APPEALING & THE PEACEMAKER

How Appealing to Others, Not Demanding of Them, Enhances Peacemaking

Greeting and congrats

It has been some time since I introduced a series of post entitled The Ways of a Peacemaker. I want to return to developing this theme from the book of Philemon.

Affirmation and prayer play huge roles as peacemaking virtues. Making appeals matters greatly as a peacemaking skill as well.

Philemon reveals Paul’s heart in brokering reconciliation between Onesimus, a runaway slave, and his owner.

Having affirmed his friend and prayed for him, Paul next broaches his appeal to him.

Don’t miss the choice he makes here in terms of the approach. He could have pulled apostolic rank and simply told Philemon what to do.

He admits as much in v. 8. And he has the moxie (bold enough in Christ) to do it too!

But no. I prefer to appeal to you. He says it differently in greater detail in v. 14.

But I preferred to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord.

He says it even more simply at the top of v. 9—yet for love’s sake.

Paul so wants Philemon to profit spiritually in every way through this relational transaction.

“Dig deep, man, in the depth of your heart and let your choices flow from the reservoir of gospel love contained within.”

How much more God-honoring and glorious a way to resolve things than a begrudging, externally constrained, kiss-and-make-up superficial affair!

If the greatest is love (1 Cor. 13:13), then aim for that in your peacemaking.

Set the bar that high and entreat, appeal, beg, plead for hard hearts to melt into grace-laced loving ones.

Alfred Poirier, in The Peacemaking Pastor, writes:

Mediation is when parties in conflict call upon a third party to assist them in reaching a mutually agreed upon settlement of their dispute. The key word here is assist. . . .  Mediators do not decide for the disputants what their agreement will be. The decision is left to the disputants to mutually determine. However, Christian mediators do help shape the final agreement by giving wise biblical counsel (210).

And they shape it by how they call for response to that counsel—sincere, passionate, appeal.

Effective peacemakers go out of their way to broker reconciliation between estranged parties—leading with specific affirmation, praying with singular aim, and engaging with sincere appeal.

How does your approach as a peacemaker compare with these three virtues?

Please note: I will be traveling outside the country for the next two weeks and unable to post. See you in November!

 

PRAYER & THE PEACEMAKER

Virtue #2 in the Ways of a Peacemaker

prayer-1308663_960_720

Helping others resolving conflict requires a number of skills and responsibilities. None matters more than intercessory prayer.

The bigger the conflict, the greater the need for intercession.

Recently I introduced a series of posts called The Ways of a Peacemaker: Five Practices of Effective Peacemakers who Excel at Mending Relationships.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, the apostle prepares to return run-away-slave-turned-Christian Onesimus to his owner. Here we see a biblical model of assisted peacemaking worthy of imitation.

My last post focused on the first of five practices skillful peacemakers employ in helping repair broken relationships–leading with specific affirmation.

This post explores the second–praying with singular aim.

Not only does Paul praise God for Philemon (v. 4-5); he also prays strategically for him (v. 6).

And I pray that the sharing of your faith may become effective for the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

I’ve scratched my head a good bit about this verse. It’s tough to interpret.

When he talks about the sharing of your faith, I don’t think we should take it evangelistically like we often use the phrase.

I think he means sharing (koinoinia) as in generosity or liberality—the kind of lovingkindess and big-heartedness Paul himself has greatly profited by, even refreshed to use his word in v. 7.

In this whole deal, Paul aims to challenge Philemon to kick up a notch his reputation for being loving.

He wants it to become effective—see that word in v. 6―in the way he responds to Paul’s agenda later in the letter.

Effective in what respect? Full knowledge of every good thing that is in us for the sake of Christ.

Paul prays that Philemon’s stretching in love in dealing with Onesimus when he eventually shows up at the front door will deepen his understanding and heighten his treasuring of all the blessings we have in Christ Jesus.

Man, what a way to pray as a mediator attempting to help others with their relational meltdowns!

Paul believed in the efficacy of prayer—not just in peacemaking. Watch how he comes back to the priority of prayer at the end in v. 22. I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you (emphasis added).

There is no effective peacemaking without prayer—lots of prayer—with the singularly strategic aim of growth in love.

Question: What texts of Scripture help you to remember to pray for others to grow in love as they relate to others–especially in conflict?

AFFIRMATION & THE PEACEMAKER

Virtue #1 in the Ways of a Peacemaker

Bridge of Spies

Based upon true events during the Cold War, the gripping film Bridge of Spies stars Tom Hanks as attorney James Donovan.

The CIA hires Donovan to act as a mediator in a prisoner exchange between the US and Soviet Union in East Berlin.

Hanks’ character displays much of the relational wisdom skills necessary for effective assisted peacemaking between opposing parties.

For an excellent post exploring these concepts click here.

Recently I introduced a series of posts called The Ways of a Peacemaker: Five Practices of Effective Peacemakers who Excel at Mending Relationships.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, the apostle prepares to return run-away-slave-turned-Christian Onesimus to his owner. Here we see a biblical model of assisted peacemaking worthy of imitation.

This post explores the first of five practices skillful peacemakers employ in helping repair broken relationships–leading with specific affirmation.

After the customary greetings of an epistle in verses 1-3, Paul does what he so often does in his New Testament letters in verses 4-5. He expresses his gratitude to God for this man.

This “thanks” saturates his regular praying for Philemon. And he goes way beyond a mere generalized appreciation of this brother.

He gets quite specific as to the reasons for his thanks in v. 5—because I hear of your love and of the faith that you have toward the Lord Jesus and for all the saints.

Do you see what Paul values and how he reinforces it with praise? Love for all the saints and faith in the Lord.

Normally Paul would put faith first and love second, but not here.

He reverses them knowing that he will call on that love and more from Philemon with the peacemaking requests he will make of him.

Ken Sande writes:

A conflict generally involves two basic ingredients: people and a problem. All too often, we ignore the feelings and concerns of the people and focus all our attention on the problems that separate us. This approach often causes further offense and alienation, which only makes conflicts more difficult to resolve. One way to avoid these unnecessary complications is to affirm respect and concern for your opponent throughout the negotiation process (The Peacemaker, 231).

The same goes for all-in mediators trying to broker reconciliation—they lead with specific affirmation.

For a helpful rubric for biblical negotiation which leads with affirmation please see The PAUSE Principle.

One word of caution. Lead with sincere, legitimate affirmation. Avoid the temptation to manipulate with ingenuine words. That’s bound to backfire and doesn’t honor the Lord.

Affirmation communicates your value of persons made in God’s image. The way of a peacemaker never forgets using the tongue to bless others rather than curse them (James 3:6-10).

Virtue #2 in the ways of a peacemaker–praying with singular aim–will be the focus of my next post.

Question: What kinds of things can we readily affirm in others when engaged in conflict?

 

SCREWTAPE’S SCHEME FOR DISUNITY

How Satan Plots Against Church Oneness

Screwtape

The apostle Paul advises donning the full armor of God as the only adequate defense against the schemes of the devil (Eph. 6:10-12).

Satan hates unity in Christ’s church. We must not be ignorant of this scheme (2 Cor. 2:5-11)!

C. S. Lewis focused on this plot in one of his masterfully imagined correspondences between Uncle Screwtape and demon nephew Wormwood in The Screwtape Letters:

I think I warned you before that if your patient can’t be kept out of the Church, he ought at least to be violently attached to some party within it.  I don’t mean on really doctrinal issues; about those, the more lukewarm he is the better.  And it isn’t the doctrines on which we chiefly depend for producing malice.  The real fun is working up hatred between those who say “mass” and those who say “holy communion”. . . .  And all the purely indifferent things—candles and clothes and what not—are an admirable ground for our activities.  We have quite removed from men’s minds what that pestilent fellow Paul used to teach about food and other unessentials— namely, that the human without scruples should always give in to the human with scruples.  You would think they could not fail to see the application.  You would expect to find the “low” churchman genuflecting and crossing himself lest the weak conscience of his “high” brother should be moved to irreverence, and the “high” one refraining from these exercises lest he should betray his “low” brother into idolatry.  And so it would have been but for our ceaseless labour.  Without that the variety of usage within the Christian Church might have become a positive hotbed of charity and humility.

The reference to Paul comes from Romans 14:1-15:7.

There the apostle prescribes welcoming–embracing, accepting, not judging one another–as the antidote for the kind of critical spirit which divides believers over matters of conscience.

How charitable are your judgments of others regarding nonessentials? Where do you see a temptation to prideful criticism which disrupts unity within a church?

Refusing judgment and deferring to others does make the church a positive hotbed of charity and humility.

Few things contribute more to preserving congregational unity.

Question: What helps make a church a positive hotbed of charity and humility?

GOOD DAYS, GRACE DAYS

How Peacemaking Commitments Make for the Good Life

good life

How do you define “the good life?”

According to one source reported by Psychology Today, happiness consists of four things: experiencing pleasure, avoiding negative experience, seeking self-development, or making contributions to others.

The apostle Peter wrote a different prescription for loving life and seeing good days in 1 Pet. 3:8-12.

Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing. 10 For
“Whoever desires to love life
    and see good days,
let him keep his tongue from evil
    and his lips from speaking deceit;
11 let him turn away from evil and do good;
    let him seek peace and pursue it.
12 For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
    and his ears are open to their prayer.
But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

In my last post, I introduced this passage as a strategy for the good life for a suffering people. The main idea from the passage is this: Our extraordinary identity as God’s people calls for radical peacemaking commitments in the church. 

A suffering church must be a unified church. That takes three different peacemaking commitments embedded in the text.

The first of these commitments in verse 8 is showing grace. I take that from the four specifics which follow the need for unity of mind.

One, sympathy. The word means literally to suffer with someone in something. It’s the idea of empathizing with others in all kinds of situations, good or bad. Romans 12:15 says it well: Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 

Two, brotherly love. Our affection for others in the body of Christ should resemble the love we have for our physical families.

Three, a tender heart. The root means kidney or bowel. It was used to describe the visceral area of the body. It conveys the idea of a depth of feeling for others that comes from the gut—way down deep inside.

Four, humility. We simply can’t overstate the importance of this quality to a peacemaking ethic. Peter will hit it again in 1 Pet. 5:5: Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

Henry Scougal, in his treatise, The Life of God in the Soul of Man, comments on this:

The leaves of high trees do shake with every blast of wind; and every breath, every evil word, will disquiet and torment an arrogant man; but the humble person hath the advantage, when he is despised, that none can think more meanly of him than he doth of himself; and therefore he is not troubled at the matter, but can easily bear those reproaches which would the other to the soul (1996, p. 84).

Does “showing grace” make your list for defining the good life? The apostle put it at the very top. Do you need to alter your priorities?

JOY & THE KISS OF LOVE

How Rejoicing in God Fuels Greeting with Love

hugs

I married a hugger.

Jan loves to greet folks she knows with a warm embrace. She’s just about the best example I know of someone who takes seriously the Bible’s command to greet one another with a holy kiss (2 Cor. 13:12). She’s turned me into more of a hugger!

In my last post I wrote about the kiss of love (1 Pet. 5:14) as a gospel grace for guarding unity in the church. The gospel shapes our community with oneness when we engage one another intentionally by greeting with the holy kiss of love.

The way I see Paul’s flow in the argument makes me think we most likely will embrace his command in 12, or some modern-day, culturally appropriate version thereof, IF we take seriously and obey all five of his rapid-fire, staccato, summary-of-the-book imperatives in 2 Cor. 13:11.

 Finally, brothers, rejoice. Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.

I call them five virtues which must be operative in a gospel-shaped community if it’s going to show genuine, holy intimacy in relationships: rejoicing in the Lord, aiming at the perfect, submitting to the leadership, agreeing on the truth, and striving for the peace.

The first is rejoicing in the Lord. Finally, brothers, rejoice. Some translations have farewell. And it can mean that. The Greek word became a familiar form of greeting and parting in the New Testament world.

But the word literally is, as rendered by the ESV, the word for rejoice. Paul ends the same way in Phil 3:1 – Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord and Phil. 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.

Paul made it very clear in the opening of the letter, 2 Cor. 1:24, of his priority agenda in this regard – we work with you for your joy.

This way of saying hello and/or goodbye doesn’t differ all that much from the Jewish salutation shalom. Peace be to you. It conveys a certain sentiment, blessing, and hope for the party given the greeting.

It is decidedly vertical in its trajectory, for the object of rejoicing isn’t in one’s circumstances which vary substantially, but in God who always remains the same and always works all things together for a believer (Rom. 8:28).

People grounded in the bedrock theology of God’s sovereignty that contributes a deep running current of joy in His control of everything best fight against anxiety and more often than not bear the fruit of the Spirit that is joy (Gal. 5:22-23).

And because they keep their eyes on Jesus on the throne and the certainty of His love in the gospel, they possess a power to rejoice even in suffering and touch others with tangible, holy forms of intimacy rather than drown in a sea of self-pity that ignores the needs of others.

What greater need do we have than to be loved by others?

Consider giving more attention to your greeting ways in the church fueled by your rejoicing ways in God.

GUARDING YOUR HOME’S PEACE AFTER YOU’RE GONE

Living-Will

Forgive me if this seems maudlin. Nobody enjoys thinking about his death, let alone documenting every wish.

Just the same, moments ago I finished doing that very thing in a letter to my wife. I plan on giving it to her on Monday morning just before they wheel me away for “Operation Robojaw.”

Let’s face it. Nobody’s next second, let alone day is guaranteed. Pushing 64 years of age with an eight hour procedure ahead of me means I’d better go here.

My main motivation? Loving my bride well. Perish the thought, but she will have her hands full with grief. Why further jeopardize her shalom by failing to take responsibility for this myself?

Here are five things you can do in advance of your earthly demise to guard the shalom of the household you leave behind:

  • Prepare a living will. What in the world are you waiting for? This one is a no brainer.
  • Specify what you want done with your remains: burial, cremation, cryogenic freezing. Whatever. For a decent treatment of the burial vs. cremation question check out Cremation Confusion.
  • Write your spouse a letter to be opened only on the occasion of your passing. Warning. Should you do this and I hope you will sooner rather than later, keep the tissues nearby. Tears will come.
  • Tell your beloved the best of your heart’s affection. Then get after the business of detailing what you want done with your most important stuff. My list turned out pretty short. You know what they say: you can’t take it with you.
  • Write out a draft order of worship for your memorial service. My document runs from prelude to postlude. It contains the songs I want sung, the people I want to speak, the music I want played and the players to play it. I am a demanding so-and-so. I have even given Nancy instructions for a memorial fund in lieu of flowers.
  • Get the thing witnessed and notarized. Don’t leave any doubt as to the legitimacy of the document.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a death wish. But I do resonate with Paul when he writes, “I am hard pressed between the two–depart to be with Christ or remain in the flesh (Phil. 1:21-24). I get it. When it’s my time–precious in God’s sight as it is (Psalm 116:15)–I’m the only one to gain.

I fully expect to survive. Lord willing, “Operation Robojaw” will be a smashing success. If not, I’ve got peace that I’ve done my part to help guard the peace of the one for whom I care the most.

Will you?

Question: What have I missed? Can you think of any other helpful items to add to my list? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Why Family Night Matters To Me

This Sunday evening, June 14, at 5 PM, OGC will have its second Family Night Member’s Meeting. I wouldn’t dream of missing it. And not just because I’m one of the shepherds of the flock. I’m pretty certain I would make this a priority, if I were a “mere” regular sheep of the fold.

Why? Because I made promises before God and His church about being in covenant community with the rest of the membership at OGC. And that means commitments of love spelled out in a place like 1 Corinthians 13.

I love how Jonathan Leeman, in his book The Surprising Offense of God’s Love, grabs back the pretty lyrics of that passage from weddings (not that it doesn’t fit there, of course) and reads it to the local church:

Do you want to exercise, practice, embody, and define the glorious love of heaven, he asks us? Then do it in a local church, a church where factions are pitted against one another (1 Cor. 1:12-13), where people have big heads (4:8), where Surprising Offensemembers are sleeping with their fathers’ wives (5:2), where members are suing and defrauding one another (6:1-8), where members are getting drunk on the communion wine and not leaving enough for others (11:21-22), where spiritual gift one-upmanship is rife (chaps. 12 and 14), where the meetings are threatened by disorder (14:40), and where some are saying there is no resurrection from the dead (15:12). Bind and submit yourself and your gifts to these kinds of people. Love them with patience and kindness, without envy or boasting, without arrogance or rudeness, not insisting on our own way, not irritably or resentfully, not rejoicing at wrongdoing but rejoicing at the truth. 

People often complain about the sinners they find in the local church, and with good reason. It’s filled with sinners, which is why Paul calls Christians to love one another by bearing all things, believing all things, hoping all things, enduring all things. If you won’t love such backstabbers and defrauders like this, don’t talk about your spiritual gifts, your vast biblical knowledge, or all the things you do for the poor. You’re just a noisy gong. Don’t talk about your love for all Christians everywhere; you are just a clanging cymbal. But if you do practice loving a specific, concrete people, all of whose names you don’t get to choose, then you will participate in defining love for the world, the love which will characterize the church on the last day perfectly because it images the self-sacrificing and merciful love of Christ perfectly.”   

Family Night gives us one of the many ways to grow in love for those with whom He has called us into covenant commitments of membership. Here we learn to grow in that which is greatest and put the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus on display.

 

 

Envy’s Everywhere

envy

I can think of a lot of sins of the flesh which seem more prevalent in the body of Christ than the green monster. Perhaps that has something to do with its capacity, more than some, to fly under the radar in our churches. Other faults tend to rear their ugly heads publicly; envy hunts its victims within the private recesses of their concealed hearts. Not to God, of course.

Alexander Strauch continues to challenge me with his book Leading with Love. He treats First Corinthians 13, the so-called love chapter, through the lens of a Christian leader. I keep coming back to this read. It sobers me about how far I have to go in terms of shepherding God’s people from a heart of love. It doesn’t take more than the third characteristic of love, framed negatively, to go after this sneaky thing, “Love does not envy.”

Strauch admonishes:

We need to be aware that envy is a prevalent sin among the Lord’s people and Christian leaders. Pastors can go to bizarre leading with loveextremes to eliminate from the church gifted people who threaten them [not this pastor]. Churches can envy other churches that are larger or are growing rapidly [not OGC]. Missionaries can envy other missionaries who are more fruitful or better supported [not my missionaries]. Bible study leaders can envy more popular Bible study leaders [not my community group leaders]; singers can envy other singers who sing more often or receive louder applause [not my worship team]; elders can envy fellow elders who shine brighter in leadership ability and knowledge [not my elders]; and deacons can envy fellow deacons who serve more effectively or are sought out for help more frequently [not my deacons] (p. 50).

Can anybody spell “Denial’s not just a river in Egypt?” At least about the “not this pastor” protest.

So what’s the antidote? Adopt the spirit of John the Baptist who pleaded this when Jesus’ popularity outstripped his own and envy hunted his soul:

“A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, ‘I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him.’ The one who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is now complete. He must increase, but I must decrease.” (John 3:27-30 ESV)

I’ve got what I’ve got because Jesus gave it to me. If someone has more in my often distorted opinion, so be it. May He increase and I decrease. No better cure for envy than that.

Divine Mathematics

math

I hated math. I remember getting a “D” in Mr. Donnelly’s seventh grade class when the “New Math” came out – whatever that was. My overachiever, get-all-A’s world crumbled then and there. It never recovered. In college I did everything I could to stay away from anything mathematics related. Wasn’t I surprised when I signed up for Astronomy 101 that it was a math class in disguise. I just wanted to know about the stars. Took every extra-help Saturday class to survive that one.

Now, divine mathematics is an altogether different thing. That’s what D. A. Carson calls the equation formulated by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-3.

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing (ESV).

The equation? Five minus one equals zero. Or to put it George Sweeting’s way “gifts, minus love, equals zero.” Paul goes to great lengths in the first part of the Bible’s famous love chapter to describe supernatural gifts, extraordinary faith, and even heroic gestures like martyrdom, only to obliterate their significance before God if they lack love. Even the big five taken all together in this text, minus love, amount to absolutely nothing. Auth0r Jerry Bridges brings home the importance of God’s way of doing math:

leading with loveWrite down, either in your imagination or on a sheet of paper, a row of zeros. Keep adding zeros until you have filled the whole line on the page. What do they add up to? Exactly nothing! Even if you were to write a thousand of them, they would still be nothing. But put a positive number in front of them and immediately they have value. This is the way it is with our gifts and faith and zeal. They are the zeros on the page. Without love, they count for nothing. But put love in front of them and immediately they have value. And just as the number two gives more value to a row of zeros than the number one does, so more and more love can add exponentially greater value to our gifts (quoted in Leading with Love, Alexander Strauch, p. 15-16).

I can live with a “D” from 7th grade, but I want to excel far better in spiritual mathematics. No Christian leader should aspire to anything less. For that matter, nor should any follower of Jesus.