HAPPINESS IS BEING A PEACEMAKER

Why Jesus Stressed Peacemaking in Our Pursuit of Happiness

I majored in theater at Penn State back in the day.

My favorite show was “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown.” I played the lead role—the blockhead himself—Charlie Brown. Type casting no doubt!

The musical’s theme song, “Happiness” features a litany of things from pizza with sausage to climbing a tree that make for true happiness.

But Lucy and Linus join voices with the best lyric in the tune singing, “getting along.” Happiness is getting along.

It reminds me of a sermon Jesus preached about happiness. He proclaimed nine virtues which make for kingdom happiness called the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:2-12). Each begins with the word “blessed.”

The seventh focuses on the joy of getting along in relationships. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (5:9).

Happy, fortunate, enviable—all synonyms for “blessed”—are those who determine to get along with others whenever possible and help others do the same.

Conflict impacts everyone. No one escapes differences which can lead to relational breakdowns.

Danger Mines Sign

I get this. In only my second elder meeting at my new church recently, I stepped on a conflict landmine. A lack of sensitivity on my part about a painful conflict in their past history ended a way-to-short honeymoon. Sigh.

It happens to all of us–even guys who dare to write books on preserving unity! Oh the irony. What to do? I asked the Lord to help me gear up once again as a peacemaker. I suspect it won’t be the last time either.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus stresses that true happiness belongs to those who prioritize pursuing peace with others–no matter how often they must do so.

Other New Testament texts echo this. The apostle Paul pleads, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). The writer to the Hebrews exhorts, “Strive for peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Why is peacemaking a kingdom of God true happiness virtue? The answer comes in the rest of Matthew 5:9— “for they shall be called sons of God.”

Working hard at maintaining oneness and repairing brokenness—whether with family, friends, or adversaries–gets us the blessing of being called children of God. It gives evidence that we belong to the God of peace who sent the Prince of Peace with the message of the gospel of peace reconciling us to himself.

There is no greater happiness than that. Are you known as a peacemaker? Would others say that about you? If so, take it from Jesus. You are blessed!

For a quick checkup and loads of resources to help you pursue your joy as a peacemaker, click on Biblical Peacemaking at Ken Sande’s website www.rw360.

Question: What principle or insight has helped you experience happiness as a biblical peacemaker?

WHEN RELATIONSHIPS RUPTURE (1)

How To Navigate Sharp Disagreements Which End in Separation

fight, a confrontation between two white rhino

While in Orlando last month, I heard some excellent feedback about my book. “I wish you had included a chapter on handling irreconcilable conflicts in a peaceable way.”

My friend made a good point. Even our best efforts at preserving unity and pursuing reconciliation can end in a parting of ways. I wrote of two such painful episodes in recent experience in my 2018 review.

The New Testament records an account of just such a relational collapse between two missionaries in Acts 15:36-41.

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.

Both men shared the same worthy aim: revisit the places and people they reached in their first missionary journey to see how things were (Acts 13 & 14). However, they butted heads fast over the choice of an assistant.

Barnabas wanted John Mark along; Paul said, “No way!” The verb forms in vv. 37 & 38 suggest the debate persisted for some time. Eventually things deteriorated into “a sharp disagreement.” It’s one word in v. 39 in the Greek text. We get our word paroxysm from it. It means to provoke to anger (Acts 17:16; 1 Cor. 13:5). Things got hot–really hot.

Luke doesn’t include much detail about the dispute given his purpose within the book of Acts. He leaves us to wonder and speculate about some things. So with that disclaimer up front, here are the first three of seven insights for navigating sharp disagreements.

One, accept reality. This kind of thing does happen. Try as we might to prevent it, some conflicts don’t end happily–even between the best of individuals. This is Paul the apostle (Rom. 1:1) and Barnabas the son of encouragement (Acts 4:36) we’ve got here!

Two, examine self. Both men may have been right–though only Paul and Silas got sent off with Antioch’s commendation (40). Barnabas would have done well to question his motives potentially on three fronts: (1) family favoritism (Col. 4:10)–cousins–(2) prideful jealousy (Acts 13:2)–Barnabas and Saul had become Paul and Barnabas–(3) people pleasing (Gal. 2:13)–gospel hypocrisy.  These giants of the faith admitted their frailty (Acts 14:15). We do well to remember and suspect ours as well.

Three, understand interests. This is a strategic part of the PAUSE Principle of biblical negotiation. Identify others’ concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears. The differing positions about John Mark stemmed from his abandoning ship on the previous mission (Acts 13:13). Perhaps Barnabas the encourager insisted on John Mark believing that grace warranted second chances. Paul may well have worried that it was too risky to entrust at that point such an important role to the young man (Prov. 25:19). Looking out for others’ interests (Phil. 2:3-4) goes a long way on the road to satisfactory compromise and relational rescue.

There’s a lot involved in traveling these tricky waters–too much for one article. In my next post I will cover the remaining four insights for navigating sharp disagreements which lead to a parting of ways.

Question: What questions might you have about this particular challenge? You can post your comment below.

PASTORS MUST NOT BE MACHO MEN

Seven Guidelines for Peaceable Spiritual Leaders

Fireman in fire sparks and smoke.

A colleague of mine in ministry calls himself “a conflict magnet.” I can relate. When I reflect on my thirty-year tenure in pastoral work, I wince over more relational battles than I care to remember.

My 2018 Journey post included disappointment in the way I navigated two particularly painful meetings. I suspect most pastors identify with the challenges which come with inevitable church conflict.

The apostle Paul prepped young pastor Timothy for handling opposition in a God-honoring way:

And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Paul addresses the way pastors must engage people in conflict. In terms of what not to do, he commands only this: do not be quarrelsome.

The Greek word for quarrelsome comes from the root mache from where we get our English word macho. In Acts 7:26 it’s used for an actual physical fight. Pastors are not to be fighters, combatants–tackling conflict in a belligerent, contentious manner. That pattern disqualifies elders from office (1 Tim. 3:3). It reveals heart idols and passions yet to be conquered (James 4:1-2). There is a better way!

Seven Guidelines for Staying Peaceable in Conflict

One, faithfully embrace your identity. Pastors are first and foremost servants. Paul may have in mind the prophet’s Suffering Servant (Isa. 42:1-3). We must take our cue from Jesus who did not quarrel (Matt. 12:19).

Two, kindly engage your world. Pastors must show love (1 Cor. 13:4) by being kind to all without exception. If every believer must avoid quarreling but be gentle and show perfect courtesy toward all people (Titus 3:2), how much more should God’s shepherds.

Three, diligently use your skills. Able to teach. Elders serve because God has equipped them to instruct others in godly living (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Guide opponents into passages which address issues at hand. Let the Word of God do its powerful work (Heb. 4:12).

Handsome man reading and praying over Bible in a dark room over gray texture

Four, patiently endure your offenses. Opponents will do you evil at times though undeserved. Plan on it. I’ve been called names. I’ve had my motives misjudged. What to do when attacked? Bear up under the evil with the Lord’s help (1 Pet. 2:21-24).

Five, gently correct your opponents. Whether for false teaching, immoral behavior, or other wrongs, people will need admonishment (1 Thess. 5:12). Do it gently (Gal. 6:1). Picture the way a mother cares for her children and a father exhorts the same (1 Thess. 2:7-12).

Six, humbly trust your God. No other truth in this text will help more to keep you from turning macho in a conflict. Pastors don’t make anybody change direction; God is the one who gives the gift of repentance leading back to the truth. Rest in that. He has to work and is always working (John 5:17).

Seventh, prayerfully fight your real enemy. Paul ends by reminding that Satan ultimately ensnares someone taken captive by sin. Never forget the true nature of the fight–spiritual warfare. Put on the whole armor of God and pray at all times for all the saints (Eph. 6:10-20).

Helps for Growing as Peaceable Pastors in Conflict

There are three resources that have helped me immensely toward a peaceable path as a pastor. A recent post featured Alexander Strauch’s book, Leading with Love. I commend it again. Alfred Poirier’s book The Peacemaking Pastor is another must read for pursuing peaceable ways in ministry.

Another terrific help is Ken Sande’s ministry RW360. Last year I worked through his online training in relational wisdom to great advantage. Check it out.

Pastors, let us be peaceable, non-macho servants of our gentle, lowly-in-heart Master (Matt. 11:29)!

Question: What is a lesson you’ve learned about spiritual leadership which is peaceable with others in conflict?

THE TEACHING TONGUE

How to Speak about Others Who Offend You

angry young woman with megaphone shouting at stressed scared man blown away by wave of alphabet letters

It is said of the virtuous woman that “the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (Prov. 31:26).

We are always giving instruction to others by the words we use–especially in the training of our children. A unique challenge occurs when we’ve been offended by someone.

How we talk about that person speaks volumes to others–especially the kiddos.

The apostle Paul gives us the ultimate standard for a tongue of kindness:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such is as good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear (Eph. 4:29).

I came across a powerful example of this in D. A. Carson’s book about his Dad–Memoirs of an Ordinary Pastor: The Life and Reflections of Tom Carson.

It seems that at one point in his ministry, Pastor Tom Carson experienced a painful conflict with another pastor who treated him quite poorly.

As son Don relates the story, he only learned of the conflict years later. When he eventually brought the matter up, he quizzed his dad about why he never told the kids about any of it.

Tom explained that both he and his wife, Marge, wanted to protect their own souls from bitterness. So they took a vow that neither would ever say an unkind thing about the other pastor–and they kept that vow!

Daughter Joyce commented:

As I look back on life with Mom and Dad, perhaps the one thing I recall most vividly is the memory I don’t have. Try as I might, I cannot recollect one time when either of them spoke negatively about another person. Although Mom was an extremely astute judge of character, her analyses were well seasoned with grace and the latent potential for redemption (60).

What kind of talk comes out of your mouth in a conflict? Is it corrupt or kind? Does it tear down or build up? Does it give grief or grace to those who hear–especially the most impressionable?

The next time you are tempted to speak critically of someone else, choose the teaching of kindness on your tongue–void of bitterness, well seasoned with grace, and born of the latent potential for redemption.

Question: How would your children or friends describe your speech about others with which you are at odds?

BREAD, BATH, & BEYOND

How Prayer Meets Our Needs in Navigating Peacemaking Challenges

Hospital building sign closeup, with sky reflecting in the glass.

At the beginning and end of each day, Jan and I pause for spiritual reflection with the help of C. H. Spurgeon’s classic devotional Morning and Evening.

Commenting on Matthew 7:7— “Ask, and it shall be given you.” —every believer’s grand privilege to pray, he writes:

We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that he has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his wants supplied. Nay, he has done better; he has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is . . . filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. . . . As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him.

Allow me to add one more “beyond” from the preceding context to Matthew 7:7.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. “Do not give dogs what is holy, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, lest they trample them underfoot and turn to attack you (Matt. 7:1-6).

Please don’t miss the connection between paragraphs.

Matthew follows a classic peacemaking passage about judgments and conflicts with a classic spiritual life passage about prayers and intercession.

Do you need insight and wisdom for navigating some interpersonal conflict?

Ask, seek, and knock at St. Cross Hospital and you will receive, find, and have the door opened to you!

Question: What other provisions are promised in God’s word for meeting our needs through prayer?

 

WHY ANOTHER BOOK

Three Reasons I Wrote “The Peacemaking Church”

Bookstore. Public Old Library. Creativity Concept

The wisdom writer warns: “Of making many books there is no end” (Ecc. 12:12). As it was in Solomon’s day, so it remains today.

According to one source, publishers around the globe have produced nearly 2.3 million books this year. On November 20 my book will join the collection. Why add to this endless making?

I wrote The Peacemaking Church for three primary reasons.

One, there is a story to tell. Not just mine, though I describe my share of personal examples–mostly a number of painful blunders along the way. This is an entire church’s journey.

I explain in the introduction that Orlando Grace Church suffered traumatic conflict twice in its history. The painful details bear no repeating. No need to reopen old wounds.

Our story begins with a fierce campaign to cultivate a culture of peace to prevent a third meltdown—if we could possibly help it.

Thus far, hiccups notwithstanding, we have managed to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph. 4:1-3). That story needs telling.

Two, there is a need to meet. In his foreword to the book, Ken Sande opens with a redacted version of Matthew 18:20. “Where two or three come together in Jesus’s name . . . there will soon be conflict.”

The New Testament reflects that reality. Just observe the sheer volume of texts which address some form of conflict therein! 

Anyone hanging around church for any length of time will likely confirm the same. It doesn’t matter where you go.

It was true in metro Orlando for me. I saw it on a recent trip overseas. It exists right here in my new home in rural Idaho.

And it doesn’t take much to set off a firestorm of trouble. In the introduction to my book, I cite Twenty-Five Silly Things Church Members Fight Over to make the point–like the length of the worship leader’s beard!

I wrote The Peacemaking Church to add a proactive, stay-out-of-trouble resource to the Baker suite of books currently addressing reactive strategies for dealing with conflict.

I ask this question right up front: What if the best fight your church ever has is the one it never gets into in the first place? This approach needed addressing in a book like this.

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Three, there is now a tool to help. I appreciated every endorsement commending The Peacemaking Church, but Pastor Alfred Poirier, author of The Peacemaking Pastor, well distilled what I hoped would come across in the pages.

Out of the pain of church conflict comes a refreshingly biblical and practical guide for building peace, resolving conflict, and preserving unity in the body of Christ. 

Biblical and practical sum up my hopes for The Peacemaking Church. I wrote it to root church leaders and followers alike in the Scriptures and to equip them with tools which will help make them heavyweight champions of peace and unity in their churches.

Copies are available for preorder here and for bulk discounts for ministries here. Thanks for helping me get the word out by sharing with others as led!

A LIFE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL

How Treasuring Unity Matters to a Well-Lived Gospel Life

Live_a_Life_Worthy_of_the_Calling

I remember the day this headline in the Orlando Sentinel (8.26.15, p. B4) caught my eye:

In faith and politics, angry division often eclipses joy and service.

Scott Maxwell wrote:

When Fred Hawkins Jr. looked out over the Osceola County Commission chambers last week — and saw a room full of religious leaders and activists — he was slightly depressed. That might sound strange for a man such as Hawkins: a devout, conservative Christian who begins each morning with a daily devotion. So please understand that Hawkins wasn’t bothered that religious advocates had shown up this day to protest an equal-rights ordinance that says employers and landlords can’t discriminate against gays. He was bothered that this was virtually the only time they showed up. “I’ve been on the board seven years,” Hawkins said, noting that his board discusses and debates all manner of things that Christians should care about: poverty, homelessness, education and the environment. “And they just don’t come out.” This is one of the main problems of modern-day Christianity: Religious activists make more headlines for division and anger than unity and joy. . . . Organized religion has a PR problem. . . . We could do better. . . . Boy, would that be living the Gospel—and probably attracting followers to boot.

Of course, the problem doesn’t exist just in politics outside the church; it often plagues God’s people inside the church.

It seems the church at Philippi had its own PR problem when it came to conflict in the church.

Paul even calls out by name two women apparently out of sorts with one another in Philippians 4:2.

He wrote the letter for other reasons as well, but we piece together this important occasion for writing from his multiple references to unity.

Consider the end of chapter 1 and the beginning of chapter 2. He could hardly write more strongly with greater emphasis.

Let’s start with Philippians 1:27. Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ. How?

Jump down to the end of the verse: Standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.

And then just in case we missed it, he hammers the same idea again in 2:2—complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Notice the repetition of the word mind—three times.

Get on the same page. Have the same values. Be thinking the same God-honoring, Christ-glorifying, Spirit-inspired truths designed to renew your minds and make you one (Rom. 12:2).

That he calls a life worthy of the gospel—living in unity as God’s people in His church.

A life worthy of the gospel treasures and fosters unity in Christ’s church as a non-negotiable priority.

In the next few posts, I want to answer three questions related to the priority of cultivating a culture of peace in your church—why it matters, how it works, and what it takes.

Question: What are some other Scripture passages which show the connection between the power of the gospel and striving for unity in the church?

GREAT CHURCH FIGHTS

Review of a Peacemaking Resource for Preserving Church Unity

Leslie B. Flynn’s book, Great Church Fights: What the Bible Says about Controversy and How to Resolve Ithas been on the bookshelf for some time now–Victor Books, 1976, 118 pages.

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A short read, profitable for group study as well as individual reflection, its aim gets stated early on:

All conflict in ecclesiastical life is not healthy per se. Disagreements, with their accompanying misunderstanding, hurt feelings, and competitiveness do carry the potential of destructive bitterness, but if they are properly handled through peaceable wisdom from above, they can be a constructive force for uniting the body of Christ (James 3:13-18).

The chapters following will deal with significant conflicts in the New Testament, generally in the order in which they appear in the sacred record. Consideration of the principles should help our 20th-century churches. Out of friction can arise new love and strength in the family of God (11).

Each chapter which follows deals with in turn:

  • The Acts 6 growing church dilemma where the Grecian widows went unfed.
  • The Acts 15 Jerusalem council regarding salvation by grace.
  • The Acts 15 sharp disagreement between Paul and Barnabas over John Mark.
  • The Romans 14 instruction about disagreement over matters of conscience.
  • The 1 Corinthians 1 rebuke concerning the building of factions around personalities.
  • The 1 Corinthians 5 (other texts as well) teaching about church discipline.
  • The Galatians 2 clash between Paul and Peter about Jew/Gentile relationships.
  • The Matthew 5:23-24 call to be our brother’s keeper for peace even if it interrupts corporate worship.
  • The Philippians 4 mediation between two at odds women in the church.
  • The 3 John 9-10 counsel for dealing with leaders who think far too much of themselves.

The book rightly closes on a positive note to act as more than conquerors when conflict erupts. The way to win those inevitable church fights is to give in–to the Holy Spiritand watch Him restore unity and power to the Church (118).

Flynn writes in a most readable style. The book contains considerable biblical references as well some illustrative content which made me laugh and wince at the same time.

Given the brevity of the book, the chapters don’t go all that deep in their analysis of such important content. Why the author chose to ignore entirely Old Testament accounts of conflict–Abram and Lot (Gen. 13) or Abigail and David (1 Sam. 25)–I suppose will have to remain a secret.

Still, Flynn has given a gift to Jesus’s church. It’s worth adding to your church library or personal bookshelf. I got my used but in perfectly good shape copy for just $4 plus shipping off Amazon.

Question: What text of Scripture has helped you in the area of conflict resolution? You can leave your comment here

WHY NOT A UNITY CHARTER?

A Proposed Document for Churches Serious about Preserving Peace

Ephesians 4:3 remains the anchor verse for my blog site–eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Nothing short of our very best efforts in safeguarding unity in our congregations will suffice, if we seriously embrace the thrust behind that word eager. I plan on devoting an entire chapter to the idea in my book, The Peacemaking Church.

woman is filling document on glass table, shallow depth of field
The thought occurred to me recently, Why not fashion a church charter to foster unity’s preservation? Plenty of organizations use charters of one kind or another to shape a desired culture. Surely the church can do the same on something this crucial to her well being.

I crafted mine by making an acronym out of the word unity. Imagine posting something like this around your facility, incorporating its content in your bylaws, and/or teaching through it as part of the membership class.

OUR CHURCH’S UNITY CHARTER

We Use Means Big and Small to Maintain Unity–from potentially hosting a RW360 weekend conference to simply stocking our resource center with copies of Resolving Everyday Conflict, we put into play multiple options designed to help us keep our congregation’s culture of peace strong.

We Need Love First and Last to Maintain Unity–of all the virtues generated by the gospel’s power in our lives, we acknowledge none matters more than what Paul calls in 1 Cor. 13 the greatest–love. We measure every value, word, and action in terms of its conformity or lack thereof to the question: Is it loving?

We Imitate Models Divine and Human to Maintain Unity–as Paul appealed to the selfless example of Jesus in Phil. 2:5-11 for a mindset that looks out not only for our own interests, but also for the interest of others, we meditate often on our Lord’s incarnation for motivation in safeguarding unity. We resist objecting to such a standard as impossibly high realizing that Phil. 2:19-30 present two other “normal” individuals–Timothy and Epaphroditus–who excelled at meeting the challenge.

We Train Servants Clergy and Lay to Maintain Unity–so as to equip the saints for peacemaking excellence, we arrange for offering regular teaching on the subject using the various models provided by Peacemakers Ministries. Every pastor undergoes conflict coaching and mediation training to provide the necessary tools for handling disturbances which threaten unity in the church.

We Yield Preferences Left and Right to Maintain Unity–whether pertaining to styles of worship music or matters of conscience over which only Jesus should judge (Rom. 14:1-12) and everything in between, we rely on the gospel’s power to defer to others wherever and whenever  we possibly can. It is our joy to lay down rights with the Spirit’s help in the name of safeguarding our treasured unity.

Now I ask you: what difference might it make if your church and mine adopted such a charter for preserving unity? Your church might word things differently. Who cares?

As long as our commitments come from the Scriptures and ultimately serve the endgame–eagerly preserving the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace–spelling out our high value of unity and the ends to which we will go to protect it can only enhance our prospects for heading off conflict before it ever happens.

Question: How might you tweak a charter of unity for your church, if you had opportunity to participate in such a stewardship? You can leave a comment here.

THE POWER OF QUESTIONS IN PEACEMAKING

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This morning I shared with Nancy, my wife, my struggle over choosing a killer title for a prospective post.  After a brief pause, she said to me, “Babe, do you think it’s safe to go there?”

I’ve learned the hard way to listen up when my bride ventures her opinion. That writing idea went home to be with Jesus in a hurry.

However, our exchange got me thinking. My wife’s approach reminded me of one of the most effective strategies do-your-best peacemakers can employ for preserving unity at home, work, church, or anywhere for that matter.

I’m talking about the power of asking questions. King Solomon wrote, The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding will draw it out (Prov. 20:5).

In all my years of doing peacemaking, I’ve never known any tool more effective for drawing out someone’s heart than that of asking skillful questions. When I wade into a conflict, inevitably I ask a ton of them.

Here are five categories of peacemaking power questions to make you a better guardian of oneness in all your relationships:

Category #1 EXAMINATION QUESTIONS

Many thanks to David Powlison at CCEF for his effective word picture for examining ourselves. In any peacemaking encounter you must start first with assessing your own motives. He lists a number of these in X-Ray Questions: Discerning Functional Gods.

My favorite? What do you want, desire, crave, lust, and wish for? Effective peacemakers remove any logs from their own eye before they ever attempt surgery on specks elsewhere (Matt. 7:3-5).

Category #2 COMMUNICATION QUESTIONS

We could cover a bunch of these. Let me give you my favorite. What did I miss? Around Orlando Grace Church our members hear me say this rather often: Never underestimate the capacity for communication to break down.

Humility dresses itself in the assumption that I may have somehow failed to get the right message (1 Pet. 5:5). Give that benefit of the doubt up front and watch peacemaking barriers fall.

Category #3 SUGGESTION QUESTIONS

These can take any number of forms depending upon the issue. The point is simple: instead of declaring a judgment, ask a question. My wife has mastered this art over the years. This morning she could have hammered me with, That’s a terrible idea!

But she would have accomplished only one thing—the opposite response she desired. Nancy ventured a question to engage me rather than put me on the defensive. Man, does it pay to marry a Matt. 10:16 woman!

Category #4 PERSUASION QUESTIONS

This may count as the money question for the peacemaking toolkit. I use it all the time. Help me understand your greatest concern about _____ ?

Just the other day it came in handy with my mom. We had locked horns over an issue for a while. After broaching the subject another time, I asked this very question with all the 5th commandment respect I could muster. I drilled down to the interest driving her position. She admitted it to me and we were off and running to a solution.

I have blogged about this essential aspect of peacemaking elsewhere. I cannot overstate the importance of its efficacy in reaching agreement with others when positions clash. Scuba dive beneath someone’s stance to discern their major interests.

Category #5 MEDIATION QUESTIONS

As with the other categories, questions helpful in assisted peacemaking take on many forms. One of my favorites resembles my persuasion question. In mediation I tweak it like this: What’s the worst thing that could happen if this deal doesn’t turn out in your favor?

James targets passions at war within us as the source of conflicts and quarrels (James 4:1). Wise mediators labor to dig deep into opponents to root out the heart idols stoking their passions.

Do you desire to excel as a preserver of peace in your relationships? Master the art of asking questions and watch your skills rise to a whole new level.

Question: What other questions have you discovered make you a better peacemaker? You can leave a comment by clicking here.