How to Pursue Peace

Peacemaking is not always easy. I don’t know about you but I have people in my life who are hard to love and when they wrong me my flesh still desires to retaliate or be vindicated. I would much rather defend my position than to allow someone to accuse me falsely. Although I know better, I can make things worse through unbiblical methods of handling these conflicts (fighting or fleeing).

Why is this? The problem is not that I lack a desire to obey God and avoid sin; the problem is what is ruling my heart in the midst of conflict. Unless God rules my heart and I submit my powerful feelings and emotions to the authority of the Word in the midst of a conflict, I will not draw on His power and grace and I will sin in the conflict or as a response to it.

How we handle conflict demonstrates what we believe about God.There is nothing like a “good” conflict for revealing what is really going on in our heart!

We are all culpable before the Lord, so when it comes to God’s command for us to be peacemakers we need to take it seriously and we need to know what God’s Word says. It is not always possible to be reconciled; I know that for sure. We cannot make peace at the expense of truth and righteousness (Romans 16:17-18), and there are some people with whom it is impossible to make peace (1 Corinthians 7:15). Remember, God does not hold us responsible for the sinful failures of others, but He does call us to pursue peace.

Peacemaking responses

Scripture gives us practical wisdom to draw from when faced with conflict.

First, ask, “Is it really worth fighting over?” If the issues are big, yes. If small, no. Be willing to make personal sacrifices for the sake of peace. God tells us to trust Him to defend our interests (Romans 12:19). This will not come naturally, but if we yield to God in spite of difficult circumstances, He transforms us giving us inner peace. When we choose to make God-honoring choices in spite of difficult people, we bear witness to a watching world and it gives us an opportunity to put Jesus Christ on display!

Check and see if your actions line up with God’s Word…

  • Do not retaliate against those who wrong you (Romans 12:14b, 17a, 19a, 21a)

    • “Even when they wrong me?”

  • Never pay back evil for evil (Romans 12:17a)

    • “Never? Maybe we should define never?”

  • Never take your own revenge (Romans 12:19, Leviticus 19:18a, Proverbs 20:22, 24:29)

    • “There’s that word again.”

  • Do not curse those who curse you (Romans 14b, Matthew 5:22)

    • “Oy vay, I was good here (no cursing in this family)…until I looked up the meaning of the Greek word which means “to curse, doom, imprecate evil upon.” As practiced in Bible times cursing was the opposite of blessing and should not be confused with profanity in the modern sense.

  • Don’t stir up strife (Romans 16:17)

  • Don’t stand on your rights (1 Corinthians  6:6-7)

    • “Self-sacrifice instead of demanding our rights?”

What if a conflict is with an unbeliever? How do these passages and principles apply to those relationships? They apply. No exceptions. We are to seek peace and have a Christlike heart attitude toward everyone.

How to pursue peace

Ken Sande’s book, The Peacemaker is a wonderful tool for biblical peacemaking. In the last article we listed Sande’s four questions for practical peacemaking (below) and we will unpack the first one.

  1. How can I focus on God in this situation? Glorify God

  2. How can I own my part of this conflict? Get the log out of my own eye (Matthew 7:3-5)

  3. How can I help others own their contribution to this conflict? Gently restore

  4. How can I give forgiveness and help reach a reasonable solution? Go and be reconciled

GLORIFY GOD: How can I glorify God in this conflict?

When conflict heats up God is usually the last thing on our minds. In conflict we are not focused on Him. we are focused horizontally—on the other person who wronged or hurt us and inwardly on how hurt or mad we feel.

“I’m right and you’re wrong” | “You hurt me” | “I need to get away from you”

By looking inward at self and outward at the other person we leave God out of the situation and we leave out His help and insights. It’s easy to be carried away by our emotions in conflict, especially if we are feeling hurt and betrayed. These are powerful emotions that can control our very being. To not be overtaken by these emotions, we need to turn to our Savior and ask for help in our time of need. We need to stop and take our focus (thoughts) off of ‘self’ and the other person and put them on God. Turn away and turn toward Christ for the power to desire, think and act right. Here are some questions which move us in that direction:

  1. “Where is God in this?”

  2. “What is God doing in this situation?”

  3. “How can I please and honor God right now in this situation?”

  4. “How can I serve this other person?”

  5. “What would bring God glory right now?”

  6. “Am I desiring God right now or my own desires?”

1 Corinthians 10:31 tells us that we are to glorify God in all things “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

2 Corinthians 5:9 “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please Him.”

Christian behavior should be for the glory of God!

Do you desire to glorify God in your conflict? We must determine if our number one goal and desire in any conflict is to glorify God. This desire must overrule our fleshly desire to be right, to be apologized to, to take revenge, or to be vindicated.

Glorifying God is not about others seeing how great we are; it is about helping them see how great God is.

In every situation, in every mundane act, we either glorify God or we glorify something or someone else. When I don’t glorify God in conflict I reveal that someone or something other than God rules my heart. My actions show that I either have a big God or a big self…

Some Ways We Glorify God in Conflict

  • When we put off self-centered attitudes and put on humility

  • When we overlook the wrongs of others (asking God to help discern minor wrongs to overlook)

  • When we have a proper attitude toward another—letting gentleness be evident to all

  • When we have compassion for how the other person feels

  • When we are intentional not to be quarrelsome

  • When we assume the best (instead of judging) (1 Corinthians 13:7)

  • When we speak with care and grace to build others up (Ephesians 4:29)

  • When we make personal sacrifices for the sake of peace

  • When we trust in God to defend our interests (Romans 12:19)

  • When we deal with our own sin first

  • When we are humble enough to admit we are wrong

  • When we have an attitude of forgiveness and graciously grant relational forgiveness when asked

  • When we gently restore another person before involving others

  • When we care and listen without interrupting (Proverbs 20:5)

Peace and unity are founded on the Gospel (Ephesians 4:1) and peacemaking requires effort, patience and grace (Ephesians 4:3; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:12).

Next post will unpack the second principle for peacemaking:

How can I own my part of this conflict? Get the log out of your eye.

About the author

Karen McMahon is passionate about helping others apply biblical truth to every situation in life. She is the Director of Discipleship Counseling at First Evangelical Free Church in Maplewood, Minnesota and a certified biblical counselor with the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC). She has a MA in Theology from the University of Northwestern – St. Paul and is completing her MA in Biblical Counseling from Faith Bible Seminary-Lafayette, Indiana. Karen loves Jesus Christ, her husband, their three children and their 12 year old yellow lab…and sushi too.

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