Book Review: The Peace Maker

I tried not to allow it to show on my face, but I was shocked! These people were the spiritual leaders of our church. How could they be so fired up about this? And boy oh boy, the fight was on for all to see. The discussion, or more accurately the battle on the floor was whether or not the church would have cubed ice or crushed ice in the kitchen. Yes, as ridiculous as that may sound. It happened. I was there. Each option had positives and negatives, and costs associated with all the variables at hand. Men took turns jumping to their feet, shouting and stomping their feet, while their wives rolled their eyes and shot disapproving eyes at anything the other side of the aisle had to say. This church was divided. Right down the middle, in the most literal of ways. Not surprisingly, the issue had to be tabled that night for a future meeting.

Days later, the senior adult leader and elder statesmen who was the interim pastor at the church and moderator of the meeting pulled me aside as a young college age intern, and explained the complexities of the history of squabbling behind the key players. He was an incredible mentor and friend, and helped this young man see that as long as the depravity of man remains, humans will need guidance and direction in the business of reconciliation of interpersonal conflict.

The Peacemaker by Ken Sande is a most helpful guide to assist Christians in resolving conflict. It takes an clear Biblical approach, leading one through a process of steps designed to foster reconciliation, to God's glory. Sande refers to the differences between healthy peacemaking responses to conflict and unhealthy responses widely varying from escape responses all the way to attack responses as an all-too-real slippery slope. “In the center we find peacemaking responses. Imagine that the rest of this hill is covered in ice. If you go to far to the right or to the left you can lose your footing and slide down the slope. Similarly, when you experience conflict, it is easy to become defensive or antagonistic. If you want to stay on top of this slippery slope, you will need to ask God to help you develop the ability to live out the Gospel in a peacemaking response.”

Sande follows the Biblical steps for resolution of conflict such as overlooking minor conflict, going to the other person directly, getting one or two others to go along or finally sharing the conflict to the church. His points on overlooking conflict are very good and this is not something that is taught frequently, if at all, in many churches today. “In many situations, the best way to resolve a conflict is simply to overlook the personal offenses of others... ...Since God does not deal harshly with us when we sin, we should be willing to treat others in a similar fashion.” The author goes on to clarify the difference between a passive process of overlooking conflict, and an active process of doing the same that is inspired by God’s mercy.

At the beginning of each chapter, Sande gives a situational case study to set the scene for the point he is trying to make. I find this to be a particularly helpful literary device for the reader because it makes the book feel useful and practical in potential real-life scenarios. Perhaps some of the limitations of that however is that people don’t always respond as positively to well-meaning gentle pressure towards peace. Sometimes they don’t respond in a healthy manner at all. By pre-scripting people’s responses, the author does tend to build a false sense of security for the reader that everything in this guidebook works every time. That mis-expectation might be hard to swallow when it doesn't work out.
Finally, I appreciate that Sande is able to summarize a fairly long book into memorable chunks. For me, this is how I can remember what is important about being a Gospel-Centered Peacemaker.  The “Four G's:” (1) Glorify God, (2) Get the log out of your eye, (3) Gently restore, and (4) Go and be reconciled. The need is universal. Peacemaking does not come naturally in any culture, but if I can personalize these “Four G’s” I can exalt the Lord Jesus Christ when conflict happens. Isn’t that an encouraging proposition?


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