What does it mean to be not only a peacekeeper, but a peacemaker? How can peace be achieved when conflict is inevitable? How do we find peace without ignoring our problems? How do we pursue unity without compromising on our principles?
Bible Gateway interviewed P. Brian Noble (@PMMinistries) about his book, The Path of a Peacemaker: Your Biblical Guide to Healthy Relationships, Conflict Resolution, and a Life of Peace (Baker Books, 2019).
Please explain the Peacemaker Ministries’ approach to conflict and how that is applied in this book.
P. Brian Noble: Peacemaker Ministries’ believes that God’s Word is full of principles, expectations, and examples of how to resolve conflict and, more importantly, reconcile relationships. The Path of a Peacemaker is simple. When we discover that we’re in the pig pen of life, we need to come to our senses by discovering our story, return to our heavenly Father by setting our mind on the things above, take full responsibility by getting the log out of our own eye, and connect by moving toward a heart and actions of reconciliation.
Why do you say tension can be good?
P. Brian Noble: God uses the tensions of this fallen world to build the character that he so eagerly desires in us. The beginning of the book of James illustrates this point beautifully: “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials [TENSION], knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing [CHARACTER]. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (bracketed emphasis mine) James 1:2-5 (NASB).
Even more than our character, God desires our transformation. Paul writes to the church in Corinth: “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, [TENSION] so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” [TRANSFORMATION] (bracketed emphasis mine) 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB).
Where do we see tension in the Bible?
P. Brian Noble: Almost every Bible account of humanity throughout history is full of tension. This is not an exhaustive list but think about these Old Testament Bible stories in Genesis.
- Tension is present in Adam and Eve’s story (Genesis 2-3)
- Tension is present in Cain and Abel’s story (Genesis 4)
- Tension is present in Noah’s story (Genesis 5)
- Tension is present in Abraham’s story (Genesis 12-25)
- Tension is present in Isaac’s story (Genesis 24-26)
- Tension is present in Jacob’s story (Genesis 27-37)
- Tension is present in Joseph’s story (Genesis 37-50)
How does knowing someone’s story help the path to peace?
P. Brian Noble: Story brings about context and, hopefully, understanding context will bring about compassion. God completely understands our context. Psalm 139 proclaims this truth over and over:
“O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all . . . Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? . . . For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them. How precious also are Your thoughts to me, O God! How vast is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would outnumber the sand. When I awake, I am still with You . . . Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”
Now combine Psalm 139 with other truths in Scripture.
Isaiah 30:18 (NASB95)
“Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the LORD is a God of justice; How blessed are all those who long for Him.”
Matthew 11:28–30 (NASB95)
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
The most important story we can tell ourselves is not the story of someone else’s fallenness. It’s the story of the gospel in them. It’s gaining a God perspective. We see this example in Philippians 4:1-9 with the story of Euodia and Syntyche. Paul urges them to live in harmony by “thinking on these things.” This helps them not dwell on each other’s fallenness but on a Godly perspective.
What are the factors that influence the context of a person’s story?
P. Brian Noble: Our past, our upbringing, our history, our fallenness, and so much more influence the context of our lives. The key is to let God’s story of redemption, forgiveness, and newness be the primary identity that we hold on to in our story. 2 Corinthians speaks to this: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NASB95).
How do we learn to examine our own role in a conflict?
P. Brian Noble: Humble reliance on the Holy Spirit is the key to self-reflection. Also seeing my contribution to the conflict as greater than the other persons is key. Matthew 7:1–5 (NASB95) says, “Do not judge so that you will not be judged. For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
What is the value in learning to overlook an offense? And when is it unwise to overlook?
P. Brian Noble: In Proverbs 19:11 (NASB95) it says that “A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to overlook a transgression.”
This proverb has always interested me. Read it closely. Who receives the glory? We often times think of God getting the glory and he does. However, these particular verses say that when we overlook a transgression, we get glory. I’m not 100 percent sure how that works but that’s what this verse clearly states.
The Bible doesn’t clearly say when to overlook a transgression and when not to overlook a transgression. You must be led by the Holy Spirit. Peacemaker Ministries has found over the years that there are a few best practices. These include:
- You might be able to overlook if it is a one time or non-repeated offense.
- You might be able to overlook if it does not dishonor God.
- You might be able to overlook if it does not hurt others.
- You might be able to overlook if it does not hurt the person or offender.
How can we process conflict when the other party doesn’t want to cooperate?
P. Brian Noble: In the Bible, we have example after example of humanity not cooperating with God. God doesn’t give up and at the same time he doesn’t force.
Humans cannot force others to reconcile. Ultimately it’s the person cooperating with the Spirit of God. But the Bible does clearly state in Romans 12:18 (NASB): “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”
When reconciliation isn’t happening, we know the problem is not with the Holy Spirit. Colossians 3:12–13 encourages us: “So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.”
What do you recommend as the first step in working through conflict?
P. Brian Noble: Go to God and ask for humility. When humility steps into the room, Jesus wins.
What is a favorite Bible passage of yours and why?
P. Brian Noble: Psalm 27 is one of my favorites. It reminds me that God is my light and my salvation. Others are not my light and salvation. I am not my light and salvation. God is! It’s so freeing to know that.
What are your thoughts about Bible Gateway and the Bible Gateway App and Bible Audio App?
P. Brian Noble: They are awesome! I use Bible Gateway all of the time.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
P. Brian Noble: Thank you for the opportunity to share about The Path of a Peacemaker and Peacemaker Ministries. Our prayer is that this book touches many people and relationships reconciled.
Bio: P. Brian Noble is the executive director of Peacemaker Ministries. He teaches the Path of a Peacemaker seminar all over the country and is always busy developing new resources for churches, marriages, and workplaces. Noble also serves as executive pastor of the Valley Assembly of God church in Spokane, Washington.
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