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.


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.


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!



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."





Personal Preferences





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?





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





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


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

People listen to others to find flaws in their auguments.


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

People critique the experiences of others as distorted and invalid.


People accept the experiences of others as real and valid.

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


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

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


People speak primarily from their own understanding and experience.

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


People work together toward common understanding.

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


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

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

Heaving Around

A wonderful print hangs in my office. The painting is titled "Heaving Around." Maritime artist, Marek Sarba, captures a difficult maneuver in a stormy seascape. The painting "depicts the Saint Andre being made fast to the towing bit of the steam tug ADLER, a maneuver that poses great danger to crewmen and vessels in heavy seas." The disabled freighter is literally being pulled by the tug so it can gain a more favorable position to weather the storm. Without this maneuver, the ship would be doomed.

As a mediator, I believe the painting is a metaphor for those constructive but critical moments during a mediation when one can see the interactions of the participants move in a redemptive way. Even in the worst emotional storms, I really believe when those heaving-around moments come, God is present. Time and time again, I have seen the heaving-around moment come in the form of a much needed and sincere apology.

Here's what a heaving-around moment sounds like, "I hurt you. I am so sorry. I want to make sure this never happens again. So, this is how I will promise to change . . ."

That's the kind of apology that will help any relationship to weather the storms of conflict.

More on the art of Apology

More on the painting Heaving Around

More on the artist Marek Sarba

Redemptive Clarity

“It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.”
(Proverbs 19:2)

“Better a patient man than a warrior, a man who controls his temper than one who takes a city.” (Proverbs 16:32)

So, what comes to mind? “Jumping to conclusions” “Think before you speak.” “Haste makes waste.” “Shoot first - ask questions later.”

People do not like confusion or tension. Sometimes those feeling cause them to have “zeal without knowledge” – i.e. to have a knee jerk reaction. They simply do not want to be confused or in tension. Therefore, they want to do something about it.

This is a good time to ask a question. Slow it down, stay confused a little longer, and ask a question, such as, “I am confused about ________ and I need some more information. I have a few questions. Would you mind helping me for a moment?”

I remember a family who made a quick decision without having all the facts. Most of the family members came to the same conclusion about one of the other family members. You see, “he” was the problem.

Actually, “he” was not the problem. The problem was not having all the information they needed to make a good decision. They were confused and, sadly, they drew their conclusions based on confusion without asking for clarity. Their confusion grew as they talked about “him” instead of talking to “him.” This led to a preemptive zeal that said “he” was the one to blame.

After five years of alienation, pain, and separation, one member finally asked a question about the confusion and tension most everyone felt by this time. The answer to his question brought a fresh perspective to which he responded with, “Oh, now I understand” - i.e. “he” was not the problem. This was the redemptive ah-ha moment. Yes, the light went on! Why didn’t the family member ask this question five years ago? Five years of broken relationships could have been avoided.

Nevertheless, it is never too late to reconcile. Ask for clarity today. Experience the ah-ha moment. Sometimes, gaining new information means you can make a new decision – a redemptive decision based on clarity . . . and not confusion.

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