The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict

by Ken Sande (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2004. Pp. 318. Illustrations.)

Conflict resolution is the subject matter of Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict. This revised and updated third edition has an improved look from the cover to the body of the text. Unfortunately although the content is very good, the editing is not. This book needs a serious, ax wielding editor to cut out fluff and repetitiveness with the result being a tight, well written, easy-to-read text. One can only dream.

Chock full of solid principles on how to face and resolve conflicts, Peacemaker expounds reader-friendly concepts like the Slippery Slope.

“There are three basic ways that people respond to conflict. These responses may be arranged on a curve that resembles a hill. On the left slope of the hill we find the escape responses to conflict. On the right side are the attack responses. And in the center we find the peacemaking responses. Imagine that this hill is covered with ice. If you go too far to the left of the right, you can lose your footing and slide down the slope. Similarly, when you experience conflict, it is easy to become defensive or antagonistic. Both responses make matters worse and can lead to more extreme reactions.”

A useful diagram accompanies this description and fills in more details. The Slippery Slope is one of the key tools to use for understanding, resolving and avoiding conflict according to the philosophy of Peacemaker Ministries, umbrella organization of Ken Sande and his book.

Peacemaker Ministries is an agency dedicated to helping people resolve personal conflict. Trained conciliators counsel, coach and facilitate mediation sessions throughout the United States. These can be very beneficial in resolving differences wherever conflict arises. The book Peacemaker is a mouthpiece to disseminate their various tested and proven methods.

In the chapter, “Is This Really Worth Fighting Over?” Sande states, “When significant personal or material issues are involved, the answer to this question will be yes…It is usually helpful to address major personal issues first, which often leads to progress on material issues. At other times, you will need to alternate between personal and material issues, with progress in one area opening the way for progress in others.”

This chapter also enumerates insightful questions to contemplate when there is an issue of one’s rights.

“Will exercising my rights honor God by showing the power of the gospel in my life?”

“Will exercising my rights advance God’s kingdom–or will it advance only my interests at the expense of his kingdom?”

“Will exercising my rights benefit others?” “Is exercising my rights essential for my own well-being?”

The book is divided into four major sections: Glorify God, Get the Log Out of Your Eye, Gently Restore, and Go and Be Reconciled.

Each chapter ends with an inventory of questions designed to help you work through your particular conflict. On the whole these questions are helpful for the person who is reading the book with a particular pressing conflict

Peacemaker concludes with a Peacemaker pledge, checklist and alternate ways to resolve disputes, plus a discussion on restitution and on when is is right to go to court. A bibliography is also attached, but the category of Forgiveness is woefully absent. It seems to me that forgiveness would be a desirable outcome of conflict resolution, but here as well as in the text the coverage is skimpy at best.

Although I obviously have complaints about how parts of the book are expressed, I have no qualms about the essence of the content. Peacemaker Ministries is onto something very valuable yet lacking in our litigation-oriented society. This book can open one’s eyes and heart to how to interact in love and grace with one another.

Frances “Peacenik” Gilmore

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