Thursday, March 19, 2009

conflict-making or peacemaking?

Our reconciliation ministry had our board meeting tonight, and it seemed fitting that Scot McKnight had quotes from Stanley Hauerwas on a recent blog ( ).

What I find interesting is the correlation between secular and faith-based conflict resolution:
"Given the diminished state of the Church some Christians might even believe that if we could gain more members by being heretical so much the worse for orthodoxy." But, if orthodoxy "is used as a hammer to beat into submission those we think heterodox" it "betrays itself." So instead of a hammer, "orthodoxy is displayed as an act of love that takes the form of careful speech." There are limits, and not all stick to the limits: "orthodoxy is the hard discipline of learning to say what needs to be said and no more." And this one: "Orthodoxy shows why what we believe cannot be explained but can only be prayed." So Hauerwas. (from McKnight's 1st blog on Quash & Ward's book on Heresies)

Next, look at this information from a local secular mediation organization:
Creative Conflict Ten Tips
  • Respect everyone’s ideas and needs
  • Turn problems into possibilities
  • Listen so people will talk and talk so people will listen
  • Focus on the problem, not the person
  • Build “power with” not “power over” others
  • Express feeling without blaming others
  • Own your part of the conflict
  • Strategize to reach mutually agreeable solutions
  • Create options … one way always creates losers
  • Solve the problem and build the relationship

Both approaches emphasize relationship as foundational to conflict resolution. If we want to destroy relationships, or if we believe that any relationship matters nothing to us, we have the (abusive, IMHO) power to do so. Looking at the 10 tips, I can see biblical parallels for each one, although people without a biblical perspective will flavor them differently than do I.
  • Respect everyone's ideas and needs // biblical understanding of honoring diversity of God's creation, and by the way, "respect" includes both grace & truth according to our faith!
  • turn problems into possibilities // Paul and James share the understanding that our trials, entrusted by us to God's hands, produce perseverance, character and hope in our lives
  • listen so people will talk and talk so people will listen // "Rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing." (Prov. 12:18) "...but no one can tame the tongue, a restless evil full of deadly venom. With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the image of God." (James 3:8-9)
  • focus on the problem, not the person // "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." (Phil. 2: 3-4)
  • build "power with" not "power over" others // "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. It will not be so among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant..." (Matt. 20:25-26)
  • etc. including elements of confession, repentance, forgiveness

Hammer-making and hammer-wielding seem to be human problems. Whatever the content of our particular "orthodoxy" - be it embodied in a religious body of beliefs, or in a secular system, our bent is to hammer others into compliance through whatever means are available in that context.

So, how does our faith call us to respond to the hammer-wielders? Much as it challenges our natural methods, our response is simply to stand in Christ, speak the truth, trust God to deliver us.
Not grab our own hammer, swing harder and aim better...
Not run away from the blows, although Ephesians 6 gives godly defensive measures and godly offensive means -- the Word of God...

Humanly, we'd rather fight or run than be faithful --yeah, even in the church, even among the leaders, elders and pastors who are "supposed to know better."

"Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God." "But I say to you that listen. Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you."

God knows we can't do this in our own strength.

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