the Holy Spirit. Rather, just as the phrase implies, it is something you do by the enabling of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Ultimately, all the good inclinations or preferences or desires you have are given by the Holy Spirit. Apart from the Spirit, you are mere flesh. In Romans 7:18 Paul said, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwells no good thing.” Apart from the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit, none of your inclinations or desires are holy or good. Romans 8:7 tells us, “For the mind of the flesh is hostile to God’s law and does not submit to it because it cannot.” At the time of your new birth, the Holy Spirit seeks to create a whole new array of desires and loves and yearnings and longings. When these desires are stronger than the opposing desires of the flesh, you are walking by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:19–24 describes a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. The opposite of doing the works of the flesh is bearing the fruit of the Spirit. (See v. 16.) If you walk by the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. What pleases God is walking by the Spirit and being led by the Spirit and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. As a Christian, you are not to learn the right thing to do, but how to do the right thing. The problem is not to discover what love looks like, but how to love by the Spirit.

For Paul it is absolutely crucial that, if you came to life by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit, you need to learn to walk by the free and sovereign work of the Spirit. As a believer, you have the Spirit of Christ, the hope of glory within you. (See Col. 1:27) If you walk in the Spirit, you will show forth daily moment-by-moment holiness. This is brought about by consciously choosing by faith to rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you in thought, word, and deed. (See Rom. 6:11-14) Failure to rely on the Holy Spirit’s guidance will result in not living up to the calling and standing that salvation provides.

You can know that you are walking in the Spirit if your life shows the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (See Gal. 5:22-23) Being filled with the Spirit is the same as allowing the Word of Christ to richly dwell in you. (See Col. 3:16)

The result is thankfulness, singing, and joy. Children of God will be led by the Spirit of God. (See Rom. 8:14) To walk in the Spirit is to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit. It is essentially to walk with the Spirit, allowing Him to guide your steps and conform your mind. Invite the Holy Spirit to walk with you in your journey every day until you are taken to heaven. Until the day you hear the Lord say to you, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

A Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, may I remember that a lowly listening and teachable spirit is the mark of the true presence of the Holy Spirit in my life. I ask that the Holy Spirit witness to me of Jesus. May the truth of His atonement and blood dwell in me and I in it. May His life and glory be in me, a living experience of His presence and power. Father, may the Spirit of Your Son be in my life. May each word of your Son be made true in me. I thank You once again that the Spirit dwells within me. Grant that He may work mightily in me. May all Your people know their privilege, and rejoice that the Holy Spirit within them reveals Christ as truth in them.

A Daily Prayer

God, may I hear Your call to be spiritual and not carnal. Strengthen my faith that I may be filled with confidence that the Holy Spirit will do His work in order to make me spiritual. I want to eliminate all doubt. I give myself to Jesus to rule in me and to reveal himself by the Spirit. I bow before You in childlike faith that Your Spirit dwells in me every moment. May my soul be increasingly filled with holy awe and reverence at Your presence. Grant that I may be mightily strengthened by the Holy Spirit in my inner man. May I always remember that the Holy Spirit is my comforter, my guide, my intercessor and my helper. He understands my needs and knows the will of God for my life. May I never quench or grieve the Holy Spirit.

A Daily Prayer

Heavenly Father, give me that something new in worship talked about by Jesus: worship in spirit and in truth. Worship that is pleasing to you. May my soul be a dwelling place for Your personality and consciousness. Help me to be linked with You and Your will, and not linked to the body and the desires of the flesh. May I quietly surrender to the Holy Spirit.

A Daily Prayer

Lord God, thank you that the Holy Spirit is to me the bearer of the fullness of Jesus. Make me full. Let the Holy Spirit take and keep possession of my deepest, innermost life.  Let Your Spirit fill my spirit. Let the fountain flow through all my soul’s affections. Let if flow through my lips, speaking Your praise and love. Let my body be Your temple, full of the divine life. Lord God, I believe You have given me that life. I accept it as mine. Grant that throughout Your church the fullness of the Spirit may be sought and found, may be known and proved. Lord, let Your church be full of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

A Daily Prayer

Teach me, O God, to know how the flesh can be conquered and its power broken. In the death of Your beloved Son, our old nature has been crucified. May I consider and realize that the old nature is to be kept in the place of death. I yield myself to the leading and rule of Your Holy Spirit. I believe that Christ is my life through the Spirit. An entirely new life works within me. And this makes all the difference. Father, by faith I give up all to Your Spirit.