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

The NPC Marital Mediation Agreement is designed to set a redemptive path.


When working with couples as a Marital Mediator, it has been my experience, to be very explicit upfront about the need to experience forgiveness and agreement to avert a marriage meltdown. Hence, I use the following document as a redemptive tool to frame the mediation dialogue and to set a hopeful path to reconciliation.


New Path Center (NPC) offers Marital Mediation to couples who want to stay married but have issues to be worked through, deeper understanding to be shared, forgiveness to be experienced, and agreements to be made and kept for a brighter marital future.

NPC encourages couples having trouble with issues of offenses and/or injustices, control, and power to use mediation to experience forgiveness and reach an agreement addressing these issues, thereby strengthening the marriage. Couples jointly hire an associate of NPC to act as a mediator, not as a lawyer or counselor for either party.


During a series of meetings, you and your spouse work with the mediator, and on your own time, to identify issues and work out a mutually satisfactory plan to address them. This work includes exchanging any and all information pertaining to these issues, and sharing of control, power and responsibility you consider best for the both of you. You are free to consult with a lawyer, financial planner or other advisor at any time. The process is designed to help you strengthen your marriage.


Marital mediation works only if you are willing to make a good faith effort to reach forgiveness and agreement with your marriage partner. There is no legal obligation to forgive or agree. Any constructive commitment to mediation, and to make the resulting outcome work, comes voluntarily from you and your spouse. Note: “yes” answers to the following questions determine if mediation is a reasonable resource for your marriage:

Do you want a healthy marriage?

Can we talk about anything & everything?

Will you own your part in the issues?


The processes of forgiveness, understanding, and agreement can change behavior in your relationship. Just identifying the issues you struggle with is itself healthy. Creating personal solutions will give your marriage a greater life expectancy. Learning communication and reconciliation skills will enhance all of your relationships. Your children will thrive in the absence of parental conflict.


New Path Center does not maintain a set fee schedule for the service of Marital Mediation. These services are provided at the NPC office in Kingsburg, CA. The amounts are only suggestions for your consideration. Please see the attached NPC “Financial Policy, Fees, & Donations” document or visit:


We wish to define the terms of forgiveness, understanding, and agreement to help us stay married, as simply and sensibly as possible. We have read the description of Marital Mediation. Each of us agrees to participate fully in this effort to define our future behavior in order to improve our marriage.

We agree to hire ____________________________ as our marital mediator(s).

We realize our mediator shall not represent either or both of us as an attorney at any time in connection with our Marital Agreement. During the mediation we agree to disclose all aspects of our marital issues. Each of us is free to consult our personal advisors at any time.

We agree that all communications in mediation, including all notes, homework, draft contracts and other writings, are completely confidential. Neither of us can seek testimony of the mediator or disclosure of their file in connection with any court proceeding related to this mediation process.

We realize the mediator is in charge of the mediation process and will give each of us equal time as much as possible, whether our sessions are together or separate, and will not take sides other than to help guide us to a reasonable agreement designed to help us stay married. We realize we are not required to mediate any issue or to reach agreement on any issue. We voluntarily enter marital mediation.

(Signature lines and contact information)


VORP: A Story of Redemption

Eric had big career plans but his involvement in a crime undermined his chances of obtaining his goal and a brighter future. He was now faced with a criminal record. It seemed like a minor act of retaliation “because a friend asked.” But a few minutes of "drive-by-paintball" vandalism resulted in a felony with long-term consequences. Eric’s future was unclear and certainly bleak.

I am always moved by the stories I experience while doing mediation work with the community & faith-based Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (VORP). I have been a volunteer VORP mediator since 1992. Serving as a VORP mediator has been both worthwhile and inspirational. It is some of the most important work that I could do for my community as I see the redemptive message of Jesus Christ come to life.

While I have had the privilege of helping a number of juvenile offenders, Eric (not his real name) comes to mind most certainly as a person with a story of redemption due in part because of VORP. Eric’s story consists of many events that contributed to his transformation journey. However, I am pleased to share that a VORP mediation was one of those events that helped him on his journey of character development.

The Fresno County Probation Department referred Eric’s case to VORP. VORP assigned the case to me. I met with Eric to explain how VORP could help with his situation. I told him that if he wanted to cooperate with the VORP program, he would be given an opportunity to make things as right as possible with his victims.

While I could not guarantee that a judge would be any easier on him because of VORP, I did tell Eric that if he cooperated and worked on a constructive resolution to his offense, the VORP program might be beneficial for him at his court time. He would still have to pay his fines, do his community service, finish his classes, and do all the justice system required of him. I could not change any of that for him. I could only offer a program that might help him, his victims, and his community to heal from the offense.

Right from the start, Eric was a willing participant in the VORP mediation process. He arrived on time and constructively added to the success of the mediation as we met with his victims. He also quickly fulfilled his VORP agreement with his victims. In fact, Eric went above and beyond what was expected of him in making things as right as possible. He did practical jobs for the victims, expressed apology, regret, embarrassment, self-assessment, and remorse in addition to being the author of a generous restitution amount. He also paid the restitution in full and sooner than agreed.

The victims’ willingness to participate in this redemptive story is another wonderful feature of Eric’s journey. The victims gained not just payment for damages done, but they also gained an opportunity to become agents of change. Eric was impressed with their “big hearts” toward him, their kindness, and their openness to include him in their community once again. He said their words were healing, but what made the difference was their redeeming actions toward him. I can’t go into detail on their exact actions, but it was a huge step toward healing.

The day before his scheduled court appointment, Eric asked if I would write a letter to the judge outlining all that he had completed with the VORP program. I gladly wrote the letter. Eric said as he stood before the judge all he held in his hands was his VORP letter. He gave the letter to the bailiff, the bailiff gave the letter to the judge, the judge read the letter, and the judge looked down over his glasses at Eric. “Have you learned your lesson,” the judge asked. “Yes,” Eric replied. “Charges dismissed,” said the judge.

Dismissed? What did this mean? It meant that Eric would not have this felony on his record. In essence the judge had forgiven him and, thus, no longer held the offense against him. Eric’s future all of a sudden became clear and bright.

Today, Eric is not only enjoying a brighter future but he is also growing in his faith, attending both church and a young-adult Bible study, planning on going on a mission trip, and learning to choose better friends.

This is Eric’s redemptive story which continues to this day toward a brighter future.

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

Adversarial or Redemptive?

Once in a while, I am asked to mediate a case that is on a Fresno court calendar. The court will actually spin-off a case where they feel mediation is a better option compared to entering the adversarial court option. Normally, these cases come through the Dispute Settlement Center in Fresno.

I was asked to mediate between two families entrenched in conflict. They both had hired attorneys, filed suits/counter suits, and they were ready to go to court. I can’t tell you the details but it started over something very minor in my opinion. None-the-less, the minor became major to the point of their willingness to go to court over it and spend a lot of money on legal advice and representation.

The night of the mediation came, the families came including fathers, mothers and children, and the attorneys came. I asked the attorneys to sit in the back and they complied.

I started with a simple process. First, guidelines on how we are going to talk to each other. Second, asked everyone to be constructive and they agreed. Third, talked about what happened including each person sharing what he/she did to make this conflict escalate. Fourth, talked about what we needed to do to make things as right as possible. Fifth, talked about what we can promise that will help each other have a clearer picture of what the future relationship looks like. In theological terms, what we simply did was confession, atonement, and repentance.

By the end of the evening, the attorneys were utterly amazed at the progress, reconciliation, and forgiveness that took place in their midst. In fact, they suggested the court date be cancelled and . . . they waived their fees!

Could it be what God has modeled and taught us to do really works? Hmmmmm . . .

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - GK Chesterton