The world is filled with conflict. In homes and workplaces, neighborhoods and government, people strive with each other. Conflict hurts. Sometimes it hurts deeply. It alienates friends, breaks marriages, and sets members of the same family against each other. It disrupts and destroys churches.
Conciliation work (or alternative dispute resolution) is the process of helping people resolve conflict voluntarily, to settle differences and preserve relationship. Christian conciliation adds the perspective of Scripture and the work of Christ to resolve conflict in unique ways. Christian conciliation was developed by attorneys who thought that the Gospel made it possible for people to resolve their differences and walk away as friends and brothers.
Uniqueness of God’s Perspective
The Bible gives us a unique interpretation of conflict. Since the sin of Adam, man is born to conflict. This begins with our enmity toward God. It expresses itself in strife with others. The goal is the same: to win. The desire to win pollutes every disagreement.
Conflicts are complex. All conflicts are made up of substantive issues. These are matters where there is disagreement. And all conflicts are personal. We offend or take offense. We want something so badly we will ruin friendships to get it. Or we are so afraid of something, we will walk away from relationship to avoid it.
What power can bring resolution to the wars between us? Christ can redeem people in conflict, even the worst conflict.
Jesus and Reconciliation
Christ’s death reconciles the enemies of God to God. This is the greatest conflict of all. God has brought peace through the blood of his Son (2 Cor 5:19-21). The same blood sacrifice, applied to human relationships, brings peace. The peace he brings is deep — it is the unity of the Spirit (Eph 4:3). We do not create it, Christ does. He changes how we resolve conflict. Christ brings reconciliation to personal issues in conflict. Christ empowers us to pursue and find agreement with each other.
Conflict is here to stay. There are still “real time” conflicts in the church. The flesh, which is in all of us, resists the Spirit. The works of the flesh often disrupt the unity which Christ has created (Gal 5:19-21). But no matter how severe the conflict, repentance and forgiveness before God and each other are possible. And through Christ there can be resolution in our substantive differences in a way that brings peace.
Why do I need help? When Christians engage in ungodly conflict it infects their relationships and even a church. Sometimes after repeated attempts to resolve it, they give up hope. When this happens, it can be wise to seek help from trained outsiders, who serve consistent with the theological convictions of the church. This is the work of Christian Conciliation.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Trained conciliators are people called to assist others come to peace with each other before God. We bring them the hope found in the Gospel.
We are impartial third parties who seek to help members of the church see issues to which they are blind. The conciliator may also be able to help the parties to the conflict evaluate their health regarding conflict and prescribe a process for creating a culture of peacemaking. All of this is done in a confidential process.
What Help Looks Like
There are two steps:
Conflict Coaching involves private conversations with individuals in conflict. In this step we walk each person through a process of discovery before God, preparing them for readiness to make peace. People in conflict are blind to their own contribution and to the good purpose of God in the conflict. Homework is required. This is the majority of the work of conciliation.
Mediation follows conflict coaching and preparation. If necessary, the conciliator brings the parties together for personal reconciliation and discussion of the issues of disagreement. The conciliator leads the process. Parties are not brought together until the conciliator believes it will be fruitful.
While we cannot guarantee the outcome, Christian Conciliators have seen significant fruit. Relationships are restored, families reunited, marriages reconciled, and issues resolved in ways agreeable to all. And people walk away with new skills for growing in their relationship with each other.
All of this is a voluntary process. But it may require full consent to the rules for mediation of the Institute for Christian Conciliation (www.iccpeace.com). Where services are paid for, a contract must be signed by people with the authority to do so. There may be additional costs involved, ranging from fees to expenses.
I have to add a caveat. Not all conflict calls for mediation or coaching. You are not to pursue reconciliation with abusers, slanderers, oppressors, or predators. There are legal issues and help called for in such cases. Please get the help you need. Stop covering for the abuser.
What You Need to Do
If you click on this menu you will find a series of pages that give you a step by step process. It starts here.
This is similar to the kind of homework I give. I offer it to you because often people can find reconciliation just by following a wise process.