Well, I have now had a second experience like that. It involves The Peacemaker by Ken Sande. A beautiful friend gave it to me on my birthday because she knew I had been wrestling with what the gospel is supposed to look like in conflict. The subtitle of the book is "A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict." Wow. It has spoken to me at a really profound level. I have experienced my share of conflicts in the church over my three decades of Christianity. For the most part, I have been on the sidelines watching others in conflict, pondering in my heart the questions each conflict raises. Isn't there a better way to deal with conflict in the church? Isn't the gospel relevant in how we deal with our opponent? Shouldn't the greatest command to love God and love our neighbor inform how I deal with conflict? I read Scripture that gives me the answer to these questions, but I question it all because I have so rarely gotten to witness gospel-centered conflict resolution in my experiences in churches and Christian organizations. This book has changed all that.
I have had to discipline myself not to underline every word that I have read so far in the book (and no, I haven't finished it yet). There is so much Scripture in it and so much wisdom in how the gospel informs the human condition. He defines conflict as "a difference in opinion or purpose that frustrates someone's goals or desires." I have loved the illustrations I have read so far. Sande speaks from experience, and the situations that he shares from his own life are beautiful examples of the power of the gospel to reconcile seemingly hopeless situations.
I am going to leave you with a series of quotes from the book that have stuck out to me so far. I hope you will consider getting this book whether you are in the midst of conflict right now or not. This book breathes applied gospel grace. I feel certain it will encourage you in the gospel.
"Peacemakers are people who breathe grace. They draw continually on the goodnes and power of Jesus Christ, and then they bring his love, mercy, forgiveness, strength, and wisdom to the conflicts of daily life." p. 11
"As a former engineer and now a parachurch ministry leader, I have observed how even the most difficult workplace issues can be resolved constructively when even one employee decides to breathe grace in the midst of conflict." p. 11
"These principles have also proven to be universally countercultural. No matter what race or country we come from, none of us is naturally inclined to obey Jesus' commands to love our enemies, confess our wrongs, gently correct others, submit to our church, and forive those who hurt us. In fact, left to our own instincts, we are disposed to do just the opposite." p. 13
"When we realize that God has mercy on those who confess their sins, our defensivenss lifts and we are able to admit our wrongs. As we accept and benefit from the way the gospel lovingly shows us our sin, we are inspired to gently correct and restore others who have done wrong. And as we rejoice in the liberating forgiveness of God, we are empowered to go and forgive others in the same way. Through the gospel, God provides both the model and motivaton for peacemaking!" p. 14
"People who use escape responses (in conflict) are unusally intent on "peace-faking", or making things look good even when they are not. This is especially common in the church, where people are often more concerned about the appearance of peace than the reality of peace." p. 28
"When people lash out at you, it is sometimes symptomatic of other frustrations." p. 35
"Jesus says, 'Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.' (Luke 6:27-28). Clearly, we are NOT released from the command to love our neighbor as ourselves, even when the neighbor is hating, cursing, and mistreating us. Instead of reacting harshly or seeking revenge, God calls us to be merciful to those who offend us, just as he is mercilful to us (Luke 6:36). We cannont serve others this way in our own strength. We must continually breathe in God's grace (through the study of his Word, prayer, worship, and Christian fellowship) and then breathe out his love, mercy, forgiveness, and wisdom to others through our words and actions." p. 35
And the line that has stuck with the most--"Every time you encounter a conflict, you will inevitably show what you really think of God." p. 33