Friday, March 14, 2008

Peacemaking for Families: Teaching Children to Make Peace

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

*Once, Jesus was asked to tell people the greatest commandment. "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.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV). This is the heart of living life well. It is the heart of peacemaking. Living for the glory of God and loving others as ourselves will mold us into peacemakers.

*Our children need to learn how to be peacemakers. Conflict comes naturally. Peacemaking must be learned. Living for one's self comes naturally. Living for God must be learned. Loving one's self comes naturally. Loving others just as much must be learned. Sometimes my son asks, "Dad, why do you love God?" I take the opportunity to let him know that God made me, saved me from the punishment I deserved, gave me the life that I'm living, and has answered my prayers. How would he know reasons for loving God if he had not been taught anything about him? In a similar way, peacemaking skills must be taught.

*Ken Sande and Tom Raabe wrote, "Some conflicts call for friendly discussion, teaching, and respectful debate (see John 3:1-21; 2 Timothy 2:24-26). In other situations we should overlook offenses, lay down rights, and do good to those who wrong us (see Luke 6:27-28; 9:51-56; Matthew 17:24-27). Sometimes love requires gentle confrontation or a firm rebuke (see John 4:1-42; Matthew 23:13-29). Above all, we need to be willing to forgive others just as in Christ God forgave us (see Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32)" (Peacemaking for Families, p. 114).

*Peacemaking skills are crucial in order to succeed in life. In ungodly cultures, Joseph, Daniel, and Esther became influential leaders who made a difference without compromising their integrity or faith. They stood for what was right while treating others with respect, firmness, and forgiveness. We can do the same and teach our children those same skills. Ken Sande wrote, "I have hired, promoted, and fired people. These decisions were rarely based primarily on a person's technical skills. What I have valued most in an employee or manager is the ability to work as part of a team, to maintain strong relationships, and to build consensus so a group's gifts and energies stay focused on the project at hand. These are the skills of a peacemaker; and they are the same skills that will help your children succeed in the vocations to which God calls them" (p. 115).

*Peacemaking skills also enable our children to have great marriages and families. When we engage in conflict properly and forgive freely, we guard against resentment and divorce.

*We must remember that peacemaking comes from our faith in Jesus Christ. Ken Sande wrote, "We must remember that the most important requirement of peacemaking is to understand who we are in Jesus Christ. Before the apostle Paul tells the Colossians what they should do, he reminds them of who they are: 'Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience' (Colossians 3:12)" (p. 116).

*As we teach our children peacemaking skills, we want to help them diagnose their own hearts. Instead of condemning them when they mishandle conflict, we should ask them questions to help them see where they went wrong. Then we should instruct them and remind them of God's forgiveness and freedom.

*Finally, we need to be intentional in teaching our children the peacemaking skills they need. We need to become good examples for them. We must not live in denial of conflict nor flee from it. We must not lash out at others, blaming them for all our problems. We must never refuse to forgive. We must confess our sins with humility and try to change. We must confront others with love. We must be merciful and forgiving.

*Use opportunities to teach. When your children are in conflict with others, help them to see how they could handle it. When reading a book, watching television, or watching a movie, look for the conflicts. Ask questions. Is the main character avoiding conflict, attacking in response, or trying to resolve conflict? Is he being wise? Is she being a coward or courageous? What is driving him to do what he's doing? What are the consequences she may face? How would you handle their situation? Good questions can prepare a child to make good choices.

Teaching children to be peacemakers takes time and practice, but it can be worth it.

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