Five Practices of Effective Peacemakers Who Excel at Mending Relationships
Alfred Poirier says this about pastoral ministry in his book The Peacemaking Pastor:
Pastoring is peacemaking. . .. Pastors are waiters serving the Lamb to sworn enemies. Pastors are busboys washing the dirty dishes of our hatreds, anger, lusts, deceits, malice, and filthy words in the purifying stream of Christ’s blood. It is tiring work. It is battle work. It is Messiah work. But we are compelled to persevere, because serving this way is at the heart of our calling as pastors, as mediators (188).
I’ve come to agree with all of that more than ever over the last fifteen years of pastoral ministry.
As a result, I read the Scriptures regularly with an eye for what will help churches guard unity and pursue peace.
In the next few posts, I want to focus on Paul’s letter to Philemon for its emphasis on forgiveness. So much of peacemaking involves both asking forgiveness and granting forgiveness.
And the book does involve that.
Onesimus, the thieving runaway slave become a Christian with Paul’s help (v. 10) in a Roman prison, needs forgiveness; Philemon, himself a convert of Paul (v. 19) and Onesimus’ owner, needs to forgive the wrongs done to him.
But the more I drilled down in my study of this shortest and most personal of Paul’s letters, I gained a different perspective on the thrust of Philemon.
What unfolds beautifully and powerfully in these twenty-five verses is the stunning ministry of the apostle Paul laboring busboy-like as a peacemaking mediator to bring the two estranged men together in reconciliation!
It appears Paul took Jesus quite seriously in Matthew 5:9 when He said, Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
Philemon presents a text-book example of how to act out the virtue Jesus longs to see embraced by each and every one of His followers.
The gist of things reads like this: Effective peacemakers go out of their way to broker reconciliation between estranged parties.
Paul became quite attached to Onesimus after his spiritual birth. He calls him my very heart (v. 12). He describes him as useful (v. 11). He even felt tempted to keep Onesimus with him for his services while still imprisoned (v. 13).
But he knew at the very least that would constitute a breach of faith with his brother, Philemon. So he rightly chose to send him back.
But how to do that knowing so much damage remained unresolved?
Paul’s strategy in this masterful letter gives us five practices of effective peacemakers who excel in helping mend broken relationships.
They lead with specific affirmation. They pray with singular aim. They engage with sincere appeal. They mediate with skillful aplomb. They invest with sacrificial action.
These will be the focus of my next posts.
Question: When has someone helped you mend a broken relationship and what did that look like?