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Sunday, September 22, 2013

You a peacemaker or a peace taker?

A peacemaker is one who works toward reconciliation between two parties who disagree, find themselves quarreling a lot, or just plain like to mix it up a little.  Some of us avoid conflict like it was the plague.  We do everything in our power to not be in the position where we will have to be involved in situations where conflict is inevitable.  To someone who actually likes to be in the thick of it, they might interpret this "avoidance" behavior as a little bit of cowardice or wimpiness.  There are actually tests out there you can take to tell you your "conflict style".  I took one once, and guess what....I was a conflict avoider!  It did not show I never took the bull by the horns, I just take a little time to "process" the conflict.  To the outsider, this appears as though I am avoiding the conflict, retreating, or just plain don't want to "mix it up". To me, it looks like a "safety mechanism" to keep me from putting my foot in my mouth, saying things I should not have said, and even ruining the potential for another to see their way out of the conflict themselves!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.  (Matthew 5:8 NIV)

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family. (Matthew 5:8 MSG)

Ever since Adam and Eve, I think conflict has been there.  At some point, the opportunity for conflict rears its ugly head!  Problems happen - life gets lived and stuff just doesn't work out the way someone planned it.  In the end, conflict is the outcome!  What then?  Sometimes we just need to "mix it up" so it gets all out in the open and we can move on!  Other times, we can overlook it and move on without another thought.  At some point down the road, you and I will come to a place where conflict is inevitable - the "mixing it up" is just gonna happen.  When we do, we need to understand how to get through it without damaging relationships in the process.  Most of the time, the conflict has to get a lot worse than it started out being before it gets to the place of resolution.  I want us to consider two things - peace and a "cease fire".  One is a whole lot different than the other.  One is time limited - the other is more permanent.  One requires a whole lot of understanding - give and take as it were - the other requires just a little understanding and a moment or two of willingness to give it a rest!

All of scripture points us toward keeping current in our relationships and not harboring any kind of bitterness or unforgiveness toward another.  Keeping current is a big task and one which many of us struggle with.  If you follow scripture's thoughts on this matter, you will find anytime we don't remain current, we get an increase in conflict.  The conflict may be inter-personally -between you and another; or it may be inner-personally - within you and bugging the stuffing out of YOU.  Conflict can be a hindrance to our growth in a whole lot of ways, so figuring out how to deal with it biblically is to our advantage.  

The first thing I'd like us to consider is OUR role in peace-making.  We are the ones responsible to MAKE peace.  In other words, we have to take the first step.  Anytime we sit back, stubbornly digging in and determining we will not be the first one to do anything about the matter, we are not acting as God would have us act.  That may be a hard thing to swallow this morning, but it is true nonetheless.  WE are the ones to take the first step - not the other guy.  One other thing we try to do is just ignore it and hope it goes away. Guess what?  Whatever gets ignored long enough brings greater issues and more "costly" fixes!  Ignore the dwindling tread on your tire and the blowout will cost you much more than taking the time to replace the worn tire in the first place!  Blowouts cost us dearly!  There is "body" damage.  There is possible "overturn" of the vehicle.  There is also potential "exponential" damage of others in the process.  This is true in our relationship conflicts, as well.  It affects our body, overturns our lives causing all kinds of upheaval, and it has a way of not just being contained to our lives!

The second important part of being a peacemaker is being able to see things from the perspective of the other guy.  I know this seems a little hard at first, but maybe this is why I am labeled as a "conflict avoider" - I step back because I want to see things from your perspective!  If I just jump right in, I only see my viewpoint and never stop long enough to consider another's.  In essence, I compound the conflict by limiting my focus!  This is probably a lot harder than most would assume.  Seeing the other guy's issue from their perspective takes a great deal of work.  You have to be willing to really listen, exploring the issue a little deeper, and then not just brushing off their interpretation of the matter.  We all see things differently - so getting another's perspective is important - it helps us get balance.  It is human nature to hold onto one's own opinion as the best and most valid viewpoint on a matter.  It is "divine" nature within you which helps you see the viewpoint of another!

Last, we have to keep our focus straight.  We are not called to bring every conflict to a place of permanent and lasting "resolution".  Not every conflict will have a "perfect" answer.  Sometimes we will agree to differ.  Is that okay? I think it is.  What God asks of his kids is to be in the business of reconciliation.  Reconciliation is the process of bringing two opposing forces into agreement or harmony - it is not the process of getting the "perfect" answer.  Reconciliation is hard work - it requires an investment on our parts which begins with the first step, goes beyond our own viewpoint on the matter, and keeps in mind we may never have the perfect solution to the issue at hand.  If we are to be peacemakers, we have to keep this in mind. Just sayin!