The news of Bob Hawke’s passing a few days before the election made headline news all across Australia. During his years as Prime Minister, though he was a Rhodes Scholar, and was not without faults, it seemed he was an ordinary bloke and a larrikin at heart. Many people mourned his passing most sincerely.
For all his foibles and failings, Bob Hawke was a sharp and insightful politician. He worked to solve national problems collaboratively. It was very different to what many politicians had done before him.
How do I personally deal with conflict?
Collaboration is often the last thing on our minds when conflict comes into our lives. Most of us slip quickly to one of two extremes. We either try to deal with the conflict by escaping from the situation, or we try to get our way by attacking the other person. Sometimes we might even see-saw and try a bit of each of these approaches! In PeaceWise we refer to the escape responses as ‘peace-faking’ and the attack responses as ‘peace-breaking’.
God calls us to be peacemakers
As Christians however, we are called to be peacemakers and to ‘live at peace with everyone.’
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.’ (Romans 12:18)
Does that mean that (as too often we in the Christian community are prone to believe), “if I just keep quiet, I am ‘living at peace’”? No! Too often when we do that, we are just escaping. We are actually ‘peace-faking’. But if I am not to just ‘keep quiet’, HOW THEN do I truly live at peace?
What does God want of us in a conflict?
God doesn’t want us to simply ‘go quiet’ and ‘say nothing’. Instead, He calls us to something greater, to continually seek to honour Him and demonstrate determined love toward others in our relationships with them. Sometimes this might mean that we should respond to a conflict by quietly forgiving them from our heart, releasing them from the debt they owe us for their wrong. This is what the Bible calls ‘overlooking’ and is something done silently, but it is not ‘going quiet’.
A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense. (Proverbs 19:11)
But if overlooking isn’t possible or genuinely loving, what is required is for me to initiate a loving conversation with that other person. The goal of that conversation is to work through the conflict between us and to truly reconcile with each other.
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15)
But God calls true peacemakers to go even further than this. He calls us to initiate a conversation with a person when we become aware that they feel we have wronged them.
“Therefore, 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.” (Matthew 5:23-24)
What does living at peace actually mean?
So ‘living at peace’ does not mean ignoring problems or simply keeping quiet about them. Rather, it means asking God what He wants us to do to deal with issues that have arisen and restore a genuine relational harmony. This may result in us saying nothing to others and just talking to God about it. However, it may also require us take the initiative to intentionally, graciously and gently speak to the other person.
To put this another way, living at peace means moving out of the attack or escape responses that come so naturally to us. We then need to use the most appropriate peacemaking initiative to strengthen our relationship and truly and mutually resolve our differences.
But how can we move out of our own instinctive ‘escape’ or ‘attack’ responses? By asking ourselves, ‘How can I glorify God in this conflict?’ and ‘How can I genuinely love this person here?’
God’s glory and genuine love are not served by attacking another person, nor are they met in running away from a difficult situation. God longs for His people to live together in unity, love and genuinely reconciled relationships. He wants this because that is the sort of God he is himself.
Because of His love for us, He did not withdraw and leave us wondering. He also didn’t attack us with His angry judgment (even though we were his enemies and he could justifiably have done so!). No, in His love He came to us as the man, Jesus Christ, to suffer terrible things at our hands, and to die in our place. He carried our guilt to satisfy the just penalty we should have paid. By doing so He cleared the way for us to be forgiven by God forever and ever.
God in his merciful love acted to reconcile us to Himself, at great cost. He commanded and has gloriously modelled how we as his disciples are to ‘live at peace’ with each other.
While Bob Hawke might be recorded in history as one of the greats of 20th Century Australian politics, he was, like the rest of us, a flawed man. The hope he seemed to offer in collaborative problem solving lasted but a ‘moment’ in time on the Australian political landscape. Real and eternal reconciliation and peace has been given and modelled by Another – it comes only in the person of Jesus Christ, and in His God-glorifying, loved filled life lived out and sacrificed for us.
And it is in a new life given to us by Christ that we ourselves are truly able to choose God-glorifying peacemaking rather than peace-faking or peace-breaking.
To learn more about life-changing peacemaking principles, visit the PeaceWise website.
This article is by David Coy. David is married to Noreen, and they have four married daughters and three grandchildren. He trained and has worked as an Anglican minister. David connected with PeaceWise training in 2011 and is now working in biblical peacemaking through Turning Point Ministry Services.