Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 11

Peacemaking Theology (Part 2/2)

Gain practical steps for overcoming conflict. Reflect the glory of God through unity and harmony like the Trinity. Embrace humility, following Jesus and Paul's revolutionary teachings. Self-examine and confess thoroughly, addressing all involved and accepting consequences. Restore with care by overlooking minor offenses, breathing grace, communicating clearly, and maintaining privacy. Reconcile by preparing, affirming relationships, empathizing, finding agreement, and seeking creative solutions.

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Peacemaking Theology (Part 2/2)

Lesson: Peacemaking Theology (Part 2/2)

I. Reflect the Glory of God

A. Trinity as an example of unity and love

B. Imitating God's grace in conflict resolution

II. Wrestle the Log Out

A. Recognizing personal faults and responsibilities

B. Questions to ask oneself

III. Make a Thorough Confession

A. Steps for an effective confession

B. Importance of asking for forgiveness last

IV. Restore with Care

A. Learning from the restoration at Ground Zero

B. Steps for restoration in relationships

  • Learn about the crucial role of leadership in conflict resolution, explore the various types of conflicts in the church, and understand the importance of building a peacemaking culture to prevent and address conflicts effectively.
  • Examine how the church's growth in conflict regions, particularly Rwanda, reveals a need for a more comprehensive gospel that addresses systemic issues and reconciliation, highlighting the church's role as agents of God's reconciling work.
  • You will gain insights into the gospel and its applicability to everyday life, as well as its impact on society, including bringing reconciliation and creating heaven on Earth. The discussion acknowledges the difficulties of living out the gospel in society and the tension between living in the world and living for the gospel.
  • Gain insight into the sparks that ignite conflict in the church, understand how conflicts can escalate, and discover the importance of developing peacemaking skills and fully embracing the gospel to foster unity and resolve conflicts.
  • You will learn about conflict culture in the church, which is an inherited culture for resolving conflict shaped by visible and invisible elements and assumptions and values that drive conditioned responses, and how recognizing and addressing it can lead to healthy conflict resolution.
  • This lesson explores how pastors and church leaders address people-pleasing cultures, examining the attitudes and actions of laissez-faire, controlling, and peacemaking leaders, and discussing the role of the church in promoting peacemaking, involving others, and establishing support systems.
  • Learn to build a culture of peace through passion for the gospel, unified leadership, comprehensive peacemaking theology, and practical tools, emphasizing the transformative power of forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • You learn how unified, gospel-centered leadership can transform church crises into growth opportunities by focusing on strong relationships, clear communication, and shared goals, while addressing the dangers of disunity and competition within leadership teams.
  • You will gain insight into the importance of preparation and certain characteristics that need to be in place before conflict in order to build a united leadership team, using an analogy of running a marathon.
  • Learn the importance of a comprehensive peacemaking theology, the nature of conflict, and effective biblical responses, focusing on escape, attack, and conciliation strategies, illustrated through a wilderness leadership training example and practical applications for congregations.
  • Learn practical steps to overcome conflict by reflecting the glory of God, responding with humility and grace, prioritizing unity over self-interest, speaking the truth in love, and pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • By learning practical peacemaking tools and focusing on communication, you'll enhance your ability to resolve conflicts by mastering responsible listening and speaking, enabling you to better understand others and communicate your message more effectively.
  • Understand the critical role of listening in ministry and leadership, recognizing how assumptions and selective retention impact comprehension, and you learn to adopt responsible listening patterns to foster understanding and trust in communication.
  • Gain insights into the barriers to good listening, the 600 word gap between listening capacity and speaking rate, and the objectives of responsible listening to improve communication and build trust in relationships.
  • Gain insight into responsible speaking by ensuring clarity, avoiding lengthy speeches, focusing on benefits, and offering solutions only when asked, using strategies like speaking briefly, providing limited information, checking for understanding, and acknowledging listener differences.
  • Learn how to effectively manage the grapevine, an informal communication network, by feeding accurate information to key individuals, which can prevent conflicts and enhance communication in complex organizations like the church.
  • This lesson highlights the crucial role of peacemaking beyond the church, touching on the history of American evangelicalism, race relations, and the inspiring story of Koinonia Farm, which exemplifies the importance of fostering reconciliation in a divided world.

How conflict and leadership intersect..

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Peacemaking Theology (Part 2/2)
Lesson Transcript

We've spent significant time on this slippery slope motif, so probably, this is familiar to you by now. So, what I'd like to do, then, is based upon this slippery slope and assuming that the area where we want to really spend our time is in these conciliation responses -- right? That's where we want to focus our time -- I want to give you some practical steps, again, that we want to equip our people within order to help them to really overcome the conflict that they experience in their lives. 

Number one, the first step, is to reflect the glory of God. This picture was first painted in 1410. How long ago was that? 600, 700 -- I don't know how long ago; it was a long time ago. It was painted by a Russian Orthodox monk named Andrei Rublev, but it's the picture of the Trinity, and in this painting, the persons of the Trinity are sitting, interestingly enough, in the round, and there's not one over another; in fact, as someone has pointed out, the highest person in the picture happens to be Christ, not the Father; the Father is this personage here. But more importantly, what we see in this picture is they're sitting in the round, and they have their heads bowed in deference to one another. It's just a beautiful picture. There's a flow of affection. There's a flow of love in the picture. There's absolute unity among the three. There's no sense in this picture, or in Scripture, that the Son is resentful of the Spirit's ministry or that the Father interferes with the redemptive work of the Son. There is seamless harmony among the three. And commenting on this picture, Henri Nouwen, the great author, said, “I have never seen the House of Loves,” referring to this picture, “more beautifully expressed than in this icon of the Holy Trinity.” The relationships within the Trinity reflect God's desire for His people. 

So, our peace is founded, first of all, in the person of our God in the Trinity itself. So, when we pursue peace, we reflect his glory. Further, we reflect his reconciling love in the midst of sin and conflict, and so conflict gives us an opportunity to imitate God's grace so that when others observe us, they see our God shining through. This is really what sets biblical conflict and peacemaking apart from any other approach to resolving conflict. This fundamental reality gives meaning to the words that Paul wrote to the Colossians when he said, “Therefore, as God's chosen people wholly and dearly beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, with kindness, with humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.” And I want to resist with everything that’s within me right now to go into a discussion about humility. But just to say that when Jesus and Paul dropped these words into the language of the world as an actual virtue, this was an abrupt revolution in the history of the world that literally changed the world forever. So this whole idea of humility one toward another is way outside the bounds of what was understood up until that time for thousands and thousands of years, whether you're looking at Roman culture, Egyptian culture, Greek culture, or what have you. So, this issue is why this picture of the Trinity is so profoundly important. 

So that's the first, is reflect the glory of God. Take this as an opportunity to reflect the God that we serve because it is the core of the gospel. 

Secondly. It's important to wrestle the log out. It's without question that Jesus had a sense of humor. I mean, he used humor to address some pretty profound realities in our lives, and this is one example when he, on the Sermon on the Mount talked about getting the sawdust out of somebody else's eye while you have a plank sticking out of your eye; it might be helpful to work on the plank before we worry about the sawdust. 

Now we are used to that; our thinking about this idea has been a bit domesticated and we've grown familiar with it. But there is an absurdity to this image, isn't there, that really can capture us, and our nature is to find fault; my nature is to find fault so easily while I have trouble identifying my own mess. Jesus is not telling us to forget reconciliation, but to slow it down to get another look, to search our own lives and to take responsibility for our part of the problem. 

James states it so well. He did not use humor in addressing the topic so much. He basically said, “What causes fights and quarrels among you?” He said, “Don't they come from your desires and battles within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight.” And James is pretty direct here. I mean, we typically don't hear sermons that are that direct in our world today. But there's a progression in this verse it goes something like this. First it starts with a desire, ‘I desire,’ even for something good; our desires can be very legitimate. But then it progresses from a desire into a demand: ‘I have to have what I want, and if I don't get it, I'll be unhappy or I'll be angry.’ And then our demand turns into a judgment: ‘I condemn those who keep me from getting what I want.’ And then finally, my judgment turns into punishment: ‘I bring pressure or pain on those who don't give me what I desire.’ 

So, it's desire and then demand and then judgment and then punishment is typically the way that this thing goes, according to James. So, the questions that I have to ask myself in this wrestling the log out question, as I look into my own heart, is questions like, what am I preoccupied with? What captures my attention when I get up in the morning, when I go to bed at night, when I'm not occupied with other things, what do I spend my time thinking about? Secondly, what do I want so much that I am willing to risk relationship with others to get it. That's a very important question. A third question is what do I fear? And then fourth, what do I have to have in order to have inner peace? What really is it going to take for me to achieve this lack of stirring that goes on inside of me? 

And then it's important to make a thorough confession. This is the next step, is if a confession is necessary, make it thorough, and let me walk through just a few steps here. I don't have this written down or on the slide, but these are pretty important steps in the confession process here. In confession, address everyone involved. Go as far as the offense went, but no further; that's first. Avoid words that give you outs, like if and but and maybe; eliminate the words that minimize our responsibility, our sin. Admit specifically; if there's something that needs to be confessed, admit the specifics of the sin. Acknowledge the hurt that has been caused as far as possible, that you understand how you've affected the other person. Express sorrow for the pain you've caused. And accept consequences; if there are ways to repair the damage, do so; do all that you can for the other person to bring wholeness into their lives. And then, of course, it's important not just to say you're sorry, but to alter your behavior. Explain how you intend to change. That's what confession and moving through conflict, which is going to bring the best potential for reconciliation, is all about. And then finally, ask for forgiveness. 

Now, why do I put that at the end? I believe, and my own experience and journey in this would tell me, that asking forgiveness should be the last step, not the first. Now, that's pretty important here. It's important to put ourselves at the mercy of the other. The deeper the hurt, the more time it's likely going to take for a person to resolve it in their own hearts. 

Several weeks ago, I was invited to an international meeting where there were women from all over the world that were gathered in this meeting, and about three quarters of the way, toward the end of the meeting, there was a woman from Brazil in the audience -- and the way that this meeting was going, it was kind of informal -- and so this woman from Brazil, I didn't know her, but she actually asked for an opportunity, impromptu, without announcing, she asked for an opportunity to come to the platform. So when she came to the platform, she then asked an African lady that was in the audience to come and join her on the platform, and they're on the platform without any preparation. She began to describe the atrocities that the Brazilians committed against African slaves in Brazil for centuries, and she asked this woman, with no preparatory work, she grabbed her hand and looked at her and said, “Will you please forgive us?” And quite frankly, the African woman was stunned. She didn't know what to do. She didn't know how to respond, and she tried to be polite, but it was obvious that it was incredibly awkward because she had made asking forgiveness the first thing, not the last thing. And so as we go through this process of making confession, it's so important to recognize that when we do the preparatory work, it results, then, in asking for forgiveness rather than making that the first, because if we make it the first, then we're putting the responsibility back on the person who has been hurt, who has been offended in the process. 

So then, as we have committed ourselves to reflect the glory of God, and then to wrestle the log out of our own eye as we're going into conflict, then we arrive at this matter of restoring with care. 

Last year, my wife and I -- the reason I chose this picture is because my wife and I visited Ground Zero in New York; it was our second time that we'd visited that site in the last few years. It's a hallowed place, of course, where 2,700 people lost their lives, and the most extreme expressions of humanity were on display that day, as you know. We visited a couple of weeks before the 10th anniversary, before they were to open the park there and all that, and it was amazing to see the care, the caring restoration that was going on and the personal care that the workers were investing themselves in. It wasn't just another work site for sure. 

Paul instructed the Galatians, if someone is caught in sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. Now, that's the qualifier, of course, you who are spiritual. This phrase has been abused a lot in the church, at least in the churches that I've been part of. By default, we assume that often means the spiritual ones are the pastors or the elders. But the reality is, this is not about a title; it's about those who are truly spiritual – that doesn't mean that the pastor and elders aren't, but it certainly includes many more people than that. 

So what does it mean? What it means is, after we've gone through the process of examining our own hearts with a desire to reflect the glory of God, we’ve removed the planks from our own eyes, allowed others to remove it for us, perhaps, if that doesn't work, we enter that place of understanding our humanity in that place of brokenness with the other person, to offer correction in a way that's redemptive. That's often a painstaking task. It often takes time. It often requires a measure of risk. It often requires investing ourselves. 

But here are four principles that can help in those moments. The first, again, is to overlook minor offenses. Before you go to someone, first ask yourself if this is so serious that it really needs confrontation. In other words, can you overlook the offense, is the fact of what Sam was saying? Proverbs 19:11 is pretty clear on that. Proverbs 19 says, “A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is his glory to overlook an offense.” 

Secondly, breathe grace. Breathe grace into the situation; approach others in the same spirit that God communicates to us, remembering the gospel, that whatever has divided us has been paid for at the cross, will help to reduce the tension that often happens when you go to other people. That’s second, breathe grace. 

Thirdly, so important, communicate clearly. This is where it gets sticky. Clear the fog. Make sure the other person hears you and understands you. We're going to in a few minutes get into communication in the context of conflict, but make sure that the fog is clear. It's not good to come out of these moments, and the other person thinks, was that all there was to this? You know, they can't quite figure out what it was all about. 

Last year, I approached a brother to deal with an issue that had been ongoing for 12 or 13 years, and we talked for an hour, and all seemed in my mind to be settled. But I heard within the last three months through a third party that this person totally misrepresented and misunderstood, misinterpreted at least, the time that we were together. So it's a result of poor speaking and poor listening in critical moments. And again, we'll get to the practical tools of communication in conflict in just a while. But that's the third, is communicate clearly what this is about. 

Then finally, keep it as private as possible for as long as possible. According to Matthew 18, the ideal way to work out conflict is to keep the circle as small as possible, if it's just the two of us. If that doesn't work, then involve others progressively, and just note, it's tough to start out with a wide circle and then make it smaller. To say it another way, it's tough to get the genie back in the bottle. So start small; you can't lose on that. 

So, the fourth step then in this process is to reconcile. Often, the process of restoring with care is all that's needed. But how do we move forward toward a solution so that substantive issues can be dealt with? In other words, there's legitimate issues on both sides; there's a legitimate interest on both sides of a conflict. Just how do we handle that justly and fairly? Paul tells the Philippians, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” How do we do that? 

So here're just some practical principles. First is to prepare, not only your own heart, but get as much information as you can before you enter into the discussion, into the process of trying to reconcile a situation. Secondly, affirm the relationships. They are important. You want to keep those intact to the highest degree possible, so affirm the importance of relationships. Thirdly, seek to understand and empathize. You understand the difference between sympathizing and empathizing? Empathizing is getting inside the skin of another. It's important to seek to empathize with the interest of another and recognize, just as Brent has pointed out, the crocodile effect, that’s what I call it. You may have a presenting issue that are the eyes above the water, but there's a whole bunch potentially that's down below the waterline that is the real issue, and so recognize and empathize with that in order to really understand what's going on. 

Look for areas of agreement; it's always helpful because there are areas of agreement in most every case; start with those. And then search for creative solutions. There are usually more than the solutions that are on the table. There are usually more than the solutions that are being considered at the moment. And then, of course, evaluate your options reasonably. Those are the steps for reconciliation that have been provided for us by people who've walked with this issue for a long, long time. 

So it's all about seeking the glory of God, wrestling the log out of our own eye through confession and examining our hearts, to restore with care that requires clear communication and loving confrontation, and then reconciliation is the fourth step, that are very, very important principles in terms of conflict resolution.


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