Begin the sentence ‘institutional responses’ and most people will be able to finish it with ‘child sexual abuse’. We all know that the Church has not come through this unscathed. The Royal Commission was not centrally about the abuse, bad enough as that is; its focus was on the lack of response made by institutions, including churches.
But a lack of response is not just an institutional issue.
We may find ourselves in situations where we would prefer to not to stir up a hornet’s nest. But in leaving issues alone, they may never get resolved, and worse, simmering resentments may continue to boil.
The Four G’s taught by PeaceWise (based on Ken Sande’s book The Peacemaker) are a great tool for resolving conflict. The first G, we glorify God. The second G, we get the log out of our own eye, obeying Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 7:3-5. The third G, which is our focus on this article, is in going to the other person we are in conflict with, and not failing to respond.
Jesus said in Matthew 18:15 (NIV), “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you.”
Just between the two of you
No gossip. We keep the matter private. We protect the sanctity of them, us, and of our relationship.
Jesus also said elsewhere, in Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV), “… if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.”
Seven A’s Of Confession
If we think this issue is not something we can overlook (see Proverbs 19:11), Jesus puts the onus on us, that is you and I, to make the first move, in seeking to gently restore the other person. Sometimes this involves us saying our apologies first. The seven A’s of confession is an excellent resource. At other times, having prayed first, we may choose to respectfully confront another person, being careful to consider the timing, and, believing the best about the other person, communicate with a caring tone and body language, using ‘I’ language. We go to them underpinned by the hope of the gospel.
If there are issues that we need to negotiate, we PAUSE. We prepare, and, in affirming how much the relationship means to us, we help make them feel safe. We then seek to understand the interests that undergird their position, the ‘why’ behind their ‘what’. Only once we understand what their interests are will be motivated to search for creative solutions and evaluate options objectively and reasonably.
By confronting issues with the motive of gently restoring other people we are in conflict with can we hope to glorify God, serve other people, and grow to be more like Christ.
Only as we courageously engage with the people we are in conflict with are we able to resist being peace-fakers and peace-breakers and go on to emulate Jesus, our Great Peacemaker.
PeaceWise’s National Director, Bruce Burgess, has written an article on a Christian response to the situation of abuse. You can read the article here.
This article is by Steve Wickham. Steve has been married to Sarah for 11 years. They have one son, and Steve has three adult daughters. Steve has a passion for peacemaking and is a PeaceWise trainer. He has worked as a registered safety practitioner in chemical manufacture, downstream petroleum, and ports initially, then subsequently as a pastor, counsellor and school chaplain.