Unfortunately, many believers and their churches have not yet developed the commitment and ability to respond to conflict in a gospel-centered and biblically faithful manner.
This is often because they have succumbed to the relentless pressure our secular culture exerts on us to forsake the timeless truths of Scripture and adopt the relativism of our postmodern age. Although many Christians and their churches believe they have held on to God’s Word as their standard for life, their responses to conflict, among other things, show that they have in fact surrendered much ground to the world.
Instead of resolving differences in a distinctively biblical fashion, they often react to conflict with the same avoidance, manipulation, and control that characterise the world. In effect, both individually and congregationally, they have given in to the world’s postmodern standard, which is “What feels good, sounds true, and seems beneficial to me?”
Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) pp. 15-16
As the community takes sides over the Israel Folau debate, or others like it, a critical question becomes “is our response to this situation, including how we discuss it with the believer and the non-believer alike, bringing honour to Jesus?” In other words, HOW we talk about the issue is every bit as important as, and for some conversations will be MORE important than, what our view is on the issue itself.
As the recent CMA Conference in Melbourne, Anne Robinson (Founder of law firm ProLegis) made the important point that our tone of how we speak in the public square is of critical importance for our witness to Christ. Whatever words people hear, will they hear respect, a genuine intent to listen, and ability not to demonise or “troll” people with whom we disagree?
Peter puts it beautifully when he say it this way:
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Peter 3:15.
Biblical peacemaking should never be understood as a better way for you to win arguments where you’re “right”. It shouldn’t even be understood as a more likely way to get to the truth. (One or both of those things may happen, but neither gets to the heart of why we engage in biblical peacemaking.)
“in the midst of an argument …. the most important thing we can do is bring glory to God through our conduct”
Biblical peacemaking is at its core a recognition that even in the midst of an argument where we have a lot to lose and where the person with whom we are in conflict may be entrenched in sin, the most important thing we can do is to bring glory to God through our conduct.
Whether you’re pondering about or asked your view on a conflict being played out in the media or are personally involved in a conflict with a friend, family member or work colleague, instead of being tempted to think, “but peacemaking won’t work in this situation or with this person,” its worth considering whether what you think is “working” and what God is in his sovereignty “working” may be two entirely different things.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,”declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
PS: And in the meantime, let’s pray for wisdom and grace for all Christians as we engage with others about the issues involving Israel Folau – it actually represents a great opportunity for us to talk with our non-Christian friends, if we approach the conversation with gentleness and respect.
Article written by Li Ai Gamble
Li Ai holds law and commerce degrees and practiced as a lawyer in both the private and government sectors for over a decade. She is one of the foundation PeaceWise Board members and currently is also the PeaceWise National Ministry Co-ordinator. Her greatest passions are spending time with and learning more about Jesus, and sharing her love of him with others through practical helps and conversations over a cup of tea (or coffee!).