We have often confused peacemaking with peacekeeping. What we typically think is that peacemakers are those that take one for the team. Furthermore, if we have been hurt then we misguidedly think pursuing peace is keeping quiet or not speaking truth or only sharing part of the truth. We equate being passive with peacemaking. We withhold and bend truth not speaking how we really feel. We may be thinking that we are doing what is best for the team or relationship. However, peace is far more than the absence of conflict it is the presence of mercy and justice. True peace produces a relationship that brings even enemies together (Proverbs 16:7). Realize, fighting can be stopped without mercy and justice; however, you cannot live peaceably without them.
Peacemakers do not keep their mouths shut when they see improper behavior. Rather they are the ones who are willing to expose wrong conduct. Peacemakers see a problem and immediately go to work to correct, reconcile and restore. Peacemakers boldly confront no matter what the cost to themselves in order to establish the Kingdom of God on Earth even as it is in Heaven. That is, they go into the thick of the battle to resolve the conflict (Matthew 11:12. Revelations 12:11). Nevertheless, they remember that our fight is not against people but the spiritual forces behind them (Ephesians 6:12). Peacemakers have their eyes set beyond the problem in order to provide solutions. They implement long lasting solutions. Jesus knew that the way to establish His Kingdom, which includes peace, was to attack boldly the godless powers that were ruling. Jesus was not a peacekeeper but rather a peacemaker! (Matthew 10:34) However, when peacemakers do this, they are often accused of being unloving, judgmental, trouble makers, legalistic or intolerant. When a peacemaker points out an improper behavior they are all too often vilified and the guilty party is released from all accountability for their behavior. Remember, Jesus' only crime was telling the world the Truth (John 18:37) and we conspired to murder Him(1) for it! (Mark 3:6) Nevertheless, peacemakers continue to confront injustice with truth filled with grace, mercy and compassion even if it costs them their reputation, career or even their life (Luke 9:24. Acts 21:13. Romans 8:18,19).
He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose - Jim Elliot
A peacekeeper (or peacefaker) always guides conversations away from the subjects that might cause strife. Peacekeepers are compromisers. They avoid confrontation at all costs in order to maintain a sense of security albeit false. They are the inventors of the “Do not make waves rule.” They are experts at changing the subject, preventing arguments and misdirecting the conversation. Peacekeepers do not care if the problem gets resolved. They just want it to not affect them. The peace achieved by a peacekeeper is a fake, pretend peace or momentary peace. This peace is outward, external and incapable of changing anyone’s heart or mind. The result of the “Do not make waves rule” actually allows wrong to continue. It keeps dysfunctional teams or families in dysfunctional cycles. Sometimes we ignore things hoping they will go away. Remember, what we do not confront will not change!
All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing - Edmond Burke.
There are three basic ways that people respond to conflict. These responses may be arranged on a curve that resembles a hill. On the left slope of the hill we find the escape responses to conflict. the right side are the attack responses. And in the center we find the peacemaking responses. Moving from left to right on the curve also involves a move from private to public and voluntary to forced solutions (2).
The three responses found on the left side of the slippery slope are called the escape responses. People tend to use these responses when they are more interested in avoiding a conflict than in resolving it. These responses are used to create an illusion of peace (i.e., peacefaking) and not the reality of peace (2).
Denial - One way to escape from a conflict is to pretend that it does not exist. Or, if we cannot deny that the problem exists, we simply refuse to do what should be done to resolve a conflict properly. These responses bring only temporary relief and usually make matters worse (Genesis 16:1-6; 1 Samuel 2:22-25) (2).
Flight - Another way to escape from a conflict is to run away. This may include leaving the house, ending a friendship, quitting a job, filing for divorce, or changing churches. In most cases, running away only postpones a proper solution to a problem (Genesis 16:6-8), so flight is usually a harmful way to deal with conflict. Of course, there may be times when it is appropriate to respectfully withdraw from a confusing or emotional situation temporarily to calm down, organize your thoughts, and pray. Flight may also be a legitimate response in seriously threatening circumstances, such as cases of physical or sexual abuse (1 Samuel 19:9,10). If a family is involved in such a situation, however, every reasonable effort should still be made to find trustworthy assistance and come back to seek a lasting solution to the problem (2).
Suicide - When people lose all hope of resolving a conflict, they may seek to escape the situation (or make a desperate cry for help) by attempting to take their own lives (see 1 Samuel 31:4). Suicide is never the right way to deal with conflict. Suicide is a permanent non-solution to a temporary problem. Tragically, however, suicide has become the third leading cause of death among adolescents in the United States, partly because so many children have never learned how to deal with conflict constructively (2).
The three responses found on the right side of the slippery slope are called the attack responses. These responses are used by people who are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship. This attitude is seen in people who view conflict as a contest or a chance to assert their rights, to control others, or to take advantage of their situation. Attack responses are typically used by people who are strong and self-confident. But they may also be used by those who feel weak, fearful, insecure, or vulnerable. Whatever the motive, these responses are directed at bringing as much pressure to bear on opponents as is necessary to eliminate their opposition (2).
Assault -Some people try to overcome an opponent by using various forms of force or intimidation, such as verbal attacks (including gossip and slander), physical violence, or efforts to damage a person financially or professionally (Acts 6:8-15). Such conduct always makes conflicts worse (2).
Litigation - Another way to force people to bend to our will is to take them to court. Although some conflicts may legitimately be taken before a civil judge (Acts 24:1-26:32; Rom. 13:1-5), lawsuits usually damage relationships and often fail to achieve complete justice. When Christians are involved on both sides, their witness can be severely damaged. This is why Christians are commanded to settle their differences with other Christians within the church rather than in the civil courts (1 Corinthians 6:1-8). Therefore, it is important to make every effort to settle a dispute out of court whenever possible (Matt. 5:25-26) Litigation is often nothing more than professionally assisted denial and attack (2).
Murder - In extreme cases, people may be so desperate to win a dispute that they will try to kill those who oppose them (Acts 7:54-58). While most Christians would not actually kill someone, we should never forget that we stand guilty of murder in God’s eyes when we harbor anger or contempt in our hearts toward others (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:21-22). There are two ways that people move into the attack zone. Some resort to an attack response the minute they encounter a conflict. Others move into this zone after they have tried unsuccessfully to escape from a conflict. When they can no longer ignore, cover up, or run away from the problem, they go to the other extreme and attack those who oppose them (2).
The six responses found on the top portion of the slippery slope are called the peacemaking responses. These responses are commanded by God, empowered by the Bible, and directed toward finding just and mutually agreeable solutions to conflict. The first three peacemaking responses may be referred to as “personal peacemaking,” because they may be carried out personally and privately, just between you and the other party. The vast majority of conflicts in life should and can be resolved in one of these ways. When a dispute cannot be resolved through one of the personal peacemaking responses, God calls us to use one of the next three peacemaking responses, referred to as “assisted peacemaking.” These responses require the involvement of other people from your church or Christian community (2).
Overlook an offense - Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly and deliberately overlooking an offense. “A man’s wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense” (Proverbs 19:11; Proverbs 12:16; Proverbs 17:14; Colossians 3:13; 1 Peter 4:8). Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent-up bitterness or anger (2).
Reconciliation - If an offense is too serious to overlook or has damaged the relationship, we need to resolve personal or relational issues through confession, loving correction, and forgiveness. “[If] your brother has something against you . . . go and be reconciled” (Matthew 5:23-24; Proverbs 28:13). “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently” (Galatians 6:1; Matthew 18:15). “Forgive as the Lord forgave you” (Colossians 3:13) (2).
Negotiation - Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. This should be done through a cooperative bargaining process in which you and the other person seek to reach a settlement that satisfies the legitimate needs of each side. “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Mediation - If two people cannot reach an agreement in private, they should ask one or more objective outside people to meet with them to help them communicate more effectively and explore possible solutions. “If he will not listen [to you], take one or two others along” (Matthew 18:16). These mediators may ask questions and give advice, but they have no authority to force you to accept a particular solution (2).
Arbitration - When you and an opponent cannot come to a voluntary agreement on a material issue, you may appoint one or more arbitrators to listen to your arguments and render a binding decision to settle the issue. In 1 Corinthians 6:1-8, Paul indicates that this is how Christians ought to resolve even their legal conflicts with one another: “If you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church” (1 Corinthians 6:4) (2).
Accountability - If a person who professes to be a Christian refuses to be reconciled and do what is right, Jesus commands church leaders to formally intervene to hold him or her accountable to Scripture and to promote repentance, justice, and forgiveness: “If he refuses to listen [to others], tell it to the church” (Matthew 18:17. 2 Thessalonians 3:14,15). Direct church involvement is often viewed negatively among Christians today, but when it is done as Jesus instructs - lovingly, redemptively, and restoratively - it can be the key to saving relationships and bringing about justice and peace (2).
The question is do we love people enough to tell them the truth? (Proverbs 27:6) It takes a leader who cares little about their own peace in order to bring true peace to the team. Much is at stake for a peacemaker. Many Peacemakers are entering dangerous situations with only one goal in sight...to MAKE peace where no peace exists (Philippians 1:27,28).
"...And THEY (i.e. the peaceMAKERS) will be called, THE SONS OF GOD."
Called Sons of God by whom? By God (Matthew 3:17;17:5) and by man (Matthew 27:54).
Now that is something to have a BEAUTIFUL ATTITUDE about!
Links to this Series:
(1) Left click on underlined phrase to open another article in a different tab with more explanation.
(2) Adapted from The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict, 3rd Edition by Ken Sande (founder of Peacemakers Ministries and Relational Wisdom 360 Ministries), ISBN 0-8010-6485-6,