Book Review: The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
My family first heard Ken Sande speak at the 1999 Illinois Christian Home Educators Convention. My dad brought Sande’s book The Peacemaker home and he read it at evening Bible study. Two pieces of advice at that time were memorable: (1) when apologizing, “The word ‘but’ is especially harmful, because it has the strange ability to cancel all the words that precede it,” (pp 128) and (2) if you truly forgive someone, you will stop digging up their past sins.
Recently, I decided to re-read The Peacemaker. These points stood out to me:
1. Peacemaking begins with self-transformation. Sande asks me to turn my attention away from my opponent and look at myself. “. . . [M]ost people . . . tend to focus on the negative characteristics of the person who is disagreeing with you, exaggerating his faults and overlooking his virtues.” Whereas, “As you search your heart for idols, you will often encounter multiple layers of concealment, disguise, and justification.” (pp 105) My idol is seeing other people’s faults and how the world would be a better place if they would change. Thinking this way hides my problems from myself – I’m the only real problem God gave me to resolve in life. And my repentance may be the greatest catalyst for helping someone who is in conflict with me.
2. Conflict is God’s tool to deepen our relationship with Him. “Every time you encounter a conflict, you will inevitably show what you really think of God.” (p. 33) Do I trust God enough to commit myself to resolving this conflict? Or should I give up when my opponent does not seem to listen? “The other benefit of a God-centered approach to conflict resolution is that it makes you less dependent on results.” (pp 34) As my mother says, it’s the process that counts.
3. It does not matter who started it; everyone involved in a conflict has the responsibility to go to his or her opponent and talk about the conflict. It is rationalizing to say, “He should come to me because he offended me.” I often vilify people in my mind to justify not communicating with them. “They’re so cemented in their sin; they probably won’t listen to me.” I want to stop being cynical and have the hope that does not end – because it is the hope that God will work in all of us.
4. I have trouble winning at chess because I can’t see the board from my opponent’s perspective. I want to see him lose, so I get distracted imagining ways he could lose. In a conflict, my mind dwells on the errors in my opponent perspective and how right I am to notice them. But God asks me to be objective, and be as generous when thinking about what my opponent’s desires and interests, as I would be when thinking about myself.
As much as I want each conflict in my life to go away, God wants to use them to change me. God will give me the strength to do the impossible, such as forgive someone who has hurt me.
You may not be in a conflict, but this book will give you useful tools for when God provides an opportunity in the future – because conflict is an opportunity, a gift.