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Books for those in ministry organizations who desire to take their leadership, teams, governance, and ministry effectiveness to the next level.

14 Jan '12

Living in peace with one another

Peace is truly a lovely word. It indicates harmony and a lack of hostility, conflict or underlying tension. How much we wish for and pray for peace in our world - which we cannot control. But where we can largely control peace is in our own relationships. Paul tells us as believers, "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone (Romans 12:18)." We all acknowledge that this is not always easy but it can become an intentional way of life if we choose to make it so.


Think of relationships within families, in congregations, and in the workplace. While we cannot control the attitudes and actions of others we can control our own. There are people who create conflict in their relationships and there are others who bring peace to relationships and don't get entangled with the conflicts of others. This is not a peace at any cost that chooses not to deal with real issues - but it is an intentional way of life that seeks peace and understanding wherever that is possible. 


By conflict, I am not thinking about differences of opinion or robust dialogue over issues that can be done without personal attack or hidden agendas. In healthy marriages, workplaces or among friends, there can be major differences that are expressed by self defined people without relational disconnect. What I am talking about is conflict that creates relational dissonance because we are dealing with individuals who cannot separate relationships from differences, who are black and white about the world and therefore create "us and them" situations which by definition destroys peace and creates division.


What practices contribute to living at peace with one another?


Don't get pulled into the dysfunctional relationships of others who thrive on conflict. Some people have to have an enemy in their life to fight. They actually create dragons they can go slay and create alliances with others against those dragons. The best thing we can do is stay out, keep our own council and not get involved. This is often true in family dynamics where the "family system" thrives on conflict between family members. Stay out of it and when necessary limit your exposure to those family members. The same family dynamics are often found in churches and again, it is wise to keep a distance from those who thrive on division.


Beware of critical people. Critical people create conflict. In fact their constant criticism of other people is a sign that they enjoy conflictual relationships (otherwise why be critical?). Gracious people overlook what can be overlooked for the sake of peace. Critical people are people in search of conflict.


Know what hills are worth dying on. Some but not many! If an issue is going to lead to personal conflict think carefully about whether it is worth raising.


Keep your distance from people who cannot separate differences of opinion from relationships. Healthy people are self defined. They are able to hold their own opinions and respect those who hold different opinions. Unhealthy people need others to agree with them and if they don't often assume that they "are not for them." This is pathology and you are unlikely to change it. Keep your distance!


When we choose to disagree, do it in an agreeable way. Conflict can be avoided by simply choosing to be agreeable even when disagreeing. Keep issues from becoming personal by speaking to the issue and avoiding personal attacks. Healthy individuals de-escalate conflict (a soft word turns away wrath) rather than escalating conflict. Healthy individuals seek reconciliation rather than division. 


Don't hold on to issues. Forgive, keep short accounts and never judge motives. When we let go we have a much greater chance at living at peace. Sometimes, choosing to live at peace is to realize that knotty issues will not be sorted out this side of heaven and we simply choose to forgive and move on so we are not held in bondage to the unresolved issue. We give up our right to "be right" for the sake of a peaceful relationship.


There are times when we cannot easily live at peace with others which is why Paul says "as far as it depends on you." We cannot control the attitudes and actions of others but we can control our own. It takes wisdom, intentionality, and a heart of peace to be a person of peace.