Peace on Earth?

Yesterday we celebrated Christmas in our house. I am always surprised by how the Prince of Peace can become the object of such strong division as our kids play with the child-friendly nativity sets we have around the house. I really shouldn’t be surprised. People have been fighting over Jesus for centuries. We could leave Jesus out of it and simply say we’ve been fighting for centuries.

I’m not sure I want to leave Jesus out of it, though. After all, he did come at Christmas. And he did come to be the Prince of Peace. Jesus came because we’d been fighting with God for centuries. He came to reconcile us to God, to be a bridge to a right relationship with God and with others so that there could be peace on earth.

Yet, we continue to fight him and each other. We continue to wage war against things that threaten to undermine our ambitions. And for those of us in Christ, we continue to battle against the flesh for the Kingdom of God even as we struggle against our own ambitions. While I find greatest peace in submitting to the Father’s will, I find myself struggling to lay my will down at his feet.

So where is the peace on earth promised in the Prince of Peace? Is it all a future promise, only to be experienced in heaven? Can we experience his peace now? How do we live at peace with everyone as far as it is up to us (Romans 12:18)?

One way I’ve found for learning to live at peace other people is to immerse myself in an awareness of God,  understanding others, and pursuing an honest view of myself. As I learn to bring God into every equation I find relationships – even difficult ones – a little bit more peaceful. And I don’t mean the stuff-it-down-and-pretend-like-everything-is-OK kind of peace-faking, either. I mean real peace. Trusting-God-is-in-control-even-when-this-difficult-person-shows-up kind of peace. I mean it’s-really-OK-to-esteem-others-above-myself kind of peace. I mean the kind of peace that comes from taking up my cross and following Christ, not in some kind of victim-martyr way, but joyful sacrifice because I know I am living well before my Father.

Many of my relationships have dramatically improved – even the good and easy ones – by incorporating the biblical principles I learned (and now teach) through Relational Wisdom 360. I’d love to extend the grace I’ve received by introducing you to RW360, too. So… in the words of Ken Sande:

Getting Upstream of Conflict

drowning-21

By Ken Sande, RW360.org

When people learn about RW360, they often ask, “What’s the difference between relational wisdom and peacemaking, and why, after devoting thirty years to biblical conflict resolution, have you shifted your focus to this new concept?”

One of the best ways to answer these questions is to tell a parable about drowning people …

There was small village located on a wide and dangerous river. One day a young man standing on the bank noticed someone floundering in the water. He jumped into the river and after much effort pulled the drowning man to safety.

The next day a woman saw another person struggling in the water, and she too risked her life to save him. When this cycle repeated itself several times in the following days, the elders realized they had a serious problem on their hands.

“Many people are in danger of drowning in our river,” they said. “Lives are at stake! We must do all we can to save these people.”

Working together, the villagers steadily improved their life-saving practices. They stationed canoes on the bank and assigned pairs of rescuers to work together in regular shifts. They lit bonfires on the shore at night, and eventually strung ropes across the river, which drowning people could grab as they floated by.

These techniques were not always successful, but through their diligence the villagers steadily improved their ability to save people who were struggling in the river.

One older woman watched these noble efforts with quiet reflection, and eventually asked a simple question.

“This is good work you are doing,” she said. “Many lives have been saved through your efforts and other villages are imitating your efforts.”

“But tell me,” she said, “would it not be wise to learn why so many people fall into the river and float by our village? Perhaps we could do something to keep them from getting into this trouble in the first place.”

Humbled by the wisdom in her question, the elders sent an expedition upstream that very day. A mile above their village they discovered an old bridge. A section of its termite-eaten planks had broken, leaving a large gap. Clearly, anyone who used that bridge risked falling into the river below.

Realizing this must be the primary reason people had been floating by their village, the expedition repaired the bridge with fresh ropes and new planks.

The number of people floating by the village dropped dramatically. Of course, there were still people who stumbled off the riverbank and found themselves floundering in the river. They were certainly thankful that the village still trained and posted rescue teams.

But by fixing the bridge, the elders greatly reduced the number of people who fell into the river in the first place … reducing the number who drowned before they got to the village, as well as the workload of the teams who still stood ready to help.

Having “stood beside the river” myself for many years, I thank God for Peacemaker Ministries, Crossroads Resolution Group, and other related organizations that are available to teach biblical peacemaking and help people who fall into conflict. These outstanding ministries meet a vital, ongoing need in the body of Christ.

I’m equally grateful that God has given Corlette and me the opportunity to complement their work by developing a new generation of resources and training to equip people with skills that will help them to build stronger relationships that actually prevent conflict–or to put it in terms of our parable–to safely bridge the conflicts of life without falling in.

We’ve been especially pleased to see how naturally relational wisdom and biblical peacemaking can be integrated, just as swimming and life-saving go hand-in-hand. Seeing the complementary nature of these disciplines, a growing number of Christian conciliators are cross-training in relational wisdom so they can serve the church more effectively.

We look forward to drawing on the lessons we learn through this integration and to exploring more ways to weave these skills tightly together, so that more Christians become increasingly effective at both preventing and resolving conflict … and building relationships that reflect the love of Christ.

– Ken Sande

To learn more about the resources and training you can use in your church, ministry, or business to strengthen relational skills and reduce conflict, read about our online 101 Seminar, Advanced 201/202 Training, and the live teaching available through our Certified RW Instructors.

Reflection Questions

  • How does the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” apply to bankruptcy? Heart-attacks? Divorce? Conflict in general?
  • How does the gospel empower and guide both conflict prevention and conflict resolution? (see RW and the Gospel)
  • How can improved God-awareness, self-awareness, and other-awareness help to prevent conflict? To resolve conflict?
  • How can the ability to understand “idols of the heart” improve both relational and peacemaking abilities?
  • How can improved skills in biblical negotiation (the PAUSE Principle) help to prevent conflict? To resolve conflict?

Permission to distribute: Please feel free to download, print, or electronically share this message in its entirety for non-commercial purposes with as many people as you like.

© 2014 Ken Sande

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Visual Surveillance of Extremities

By Michael D. Quillen, Sr.

One of my favorite stories as a young man was about a character with leprosy who reluctantly saved the people of an alternate “earth” through his death. There are interesting parallels to the Gospel in the story, but the part I want you to think about is the truth I learned about leprosy from this character.

The problem with leprosy, it turns out, is really the numbness that occurs as the disease injures nerves. Lepers lose parts of their bodies because they don’t sense pain when an extremity is hurt. They don’t know to attend to a wound and treat it because they don’t even know the injury is there. A leper could walk around with a raging infection in their foot or reach out to grab something with a broken hand without even knowing there was a problem.

For those reasons, the character was constantly doing what he called “Visual Surveillance of Extremities” (VSE). He surveyed his body all the time for injuries. His life and health depended upon looking at his edges.

This is a very good picture for Christian life and health. We tend to rationalize little sins on the edges of our lives. We bump into sin that harms us more than we realize.Visual Surveillance of Extremeties

God created us with sensitivity to sin that can be dulled if we don’t pay attention to it. As surely as a leper loses physical feeling in his extremities, people lose spiritual sensitivity on the edges of their lives. If we do not pay attention, eventually serious damage will show up.

Before you make resolutions about dieting and exercise this New Year, do a little VSE of your life from a spiritual perspective. Extend the eyes of your heart to the edges of your life. You will certainly find health and wholeness. Praise the Lord for it. But don’t let the little wounds fester. Repent of them when you see them – and praise the Lord for that, too!

Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do… They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. But that is not the way you learned Christ!— assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. — Ephesians 4:17–24