View Cart

Peacemaking for Families (Part 2)

Truth in Love 457

How do we pursue peacemaking within our family?

Mar 18, 2024

Dale Johnson: This week, like last week, we have with us Dr. Robert Jones. He served as a Biblical Counseling Professor at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky since 2016 and he recently became the Department Chair. Prior to this, he served 19 years as lead pastor in West Virginia and 12 years as a full-time professor at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Bob is a Certified Christian Conciliator with the Institute for Christian Conciliation, and he’s a member and Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors. He’s written five books including Uprooting Anger and Pursuing Peace, along with several mini books and numerous chapters and articles about counseling and pastoral ministry. Bob and Lauren, his wife of 40 years, have two married sons and two wonderful Christian daughters-in-law, and they have four granddaughters. He serves as an elder, counselor, counselor trainer, adult teacher, and nursery worker at Hunsinger Lane Baptist Church in Louisville, Kentucky. Bob, as always, it’s good to have you on the podcast again.

Robert Jones: I’m glad to be here, Dale. 

Dale Johnson: Now, I want us to continue this conversation. We were getting into some practical implications and I’m going to let you sort of remind our listeners where we were. In the first podcast, we were talking about what you framed as a three-step process. You were helping us in this process to describe what it means to please God, to repent, and to walk in love. We got to that first point talking about pleasing God and we were getting practical talking about some of the specific implications. I wanted to flesh that out a little bit more in how practically we pursue peace and what some of these implications are as we think about pleasing God.

So, Bob, I want you to start there. Give us some of those practical implications, and then I want to, if we can, go a little bit further talking about the second step and then the third step as we talk about repentance and love, but let’s start with pleasing God. What are some of those implications? You started with the first two, and I think you said there were nine or so. Let’s hear some of those as we talk about practically pursuing peace with family conflict.

Robert Jones: Yes, these are so vital and so helpful to motivate us and to get us focused on the right direction of following Christ in the midst of all this. So, one of those implications, Dale, is that when you make this your goal, it’s one of those goals that is an attainable goal. I can’t change my spouse. I can’t even create peace; it takes two. One of the beauties of making pleasing God your goal in a conflict situation is that no one can ever stop you from pleasing God. This is a goal that’s attainable. The other thing about this goal is that it will pace your efforts. A lot of us, probably most of us, like to withdraw, avoid, procrastinate, and not deal with the conflict. But when pleasing God becomes your goal, it will actually push you.

On the other hand, some of us might be a little bit rash, you know, “I want to sit down; we need to talk about it right now.” When pleasing God becomes your goal, that will harness you. Some people need to be pushed. Some people need to be harnessed. I can think of a couple that I worked with and It just really is a classic case of this, where every time there was a conflict, he was the guy saying, “I want to sit down and talk to you right now!” She hated that. She was so filled with fear. In fact, even his phrase, “We need to talk about it. We need to sit down,” was like, you know, the old chalk on the chalkboard screeching so hard on her ears. Here’s my counsel to each of them: it has to do with pleasing God and has to do with connecting with the Lord. This is what I said to her, I said, “you know, I don’t think you should sit down and talk with him. I don’t think you should do that. I think you and your Lord Jesus need to sit down with him.” In other words, she needs to get strength in the Lord to do that. And, of course, what I tell him is, “Hey friend, brother, the first person you need to talk to in the situation is not your wife. You need to get a grip and you need to get control on those things.” So I just found that immensely helpful.

The other thing about pleasing God as your goal is that even if the other person doesn’t respond, you can hear, by faith, God’s voice: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” In fact, sometimes, as we know, in conflict situations things can worsen, and it might actually get worse, but that’s where the pleasing God commitment must be solid. And you know, we need friends to help us do this. We need our church. We need our pastors. We need, as you’ve said brother, the church as a culture of care, and that’s what we really do need in the life of trying to do this.

Dale Johnson: Bob, this is so helpful as you frame what it means to please God and part of what I’m hearing is when conflict happens, everything feels chaotic and out of control. When we recenter on pleasing the Lord, things come back into focus, where we learn to control the things that we can control: our pursuit of the Lord and what’s pleasing to him, versus some of the things that we can’t control: sometimes in the reactions of another person or something like that. So, I love the way that you center that first and foremost there. As we talk and move forward in this framework that you’ve given us with these three things: pleasing God, repentance, and then walking in love, I want you to talk a little bit about repentance; that second step in what it means to pursue peace. Peace is the culmination of several things, and it takes this process, and repentance is certainly one of the most critical, vital pieces of this, so flesh out what you mean by this second step of repenting.

Robert Jones: When I think of repenting, again, in response to God’s work in my life, God shows me my contribution here. I need to own how I’ve contributed to this, I think, on two levels, Dale. One is going to be on the heart level, the heart demands, as we would say, from James 3 and James 4. Maybe particularly in James 4, where James diagnoses the problem. He says the reason there are fights and quarrels, wars among you, is you want something, and you’re not getting it. I don’t think there’s anything more profound, simple, yet profound than to say the root cause of all conflict is I’m not getting what I want. I want what I want, when I want it. Can you bear with the tune for a moment, Dale? “I want what I want when I want it, and when I want it, it better be there.” That’s what the Lord and I would call the chorus of the demanding heart. That’s what James 3 and 4 is exposing. So, what happens, and I think we have grown to understand this in our biblical counseling movement, and that is that a lot of these desired things are actually good things, we want these good things and there’s nothing wrong with wanting your spouse to treat you a certain way, your husband to love you, your wife to listen to you. It’s right. We ought to encourage that. The problem is those kinds of desires can kind of like, climb up onto the throne of our heart and become ruling desires, not just good desires. So, we have to learn to submit those desires, to keep them under the lordship of Christ, to humble ourselves and repent of that desire that becomes a demand. And that would lead into the behavioral stuff that we can talk about as well.

Dale Johnson: Yeah, I do want to explore that. As you were describing it, I remember reading something; I can’t even recall exactly where now; in my mind, it’s coming from Martin Luther, who described when we take a good thing and make it an ultimate thing, it becomes a wicked thing. That’s exactly what you were just describing. A lot of good desires, especially within marital and familial relationships that we make an ultimate, as in the phrase that you used, we put it on the throne of our heart when we want that more than we want anything else and that’s not pleasing God. Those are the things of which we need to repent before the Lord and even confess before each other. I want to go on to that third step because, you know, this is where people want to know, “Okay, what must I do?” These first two steps are critical: reshaping and refocusing ourselves on pleasing God. Repentance is identifying those things that we did not do well that led to the conflict in the first place, and now we’re rebuilding something. So, talk about this third step; what it means to walk in love for this biblical peacemaking process. 

Robert Jones: Yes, I think that having repented on that heart level, and having sought forgiveness on the behavioral level, that Matthew 7, which I think we mentioned in the first broadcast as well, talks about the importance of dealing with that log or plank kind of thing in our eye and dealing with that in a godly way. I think the next step/movement/phase here as we think our way through biblical conflict resolution, is that to really try to cultivate those attitudes of grace and mercy toward other people, a key passage to encourage your listeners to explore is Colossians 3:12-15. It’s so vital to those key godly qualities. That’s going to include forgiveness. It’s going to include confronting. It’s going to include listening, speaking in wise ways, and serving the person. So, we can unpack some of those if that would help right now.

Dale Johnson: Yeah, I do think that would be helpful because at the behavioral level, we sometimes make a couple of mistakes here where we don’t get to the behavioral level, or maybe we pursue the behavioral level first. These things are intended to work together and I think that’s the way you’re presenting it. So, flesh out, if you can, how you would work with a counselee on pursuing these behavioral changes and being motivated by love, as 2 Corinthians 5:14 describes. 

Robert Jones: So, one of the things that becomes very important here is how you’re going to look at the person’s sins against you. So, in biblical counseling, there are sometimes nuanced differences that some of us have who also write and speak on this area, but basically, we’re talking about a kind of two-fold way that we want to learn to let go of the bitterness and trust this person into God’s hands. The Matthew 18 parable we talked about in the previous broadcast of just allowing God’s grace to so empower you that you don’t hold this against someone; you come to recognize that no one and this is a powerful statement but I found it helpful, that no one has ever sinned against me as much as I have sinned against God. That’s the Matthew 18 parable, and when that gets into my bloodstream, Dale, I think it does change the way I’m going to look at and approach the other person.

If I show that kind of forgiving heart toward them and they repent, great! We can move forward. If they don’t, well, we have to learn how to confront and how to rebuke in wise and caring ways, but it must issue from a heart that is gracious and merciful and, in a sense, attitudinally at least, forgiving that other person. Then we move toward them to raise the question about their contribution to the problem at hand.

Dale Johnson: I love the way that you described that, that’s genuine love, that’s biblical love. It’s not, “I’m motivated to do something so I get something in return.” I’m rather motivated to do something because I’ve made a conscious choice that I’m going to love them. The language that I use is “despite them.” That’s what we see as biblical love. 

Robert Jones: One of our common mentors is David Powlison in so many ways; he’s got a wonderful chapter in one of his books where he talks about not unconditional love but counter-conditional love. Unconditional love is, “I love you because you haven’t done anything in my life. A stranger on the street asks for money, well, maybe I give it as a gift: that’s unconditional. He doesn’t deserve it. What if he spits in my face? And then I choose, well, yeah, to forgive despite our sin. That’s how we treat, that’s how we’ve been treated. As you’ve been forgiven, forgive others, Ephesians 4:32.

Dale Johnson: That’s really great. Of course, our listeners can can find so many training centers that teach on some of these concepts, and if you remember you can pursue CEUs that way. Bob, I want you to talk a little bit about you. In your bio, I mentioned that you’re a Christian conciliator, and I want you to talk a little bit about some of these concepts and how helpful that particular organization has been, as well as some of the concepts that they pursue when they talk about resolving conflict and peacemaking. I think that would be a helpful introduction for many of our members here. 

Robert Jones: Well, several years ago, Dale, ACBC launched a specialization in the area of conflict resolution, and I’ve had the privilege of having that training with the Institute for Christian Conciliation. Some of the things I learned there were very similar to the things we teach in biblical counseling. Biblical counseling has been very influential on, for example, writers like Ken Sandy and others who have been leaders in this whole field. Ernie Baker and I have teamed up and done some things together because we also have that same kind of training. So I just would encourage the specialization in conflict resolution that we offer. I think it’s a great direction to go. 

Dale Johnson: That’s really helpful brother, and, just as a reminder, three particular things that you mentioned on pursuing peace and I love them, so I want to revisit those: pleasing God, repent, and then love. What a framework that we have. Maybe a last word on encouraging our listeners: to be practical, to be intentional in pursuing peace, Bob. 

Robert Jones: Keep your eyes on what God in Jesus Christ has done for you and your soul before the Lord. See him as the ultimate peacemaker and how he’s forgiven you. How, even when you’ve sinned, he’s been gracious with you, and yet he also confronts you and wants to see the relationship changed. So, I think this is worth a lot of our labor, not just in our own family life but in our ministries. So much of my ministry involves peacemaking ministries among family members. So pursue peace.

Dale Johnson: Amen. Thanks, brother. It’s been great to be with you. 

Robert Jones: Thank you, Dale.

More Resources:

Click here for more information about ACBC Certification

Click here for more information about ACBC’s 2024 Annual Conference Care of Christ: The Counseling Ministry of Jesus.