Sande Resolves Conflicts; Makes Peace

Peacemaker_01022014Ken Sande. 2005. Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. Grand Rapids: Baker Books.

Reviewed by Stephen W. Hiemstra

The word, peace, carries baggage for those of us who grew up during the
Vietnam War. Those opposed to the war, called peaceniks, were known for folk music, long hair, promiscuity, smoking dope, holding demonstrations, and questioning the legitimacy of established authorities. Boomers basically bought the message and the postmodern era went prime time.  Before the war in Vietnam ended, however, college campuses became battlefields and many boomers burned their bridges with those who came before and everything that they stood for.  So when a favorite professor of mine assigned a book on peacemaking, I started having unpleasant flashbacks.

My Vietnam era flashbacks were  unwarranted.

Ken Sande’s Peacemaker:  A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflicts is not about politics or social justice or war.  It is about how we, as Christians, model Christ in our personal relations [1].

Sande (11) writes:  Peacemakers are people who breathe grace.  He outlines four broad principles of peacemaking:

  1. Glorify God (1 Corinthians 10:31),
  2. Get the log out of your eye (Matthew 7:5),
  3. Gently restore (Galatians 6:1),
  4. Go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24) (12-13).

These four principles structure Sande’s book.  Each part breaks into three chapters.  The main body of the text is sandwiched between a preface and a conclusion.  Following the conclusion are six appendices, notes, bibliography, and three sets of indices—subjects, persons, and scriptural references (7-8).

Sande (22-23) sees three basic responses to conflict:  escape, attack and make peace.  We can escape through suicide, running away, or denial.  We can attack through through assault, litigation, or murder.  Neither response normally honors God.  We can make peace by overlooking the offense, reconciling, negotiating, mediating, arbitrating, or holding people accountable.  Sande (22) sees peace making as: an opportunity to solve common problems in a way that honors God and offers benefits to those involved.

Sande sees eye logs as a big problem.  He (78) observes that: people usually treat us as we treat them.  He (80) divides issues as either material (property, money, rights, or responsibilities) or personal (what goes on inside or between persons).  He (84-89) cites 5 attitudes recommended by the Apostle Paul:

  1. Rejoice in the Lord always,
  2. Let your gentleness be evident to all,
  3. Replace anxiety with prayer,
  4. See things as they really are, and
  5. Practice what you have learned.

Like Jesus, Sande sees conflict beginning in the heart (James 4.1).

Restoring brothers and sisters in Christ requires sensitivity.  The biblical principle in restoration is:  to keep the circle of people involved in a conflict as small as possible (186).  Sande (186-193) lays out the 5-step process in Matthew 18:15-17:

  1. Overlook minor offenses,
  2. Talk in private,
  3. Take one or two others along,
  4. Tell it to the church, and
  5. Treat him [her] as a nonbeliever.

Sande oulines an 8-step process for a church to become intentional about peace-making (198-199).

Sande makes the point that peace-making is less an option than a requirement for the Christian.  The reason is simple—out relationship with God is affected directly by our relationship with our brothers and sisters in Christ.  Sande starts by citing a story of Jesus:

So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (Matthew 5:23-24 ESV).

The allusion here is to Cain murdering his brother, Abel, in Genesis 4:1-16.  The point is that when we, as Christians, turn our backs on resolving interpersonal conflict, the culture develops a blind spot that opens the door to wider conflict.  Hence, Sande does have something to say about Vietnam, albeit indirectly.`

Ken Sande’s Peacemaker addresses an important blind spot in the life of the church–applying biblical principles to conflict resolution.  Interpersonal conflict tears at the fabric of our society and secular efforts to deal with it are ad hoc and neglect the spiritual problem at the heart of it.  Peacemaker fills this need.  Still, Peacemaker is more of a manual to apply than a book to read.  Pastors may want to train leaders (www.peacemaker.net) before launching into a sermon series or small group study on conflict resolution.

1/ Sande states his purpose in writing as:  how God can help you as an individual Christian throw off worldly ideas about resolving conflict and become true peacemakers (15).

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