The Peace Maker: A Biblical Guide To Resolving Personal Conflict, by Ken Sande
It is perhaps to my shame that this is not a book I had heard of, nor is it a book that I would have been likely to pick up and read, except that it was given to me by a friend of mine, even if it took me quite a while to get to the book. It does not take a person of great discernment or understanding to realize that conflict has been an extremely important matter in nearly every aspect of my life, from my intellectual studies  to my lifetime of interpersonal drama . Without going into such matters, it is little surprise that a friend of mine would find it useful to give me a book that relate so strongly relates to a matter of great personal importance that is something I lack a great deal of skill in, so much so that my lack of competence in conflict resolution becomes a matter of general notice and considerable personal embarrassment. Irrespective of the reasons why these matters are such a challenge–and there are plenty of good reasons why this is so–this book is clearly a timely and useful and practical one, even if it was a bit painful to read at times. Even so, this is a book that I will likely have to revisit at a future time because it an easy thing to acquire head knowledge in such matters, and an exceedingly difficult thing to practice such knowledge in our lives. To know is easy; to do is hard.
This is a book that is focused on doing, on practicing, an immensely difficult biblically-based method for conflict resolution. The book considers itself a book on lay counseling, but it strongly urges believers to gain the support of ordained ministry for formal avenues of conflict resolution within congregations and between members of different congregations as a way of ensuring proper congregational discipline and in training the general body of believers in better resolving our inevitable difficulties with others in a godly fashion. The contents of this book, which are three hundred pages of core material if one includes the book’s six appendices, are structured around 4 G’s: Glorifying God by exploring the opportunities to show godlly character that conflict provides, living at peace, and trusting in the Lord and doing good; Getting the log out of our eyes by reflecting on whether something is really worth fighting over, recognizing that conflict starts in the heart, and finding the freedom that confession of fault brings; Gently restoring others by dealing with conflict between the people involved, speaking the truth in love, and taking one or two others along to demonstrate one’s commitment to peace; and Going and being reconciled by forgiving as God has forgiven us, looking to the interests of others and not merely our own, and overcoming evil with good. After this the book concludes with a peacemaker’s pledge that promote’s the author’s ministry of reconciliation and six appendices that examine a peacemaker’s checklist, alternative ways to litigation for conflict resolution, principles of restitution, reflecting on when it is proper to go to court, building up congregational peacemaker ministries, and cultivating a culture of peace in our churches, something that is often lacking.
This is the sort of book that is easy to praise and hard to practice. The author seems to go out of his way to make this book practical by detailing his own struggles to live at peace, and discusses somewhat cringeworthy and awkward examples of political struggles within congregational leadership and spouses taking back those who have done some pretty unpleasant things but who have shown a genuine change of heart. Given the frequent occurrence of political squabbles within institutions as well as the ubiquity of divorce (with or without remarriage) situations, this book is extremely relevant and very sensitive. The author, given the difficult matter he is dealing with, wisely chooses to phrase his recommendations in such a way that it discourages opportunities for people to manipulate the reconciliation process as a way of making fake apologies or manipulating or coercing others into forgiving what has not fully been repented of. Additionally, whenever the author talks about difficult areas of reconciliation, he frames the discussion in such a way as to lower the pressure that readers would feel about such outcomes happening in their own conflicts. Additionally, the conflict that is given the fullest treatment is a relatively minor one about a yippy dog barking at night that was solved via a lengthy series of meetings and conversations between estranged neighbors, and not the more highly charged sorts of conflicts that cause the most drama in our own lives. All in all, this is a fantastic book, filled with useful biblical insights that are difficult to practice and master, but worthwhile to reflect on nonetheless and hopefully be able to apply.
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