Practical Peacemaking

A Hoscotch Approach: 10 Hops in the Right Direction

Our most recent “Construction Zone” article touched on peacemaking. We asked you to coment your practical tips that would help us all in this area. Today we continue with a few practical tips of our own. Feel free to add other tips in the comments at the end of this article. We said that peacemaking started with loving God and loving others. Today will focus on that latter phrase: loving others. In particular, loving others in the midst of conflict.

1. Listen. Really listen. When you find yourself in a difficult discussion, allow the other person to fully express their concerns and fears. Listen to understand. Too often we listen just waiting our turn at replying and therefore we never truly hear what is being action-adult-advice-1120344said. In fact, we may be planning our next volley of words in our own minds and therefore we literally do not hear a word the other person says; we only hear our own inner thoughts. Listening is our God-given way of taking in the facts. Use this gift.

2. Try to understand the reason they are upset. Often the reason they say they are upset is not the true reason. Are they operating out of fear? Guilt? Anger? Hurt?  Revenge? Jealousy? Insecurity? Ask questions to try to get to the root cause. Once again, listen carefully. Be discerning and trust your intuition. Notice what escalates their strong responses, this will lead you to the real issue; it shows you’ve hit a nerve with them.

3. Examine the anger being thrown at you. If they present with anger, you can usually be assured that there is more to it than that. Anger is generally a secondary emotion displayed instead of a primary emotion that is harder to deal with, such as hurt, fear, sadness, etc. Anger feels powerful, while hurt and other emotions a person has can make them feel vulnerable and in a weak postion. Anger can also ignite within a person the fight or flight response, a physiological response to what they feel is threatening them. Thus, they may lash out at you and attack you verbally or physically (fight) or hang up on you or run away from the challenge of dealing with the conflict (flight). Another form of attack is a more passive-aggressive approach where they do something covertly that is detrimental to you. These things will never bring resolution to a situation. They stall bringing true resolution and healing to a difficult situation.

4. Choose not to allow others to incite you to anger. You are in control of your feelings. Exercise self-control. Many things a person in conflict with you may say or do will feel like bombs being lobbed your way. Whether their behaviors are aggressive or their words are hurtful, cruel, or alarming, choose to remain calm: take deep breaths, follow scriptural principles, realize your fight is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, powers, and spiritual forces of evil.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12 KJV

5. Try to diffuse a voltile situation. This will include things like:

  • Speak calmly and gently.
  • Talk with them in person if possible.
  • If you’re talking in person, maintain a non-threatening, open body language.
  • Rephrase and reflect their words back to them to make sure you understand correctly.
  • Even if you don’t agree with their point of conflict, try to understand why it is important to them.
  • Express your understanding and willingness to come to reconciliation.
  • Don’t belittle or speak down to others.

woman-1708105_12806. Ask for God’s wisdom to understand the meaning and what is often left unsaid behind their spoken words. Pray, pray, pray. As you find yourself in this type of situation begin immediately to pray asking for wisdom, for eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to understand and a will to obey. Ask God to give you clarity and understanding.

7. Allow God’s love to flow through you to the person opposing you. Human love is imperfect even with our best efforts. God’s love is perfect. Through prayer and putting our own self-will aside we can allow His love to flow through us. Through His love we can love people who would otherwise trigger us to hate them.

8. Keep the lines of communication open even if you are rejected. If you are hung up on or abandoned in the discussion, pray for and seek ways to continue reconcilation: a gentle non-threatening appeal, a call or kind gesture, enlisting the help of a pastor or spiritual mentor. (Note: Texts and emails are too easily misunderstood. Tone and individual differences in word meanings often make these written approaches more harmful than helpful.) 

9. Go the extra mile. Do everything within your power to bring peace and resolution to the situation. Operate in the fruit of the Spirit with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.   Romans 12:18

10. Don’t post anything on social media. Period. (We shouldn’t even have to say that.)

What are your thoughts and tips?

Nathaniel Mckenzie

Construction Zone: Thermometer or Thermostat?

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:37

When building a home in the sunny South, a great Central HVAC unit is ultra important. Folks in our state sometimes die from heatstroke in the summer or from exposure to the extreme cold in winter. So air conditioning and heating are more than a luxury and are just short of being a necessity.

Years ago I heard the analogy that people are either like thermostats or thermometers. Thermometers simply measure temperature. They are gauges that display what the current temperature is. They do not affect the temperature or change it. Thermostats on the other hand are change agents. They are the devices that regulate the temperature within your home, office, school, or car. They cause your heat or air conditioning unit to come on when the house is too hot or too cold. As an Alabama girl, I must note that thermomstats are my favorite modern convenience on a humid, 97 degree summer day.

So if people are either thermometers or thermostats, which are you?

We have probably acted as both at some point in our lives. I tend to get stuck being the thermometer and telling everyone “its too hot in here” without doing anything about it. Our society has enough thermometers at the moment. We need some thermostats who will activate and bring change for the better.

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Think with me for a moment.

In our day we find the world to be polarized. It is as if people around us are just waiting for us to speak one wrong word or turn a phrase in the wrong way so that they may react and unleash some of their inner turmoil and anger. Sometimes, we are the ones waiting to jump on the person next to us. At other times we are blind-sided by venom spewed our way over an innocent comment. Our social media postings become 4th of July fireworks shows within seconds, and I’m sure many of you, like me, have found yourself deleting a post because it ignited such fireworks. Even typing this blog I find myself second-guessing and praying that my words are taken well.

As Children of God we are called to be peacemakers. Romans 12:18 instructs us

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 

And John 13:35 reminds us of how the world will recognize us as God’s people.

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

In fact, to even be called Children of God we must be peacemakers.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9 NIV.

And our peacemaking will not be useless, although I imagine it will feel that way at times. But we don’t trust our feelings. We obey scriptural mandates and leave the rest to our Abba. In His word He tells us

Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. James 3:18

So how can we live in this world as peacemakers? How is this practically accomplished in everyday life? As we build our spiritual houses, how can we express our beliefs, stand firm for what is right, and be agents of change in the world while at the same time being peacemakers instead of firecrackers?

It boils down to a simple New Testament mandate of Jesus:

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” Matthew 22:37

The 2 greatest comandments, which sum up all of the Old Testament commandments:

  1. Love God.
  2. Love Others.

Simple. Yet not easy.

How do we love God?

We love because He first loved us. (1 John 4:19) Just as a tiny baby learns to love as they grow and develop under the loving care of their parents, we learn to love from Our Father. We spend time with Him absorbing His character. We dig into his word every day to learn how to love well by 1) obeying His written commands, 2) examining the scriptural example of how Jesus lived on this earth, and 3) letting the Word of Christ dwell in us richly and teach us God’s love. (Colossians 3:16, Ephesians 3:16-19) God IS love. The more we allow Him to permeate our hearts and teach and strengthen and grow us, the more we will learn of love: love for God and love for others.

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. We love because he first loved us. Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. 1 John 4:16-21 NIV

How do we love others?

We get to know those different from us. We engage in open discussion, actively listening to try to understand, not just waiting to respond from our point of view. We stamp out that fear within our hearts of the new and the unknown – because perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18) We allow the compassion of Christ to permeate our hearts so that we overflow with love, grace, mercy and truth spoken kindly to ALL those we encounter. We give up the “us and them” mentality and view every man, woman and child as an image-bearer of Christ, no matter where they come from, what they look like, what political affiliation they hold dear, or whether they are like us or not. In short, we

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phiippians 2:3-4 NIV

This is a high calling. It is much more easily said than lived out. It takes forbearance, patience, and restraint of our tongue (or fingers on the keyboard!). It will take the power of Christ to calm our self-centered hearts and strengthen us to live this way daily. But we CAN do it. Are we going to be satisifed being only a thermometer who spits out info on the temperature of the world around us, or will we allow Our Creator to make us into thermostats that bring His cool, refreshing winds of mercy, peace, love, grace, and truth to the scorching heat of the society in which we live?

Let us learn from each other. If you would, respond in the comments and share practical ways you are building your spiritual house, ways you live out the mandate to “Love God and Love Others” in your daily life.

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