Holiday Peacemaking 101


With the holidays each year comes increased opportunity for conflict in relationships. Unrealized expectations, margin-less schedules, extended family demands, and a host of other stress-escalating factors conspire to heighten the potential for relational strife. In the spirit of Rom. 12:18, “so far as it depends upon you be at peace,” consider these principles for making it to 2014 without suffering a conflict train wreck.

First, check your expectations at the front door of the season. Idealistic notions of the holidays with their feel-good promises often fall short of the realities of dealing with family and friends whose total depravity doesn’t automatically take a break from Thanksgiving to New Years.  Remember that everyone you engage could legitimately compete with Paul in 1 Tim. 1:15 for the title “chief of sinners.” While you’re at it, assume that you qualify for the label over and above anyone else at the party and you will go a long way toward enjoying the blessedness of a peacemaker this Christmas (Matt. 5:9).

Second, overlook offenses. A lot. Assume folks will do and say some things during what the recovery movement calls “the silly silly seasonseason” just because so much of the craziness is just that. Exercise more patience than usually required. Proverbs 19:11 counsels, “Good sense makes one slow to anger and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” Overlooking can get overlooked as among the virtues qualifying as glorious. One reason the overlook strategy makes good sense comes into perspective in another wisdom saying in Prov. 17:14. “The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.” Count the cost doesn’t just apply to financial decisions but relational ones as well. It may not pay to start the battle in the first place, so let it go whenever in good conscience you possibly can.

Third, when you can’t overlook for the gravity of an offense, go straight to the person involved – do not talk to someone else about it – and seek to resolve the matter between you and him in private (Matt. 18:15). Treat the person the same way you would want to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot. Let texts like Gal. 6:1-2 dictate your timing, approach, and most of all objective – bearing a fellow-sinner’s burden by helping rescue them from the trespass you believe has ensnared them.

Fourth, overcome evil with good through not returning the same. Rather, determine to heap coals of love on a head when you get the chance (Rom. 12:17-21). The holidays typically bring us into close quarter contact with folks, including relatives, with whom we might otherwise prefer not to associate. Make conversation. Ask questions. Serve quietly. Don’t just look out for your own interests but even those of your obnoxious cousin (Phil. 2:3-4).

Fifth, and most importantly, take your cue from the One the Bible calls the Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6-7), drawing strength from Him and the power of His gospel, in your determination to live at peace with others throughout the holiday season. In her article, “Walking in Peace Amid Holiday Strife,” Tara Barthel writes:

If we are to walk as people of peace during the stress of the holidays, we must first begin by remembering the greatness of God and all that he has done for us in Christ. Then we can move on to how we are to live in light of these truths. If we try to skip the first step and move to the changing of our behavior, we will probably end up frustrated both by our own failures as well as the fallenness of those around us. Our only hope is in God—he justifies us, redeems us, delivers us from our shame, and conforms us to Christ (Romans 8:29). Such a God! Such a Savior! This is the Jesus whose birth we celebrate during this Christmas holiday season.

What she said.

May the Prince of Peace fill you with the spirit of peace for the making of real peace in the face of your holiday conflict, if and when you eventually tangle with it.

A Holiday Reflection


I woke up early this morning with First Thessalonians 5:16-18 on my mind. “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” I got up and did some digging in the text. Here are some thoughts that may help shape this holiday in a Godward fashion. Bottom line?  Simple. Be joyful, be prayerful, and be thankful.

These staccato exhortations by the apostle come embedded in a series of final instructions to the church at Thessalonica.  Everything therein focuses on obligations for the church in community as a whole. Even the three verbs in v. 16-18 all have second person plural “we” subjects. So while I don’t think it wrong to apply commands (imperatives all) like rejoice, pray, and give thanks to the individual, personal life of the believer, Paul stresses in the text the necessity of the church gathered putting on these gospel graces. He’s adamant about this. It is the will of God for those of us who are connected to Christ Jesus by grace through faith. Corporate worship should consistently look like a joyful, prayerful, thankful affair. Do I hear an “Amen!” from the Hebrew poet (Psalm 95:1-2)? Absolutely.

The emphasis Paul puts on the need for consistency in these practices stands out big time in the Greek text. The present tense of the verbs conveys continuous, keep-on-doing-these-things, kind of action. As if that were not enough, Paul uses adverbs like “always” and “unceasingly” and the prepositional phrase “in all things.” And he places all three modifiers before each verb to punctuate the emphasis. ALWAYS rejoice, WITHOUT CEASING pray, IN EVERYTHING give thanks.  He virtually dares us to miss the point. A gospel-shaped people gathered to worship King Jesus for who He is and all He has done should relentlessly manifest a joyful, prayerful, and thankful DNA from start to finish.

What embracing each of these graces looks like will have to wait for later posts. But one final consideration. The three intersect and overlap. Charles Spurgeon said it well:

When joy and prayer are married their first born child is gratitude. When we joy in God for what we have, and believingly Spurgeonpray to him for more, then our souls thank him both in the enjoyment of what we have, and in the prospect of what is yet to come. Those three texts are three companion pictures, representing the life of a true Christian, the central sketch is the connecting link between those on either side. These three precepts are an ornament of grace to every believer’s neck, wear them every one of you, for glory and for beauty; “Rejoice evermore;” “Pray without ceasing;” “in everything give thanks.”

When you get dressed today for your Thanksgiving celebration with whomever and wherever, make sure you put on your ornaments of grace. Wear them for glory and for beauty. And please don’t forget to do the same when Sunday rolls around and you head off to church for your Lord’s Day worship.

The Fear Diet

Nothing like the holidays to accentuate the reality of conflict in our lives.

I thought this piece from Peacemaker Ministries was helpful:

Have you ever thought about fear as an indulgence that we as Christians can’t afford?

We often think of rich desserts as indulgences, and they certainly can be. But fear is an indulgence, too–one that Christians engage in at least as much (if not far more) than Krispy Kreme donuts.

We indulge in fear each time we deny a conflict that exists with a friend–even though we know there is a cancer-like silence between us that Satan is probably filling with his lies. We can indulge in fear when we tell ourselves, “I’ve had enough. I’m done with this.” While walking away looks like some kind of primitive strength, it’s often a fear “feast” that results in us putting on weight (in the form of concern and anxious thoughts).

When fear keeps us from addressing conflict in our lives, it hinders our intimacy with Christ. We’d rather indulge in fear than delight in the love of Christ; yet, if we’d just delight in Perfect Love, scripture says that fear would flee.

Leaving fear behind is a bit like dieting. Standing at the freezer with our hand on the door and the ice cream on the other side, sometimes we just have to say aloud, “No.” Standing in a conflict feeling sorely tempted to indulge in denial and flight (both grounded in fear), we must call to mind the lavish love of Christ, drop our hands to our side, and remind ourselves that fear is one indulgence we simply cannot afford.

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