This is a guest post by Ryan Showalter. Ryan serves as the Associate Pastor for Family Ministry at Calvary Baptist Church in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Ryan earned an M.Div. and a Th.M. in biblical counseling from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
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“It is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil. For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” –1 Peter 3:17-18
Humans often protest when their experience of life seems unfair or unjust. Isn’t it interesting, though, that neither children nor adults seem to make a fuss when the unfairness of a circumstance tips in their favor? The child who received two scoops of ice cream instead of one never bursts into tears over their friend’s missing scoop. The adult who receives a compliment from the boss rarely goes to sleep bitter that their equally deserving coworkers didn’t hear similar words of praise.
The atonement of Christ directly confronts our selfish standards of fairness and motivates us to a better way of handling everyday conflict. How incredible to consider that it is God who makes peace with us! The King takes the initiative and makes peace with treasonous rebels. Peace doesn’t come with the wave of a hand, as if such treachery could be excused without cost. Instead, the penalty is paid in full, just not by the ones who earned it: you and me. Christ falls at the hands of the executioner, the Righteous One standing in place of unrighteous rebels, to bring us to God. Peace between the King and His people is secured once and for all as the righteous requirements of the law are satisfied in Christ.
This divine act of mercy is supremely unfair. When Jesus died on the cross, He did not receive what He deserved. And when we trust in Him, we do not receive what we deserve. Jesus deserves blessing and life but receives punishment and death. We deserve punishment and death but receive blessing and life. God atones for our sin and in so doing makes lasting peace with us. In treating me unfairly, God empowers and enables me to treat others unfairly as well—to return blessing for curse, good for evil, and love for hate.
Because Jesus died for me, absorbing the full cost of my sin, I can now do the same for others. Ken Sande identifies three general responses to conflict in Peacemaking for Families: peace faking, peace breaking, and peace making. Peace faking responses avoid conflict at all costs, ignoring the issues at hand and the hurt inflicted. Peace breaking responses seek victory at all costs, ignoring the relationship that is crushed in the process. Peace making responses seek reconciliation, dealing with the issues and restoring broken relationships.
Peacemaking requires a great deal of time, emotional energy, and spiritual maturity. It requires the forfeiture of our rights as the offended party in conflict. We no longer get to act as judge and jury, handing out guilty verdicts to those who offend us. It means that we absorb the cost of the wrong. We no longer get to act as executioner, meting out punishment as we see fit. It also means that when we are the offending party, we humble ourselves and seek mercy at the hands of those we have offended. Peacemaking is not easy, but with the power of the Holy Spirit, it is possible, and it images our peacemaking King to a world in conflict.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” –Matthew 5:9