From Rick Warren’s Daily Hope devotional blog, April 28 & 29, 2017, at: http://www.pastorrick.com
Our natural tendency is to hate our enemies or at least to avoid them at all cost. But if you run from conflict, you’re going to be miserable most of your life. Jesus calls us to a higher standard. He calls us to be peacemakers — not peacekeepers. There’s a huge difference. Peacekeepers avoid conflict and pretend it doesn’t exist. But peacemakers resolve conflict and reconcile relationships.
The Bible promises this: “Those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of goodness” (James 3:18 TLB).
When you plant a seed, you always get back more than you started with. If you plant an apple seed, you get a whole tree full of apples in return. It’s the law of sowing and reaping. If you plant a seed of conflict, you’ll wind up with a lot more trouble than you bargained for. But the Bible says if you plant seeds of peace, you will reap a harvest of peace, kindness, and goodness in return.
So how do you do that? One of the most important life skills that you will ever learn is conflict resolution. I want to share with you seven keys to becoming a peacemaker in the midst of conflict.
1) Make the first move. Don’t wait for the person to come to you. You take the initiative. Buy that person a cup of coffee or go to lunch together. Jesus took the initiative to show mercy to us. The Bible says, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us …. While we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son” (Romans 5:8b, 10a ESV). Jesus didn’t wait for us to apologize. He didn’t even wait for us to feel bad about our behavior. Jesus made the first move. And he wants us to do the same thing.
2) Ask God for wisdom. God is always glad to help you when you’re doing what he says. The Bible says, “If you want to know what God wants you to do, ask him, and he will gladly tell you” (James 1:5a TLB). Ask God to help you decide the right time and the right place to plan a peace conference. Ask him to give you the right words to say and the right way to say them. The Bible says, “The right word at the right time is like precious gold set in silver” (Proverbs 25:11 CEV).
3) Start with your own confession. Don’t start with a bunch of accusations. Don’t start with the ways you’ve been hurt. Start with what’s your fault. The conflict may be 99% the other person’s fault. But you can find something to confess. Instead of accusing the other person — and instead of excusing yourself — start with your own mistakes, even if it was your poor response. But you begin with what was your fault.
4) Listen to the other person’s pain and perspective. You’ll always find hurt in a conflict. Hurt people hurt people. In other words, the more I’m hurting, the more I lash out at everybody else. People who aren’t hurting don’t hurt others. That’s why peacemakers listen to the other person’s hurt and gets that person’s perspective. As Francis of Assisi once said, “Seek to understand before you seek to be understood.” The Bible says, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:4-5 NLT, second edition). That means you’re most like Jesus when you’re focusing on the hurts of somebody else rather than your own hurts.
5) Speak the truth tactfully. The truth sets you free, but you have to say it with love. The Bible says, “Speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15a NLT). The truth is not enough. It’s not just what you say, but how you say it. If you speak offensively, it will be received defensively. God is very specific about the kinds of words that are out of bounds. I call them WMDs — Words of Mass Destruction. These are words that raise the conflict to a whole new level. Angry, hurtful, blaming words are useless. They only stir up more trouble. Colossians 3:8 says, “You must no longer say insulting or cruel things about others” (CEV).
6) Fix the problem, not the blame. You need to learn to attack the issue, not each other. The blame game is a waste of time. Any time you’re busy fixing blame, you’re wasting energy and not fixing the problem.
7) Focus on reconciliation, not resolution. Reconciliation means re-establishing the relationship. It means you’re not holding onto any hurt. You’ve buried the hatchet. Resolution, on the other hand, means you resolve every single disagreement. That won’t happen. We’re all different. We won’t agree on everything. But peacemakers can disagree without being disagreeable. That’s called maturity.
Our world is filled with conflict: wars, divisions, arguments, stress between people, prejudices and racism, violence, tribalism, and terrorism. Our civilization is no longer civil. And as a result we have broken relationships, broken lives, and broken hearts.
My challenge to you is that you will commit to becoming an agent of reconciliation in a world filled with conflict.
PRAYER OF ST. FRANCIS:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.