The Redemptive Power of Invitation

Nothing is reconciled until someone invites.

I am confused over two positions I often hear among believers.

People tell me they want to restore broken relationships, but then they add, “Not now.”

Excuses range from: I am not ready, they are not ready, it is not the right time, coming together will only make things worse, conflict will take care of itself, or time heals all wounds.

Here’s another excuse.

I received an email from a pastor who experienced conflict with a few church elders.

The elders eventually left the church.

The pastor invited them to come together to discuss the conflict.

The elders stated they had “prayerfully considered the suggestion for further discussion and collectively agreed that the cause and testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ in the community would be impacted in a negative manner by any more discussion.”

Instead, the ex-elders started another church.

Actually, reconciliation would have had the bigger impact in the community.

Frankly, there is a huge disconnect in what we say we believe and what we do.

This is particularly true in our approach to resolving conflict.

We know what the Scriptures teach: “go” to the other party whether we are the offender or the offended (Matthew 5:23, 24; 18:15-20); reconciliation of relationships is a prerequisite to worship (Matthew 5:23, 24); deal with today’s anger today (Ephesians 4:26); live in peace (Ephesians 4:3); and seek agreement (I Corinthians. 1:10).

We know Jesus is especially with us during the process of reconciling relationships (Matthew 18:20).

We even know that peacemakers in God’s Kingdom are blessed and identified with the Most High God of Peace (Matthew 5:9).

There is no logic to this disconnect between what we know to be true and how we actually live.

Dr. Jerry Sheveland, President of the Baptist General Conference, makes an important point regarding the best time to resolve conflict.

He simply asks, “Why wait for a harder moment than this one to begin a process of honesty and grace . . ?”

Now is the time for reconciliation.

Don’t wait for a more difficult opportunity.

There is no hope of reconciliation until someone invites the other party into a process of restoring the relationship.

Someone has to do the work of invitation.

Why not now?

Stop Lying to Yourself and Start Reconciling with Others.

Ten Guardian-Lies 

or "Why I do not have to reconcile"

Disclaimer:  There are interpersonal conflicts that are sometimes intractable based on criminal felony offenses, years of abuse, deep emotional wounds, and the like.  I am not writing about those types of complicated conflicts.  I am writing about the normal routine conflicts that people bring into New Path Center every week.

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As a result of serving as a mediator over the last 20 years, I've noticed a pattern.  Sometimes, when I invite conflicted clients to enter a reconciliation process, the clients, along with several other clients, give amazingly similar irrational responses.  I hear the following responses over and over again.  Hence, I have learned to recognize these repeating phrases as "guardian-lies."

A guardian-lie is any belief that hinders a person from moving forward.  People are stuck NOT because of any outside force beyond his or her control.  People are stuck due to their own belief and choice.

(1)

Here are some of the most common guardian-lies that I hear.  These lies keep people from moving forward to reconciliation.

I choose to remain stuck in conflict because:

  1. I know the other party will not want to reconcile.
  2. Even if the other party says they want to reconcile, they are not showing enough sincerity, remorse, humility, forgiveness, (and so on).
  3. Reconciling will only be a waste of time.
  4. We have tried to reconcile in the past but it has never worked, and it won't work this time.
  5. Any more contact with the other party will only make it worse.
  6. There is nothing we could possibly do to make it better
  7. The other party knows what they did wrong, they need to come to me.
  8. If I have wronged someone, they have the responsibility to come to me.
  9. I'm just going to avoid being around the other person.
  10. The other party is "crazy!"

1. Dr. Ed Smith, Theophostice Prayer Ministry, adapted by Tony Redfern

We got issues!

.

we+got+issues.jpg

What exactly are we fighting about? Our ability to clearly state what the issues are will help us to determine a redemptive outcome. Broadcasting a generalized judgment or labeling can bring more confusion, tension, and escalation to the conflict.

If we can determine the kind(s) of conflict we have entered, we will have a better chance to realistically resolve the conflict.

Dr. Ron Claassen brings the following insights to help us define our conflicts.

Ron writes, "As we move down the list, it will likely be more difficult to resolve the conflict constructively. It is not impossible, but will require more planning and perhaps outside help."

Space

Schedule

Methods

Procedures

Personal Preferences

Traditions

Customs

Values

Beliefs

What are we fighting about? Determining the level of conflict on the above continuum will help us to determine a strategy to find resolution.

.

When we talk, are we using a hammer or a saw?

.

Debate

v.

Dialogue

is like a sledge hammer v. a logging saw.

In a debate, one person uses debate like a sledge hammer against the other person. Then the other person reacts and does the same thing.

In a dialogue, they use dialogue like a two-person logging saw that takes cooperation to work.

Here's a quick contrast between

Debate

and

Dialogue

:

The goal is to "win" the argument by affirming one's own views and discrediting other views.

v.

The goal is to understand different perspectives and learn about other views.

People listen to others to find flaws in their auguments.

v.

People listen to others to understand how their experiences shape their beliefs.

People critique the experiences of others as distorted and invalid.

v.

People accept the experiences of others as real and valid.

People appear to be determined not to change their own views on the issue.

v.

People appear to be somewhat open to expanding their understanding of the issue.

People speak based on assumptions made about others' positions and motivations.

v.

People speak primarily from their own understanding and experience.

People oppose each other and attempt to prove each other wrong.

v.

People work together toward common understanding.

Strong emotions like anger are often used to intimidate the other side.

v.

Strong emotions like anger and sadness are appropriate when they convey the intensity of an experience or belief.

Excerpt taken from The Little Book of Dialogue for Difficult Subjects, A Practical, Hands-On Guide, by Lisa Schirch & David Campt., Page 9.

You have four ways to do this . . .



and only four . . . . . .

1. Escalation
2. Arbitration
3. Mediation
4. Invitation



So, you have a conflict.

What are you going to do? The good news is that you have four options. Dr. Ron Claassen, professor at Fresno Pacific University, offers an explicit illustration of these four options. I have taken some liberty to adapt his model as illustrated above.

I use this as a decision tool in most mediation settings. I ask, "Which one do you want to do? I can probably help you with two of them."

Every conflict has four response options:

Escalation: One party can simply overpower the other party. One party will make the decision. Examples: The party with power (indicated by being inside the circle) uses power to get their way. This party could be a policeman, a soldier, a criminal with a gun, or the bully on the playground, or even the party with the majority vote. This party could be a person who rescues another person even against their will. (If my granddaughter was playing in a street and a truck was coming toward her, I would use my power as an adult to physically remove her from the street even at the risk of her not understanding, hating me, protesting, or even fighting me as I try to help her.) This party could also be someone who chooses to use their power to leave another party, group or organization; or to withhold financial support, such as, child support or even church tithes. This party could also be the one to withhold emotional involvement or love, including avoiding or being evasive, giving the cold shoulder or quiet treatment.

However, on a de-escalation note, this party could also be the one to tolerate or even overlook an offense (Proverbs 12:16, 16:32, and 19:11. ) with the intent to never bring it up, in essence, to love, to extend grace, to forgive, and to never hold the offense against the other party. Hmmm, the power to love, accept, forgive, honor, respect . . .

Arbitration: When parties cannot agree, an outside party can be empowered to bring resolution and to make the final decision. Hence, the "X" is in the circle. Examples: X is the party with the power to resolve the conflict. This party may be a judge, jury, or arbitrator. X could be any authority figure with the positional power to make decisions, direct and lead others. Such as: a teacher, a store manager, a coach, a counselor, or advisor. X could be an outside authority that is not necessarily a person. Such as, the dictionary when playing the game of Scrabble - the dictionary decides the correct way to spell a word. X could be the traffic signal - the signal decides who will stop and who will go. X could be a coin as in head-or-tails - the coin decides who is right or who is wrong, or who will receive and who will kick the football. X could be who or what you go to for advice or direction when you are stuck, such as, a trusted friend, "The Golden Rule," God in prayer, or the Holy Bible.

Mediation: When parties cannot agree, an outside party can serve as a mediator to help all the participants (stake holders) to be empowered to experience resolution and to make a joint/mutual decision in a collaborative way. (Note: everyone is in the circle except the mediator, i.e. "X"!) Examples: facilitator, a discussion leader, listener, counselor, “go-between,” observer, peacemaker, negotiator, interventionist, or a parent.

Invitation: All parties are constructive and naturally invite and receive each other into a process of reconciliation without outside help. Examples: One party taking the initiative to invite another party into a time of discussion about a disagreement or offense. And in response the party being invited accepts the invitation. If the issue is an offense, the party doing the invitation can be the author or receiver of the offense. The invitation has a sense of urgency about it. Resolution is sought quickly and timely. The invitation is based on love, care, or value placed on the other parties or at the very least a willingness to be constructive.

You can be sure you will use one if not all of these options when responding to your conflict.

Which ones are the most redemptive? Actually, they could all be used in a redemptive way if your intent is to be respectful, reasonable, and restorative. Escalation can bring redemptive value. Certainly, Jesus taught a process of escalation when teaching about how to minister to an offender. But the process was always to bring that person to a point of listening and ultimately redemption and change. Jesus taught us to "go" - to make invitation our first choice whether we are the author of the offense (Matthew 5:23-24) or the receiver of the offense as seen in Matthew 18:15-20. Jesus taught us to escalate if the other party was not listening.

Even so, the escalation that Jesus taught was mild compared to how we escalate. I am always cautious about giving any type of approval to escalation, simply, because it is our nature to go there first as a powerful option/weapon. I am reminded of a time when I taught on Matthew 18 and the mandate to go to the other party and to invite them into a process of reconciliation. From my "teaching," an individual thought it appropriate to go and tell-off the other party - immediately after church! Yes, he did escalate the conflict but not for redemptive purposes.

There is so much more that could be said about these options. If you have a question or comment, please send me an email at tony@newpathcenter.org.


(c) Copyrighted 2008, Tony Redfern, All Rights Reserved Worldwide

Growing Trust Again


Some time ago, two young boys sat in my office each with their concerned parent. The conflict between the boys involved some stolen property which one boy stole from the other boy. While the property had been returned and an apology was offered and received, there was still some tension between the boys. The source of the tension was a lack of a clear view of their future relationship. Could they trust each other? When they saw each other at school or around town, they tried to ignore each other. This, of course, led to more confusion and tension between them. I asked the boys if they wanted to make some promises about how their relationship could be better in the future. One boy, who owned the property that was stolen, readily said that he still wanted to be friends with the other boy. He also said that he missed him and that he had forgiven him. The other boy, who stole the property, said that he missed being with the other boy and wanted him to come over to his house to play. They agreed to call each other with invitations to play. They also agreed to go to camp together. The mediation ended on a good note because of their willingness to make some promises to each other. What can we learn from the boys? Redeeming a relationship requires trust building. Trust building requires making and keeping promises. If there is no trust between individuals either they are not making any promises or they are making promises and not keeping them.

“When agreements are made and kept, trust grows.” – Dr. Ron Claassen

Redemptive Steps – Taking back what is God’s.


The idea of finding or taking back what was lost is appealing to most. The one looking for lost car keys or credit cards is overjoyed when the lost items are recovered. My friend’s car has been stolen several times. But every time the car is missing from his driveway, the police find it, and call him to reclaim his stolen car. Even though his car has nearly 500,000 miles on it, he is always thrilled with the recovery because the old car has value to him.

One day, as recorded in Matthew 12, Mark 3, and Luke 11, Jesus recovered what was lost. He demonstrated that he came to release individuals from the oppression of darkness. While some observers were amazed or astounded, others were critical saying that Jesus could only do this because he himself was evil. Matthew recorded the logic path of Jesus’ response, “If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?” Why would Satan want to cast out himself?

Luke recorded the following words of Jesus, “But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you. When a strong man (Satan), fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger (Jesus) attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils.”

Within the realm of darkness, the forces of evil are strong, but by a flick of God’s finger, redemption happens - a new life begins. Metaphorically, God’s finger is stronger than the whole realm of darkness. Jesus enters the house of Satan, overpowers him, ties him up, takes his defenses, and takes away his power. Jesus does this when he redeems God’s children and takes back what belongs to God – His people.

Simply said, Jesus redeems people and relationships. When Jesus redeems one from the realm of darkness, it is as if he buys a slave for the purpose of setting the slave free. But the concept is deeper than just that. When Jesus redeems, he is buying up for himself God’s children to be free to have a relationship with the Father. We are valuable to God. To Jesus, relationships are worth redeeming.

As a conflict mediator and grief counselor, it is always astounding to see redemptive steps in the mediation and counseling experiences. There is redemptive value even in grief and loss. Relationships with others are worth redeeming. Redemption is central to the life and teaching of Jesus. Redemption is the fulfillment of his message and mission.

“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’" (Luke 4:16-21). What a wonderful fulfillment He is!

In the months to come, I will share redemptive steps as I see them happening in the midst of conflict, grief, and loss. Stay tuned. Check the “Redemptive Steps” blog at www.newpathcenter.org.