Saturday, February 16, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: A Biblical Framework

These are the notes for my next Bible class at the Contact Church of Christ:

*Human conflict has a long history. It started with the disobedience of Adam and Eve. This put them in conflict with their Creator and each other. Their relationships were strained. They were at odds with each other. To this day, everyone of us lives under the influence of their sin. Each of us deals with the results of their sin. We even imitate their sin. As a result, we struggle with how to relate to God and to other people.

*God was not satisfied with leaving us alone in our messed-up world. He knew that we faced hell apart from himself. He cared too much to let us remain in conflict with himself, so he sent Jesus Christ to save us (John 3:16). "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the Spirit" (1 Peter 3:18, NIV). "God presented him as the one who would turn aside his wrath, taking away sin, through faith in his blood" (Romans 3:25a, alternative reading in the NIV). When we trust in what Christ has done to forgive us, to bring us back to God, and to give us new life, we change. We turn away from everything we know to be in conflict with God in order to follow his Son. We allow our old lives to be buried in baptism, so that we can live new lives for God's glory (Romans 6:1-4). Having been reconciled to God by Christ, we are on a mission to spread reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18).

*If our mission is reconciliation, how should Christians view conflict? As an opportunity to show God's power in a difficult situation. "Glorifying God is the highest calling of a Christian" (Ken Sande and Tom Raabe, Peacemaking for Families, p. 35). When we keep in mind what God has done for us through Jesus Christ, we will approach conflict (and all of life) thinking about how we can please and honor God in it. We will find ourselves motivated to resist pride and resentment while seeking to do the right thing in love.

*Jesus said, "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye" (Matthew 7:5, NIV). If we are going to make peace in a God-honoring way, we must examine our words, actions, and attitudes to determine what must change within ourselves before helping others in areas where they need to change. Have I used words to hurt when it was not necessary? Have I used sarcasm to belittle? Have I been complaining or nagging? Have I lied? Have I jumped to conclusions and then shared those unfounded conclusions in gossip? Have I been lazy or negligent in the relationship? Have I failed to keep commitments? Have I withheld kindness or affection? Have I been selfish? If so, I need to change my thinking, confess my wrongs, and ask for forgiveness. I must not stand in the way of reconciliation.

*After dealing with ourselves, we are ready to confront another person's problems. Confronting the sins of others should not be done with eager anticipation, but neither should it be passively avoided if the offense has seriously dishonored God, seriously damaged a relationship, hurt others, or hurt the person who committed it. Sometimes the offender would love to change, but needs someone to come along with helpful advice. It can lead to repentance and a healthier way of living (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1). "Loving confrontation can serve as a positive example to others. Whether you realize it or not, people are constantly watching how you handle adversity and treat those who wrong you. How you comport yourself gives others a chance to either mock Christians and reject Christ or become open to hearing the gospel. Christians watching your behavior, on the other hand, will either feel justified in responding improperly to conflict or be encouraged to honor God in their own reactions as well. Because imitation is a form of love, this last point has tremendous spillover effect with children. Kids study how their parents react to conflict, and will often imitate them when conflict arises in their lives as well"(Peacemaking for Families, p. 39).

*Finally, after a conflict has been dealt with, forgiveness must be the God-honoring resolution (Matthew 6:12; Luke 11:4; Matthew 18:23-35). "Here are four concrete promises one must make to truly forgive another:
~I will not thnk about this incident.
~I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
~I will not talk to others about this incident.
~I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our personal relationship" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 41).

*After the pain and heartache that Christ endured to bring about peace between us and God, we can endure some discomfort in making peace in our families. After all, the final result of the process will be a God-honoring joy for all involved.

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