Resolution for Damaged Relationships
Strained marriage, disgruntled co-worker, tension in the home, irritated by the kids, the list can go on, and on, and on. You get the picture. We live in a fallen world, which affects our relationships. If there is one thing that can keep a person up at night, it is a strained relationship. Controlling thoughts about the other person, guilt, anxiety, and frustration from a damaged relationship certainly need resolution. This is where Pursuing Peace stands above the many other voices vying for our affections during times of conflict. Some books are worth skimming, some are worth a closer look, others worth soaking in, and yet others deserve regular review. Pursuing Peace is the latter. It is biblical, Christ-centered, practical, and contains proven wisdom.
Pursue Peace or Bust
What happens when people do not pursue peace? Dr. Robert Jones says, “Relationships wither without it.” Of course, you know this is true, I know this is true, and Jones certainly knows it, but we often fail to pursue it. If we are to stop faking peace and start pursuing it, this is the book to read.
Inside, you will find solid biblical advice unfolded in three steps. Step 1 – Please God; Step 2 – Repent; and Step 3 – Love (13). Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But when it comes to relationships, things can get sticky. This is where Jones’ seasoned wisdom shines as he connects theology and real-life.
Begin with Pleasing God
With wisdom and sincerity, Jones begins by focusing on God, specifically the God of peace. He presents peacemaking as a mega theme within Scripture, which connects “our relationships-with God and with others” (18). This theme captured my attention from the beginning of the book. I live in the real world and want to read books that connect Scripture to real life. Jones strategically helps his readers see interpersonal conflict and peace through the lens of the Gospel. He teaches readers to expect conflict because, in a sinful world, conflict is inevitable. Furthermore, he presents lasting biblical wisdom for not only resolving conflicts, but even embracing them as divinely-appointed opportunities (30-38).
Jones reminds us that the first objective in resolving conflict is to please God. Pleasing God must be the first and foundational goal before attempting any type of reconciliation. Pleasing God, rather than other people, should be our highest aim in life (49). He also helps the reader understand what occurs when someone or something other than Christ captivates our heart. He illustrates these run amuck desires through “the throne-staircase diagram,” which pictures Christ on the throne and our run-away desires attempting to dethrone Him (65). If you are a counselor, pastor, Sunday school teacher, or small group leader, this diagram will prove an invaluable tool to your ministry. This is one of several counseling instruments detailed throughout the book.
Recognizing Our Sin – Repent
Much conflict exists because we neither see the planks in our own eyes, nor understand how to work toward reconciliation with those we have wronged. Rather than peace, we are plagued with grudges and bitterness for years. Situations arise, people are offended, forgiveness is not sought, and everyone goes on as if nothing occurred. Jones points out, “No relationship-marital, parental or otherwise- will flourish if an offended partner doubts the offender’s sorrow or his willingness to take responsibility for his actions” (75).
He proceeds to unpack how to remove the planks that blind us, so we are free to ask and grant forgiveness as necessary. Furthermore, he carefully dissects the anatomy of an apology, helping readers discover the path of genuine reconciliation. (76, 83-86). Things like, “I was drunk, it was actually your fault, I love you, it was the PMS talking, I am sorry, but…” are tragic substitutes for a sincere apology (90-91). Like a good shepherd, Jones steers readers away from these errors and directs us toward a healthy recognition our own sin, our ongoing need for repentance, and provides many tools to ask for forgiveness when we fail our neighbors.
Love Wins, for Real
As our author begins to land the plane, he enters the third step of loving people and addresses our attitudes, forgiveness, comfort, and serving others (168). The final chapters contain an invaluable counseling tool that I have utilized in the past. It is a chart based on Luke 6:27-36 that outlines the phrases, “Do good, Bless, Pray.” This chart helps readers think through how they can practically do good to others, what it means to bless another person, and how to pray for others. This type of counsel is good medicine for anyone facing relational conflicts and battling bitterness.
This book is a priceless tool for the church. I would confidently recommend this book to anyone; believers as well as non-believers. The clean division into twelve chapters makes Pursuing Peace an excellent resource for group discipleship or one-on-one counseling. Jones takes deep theology and applies the truths to everyday life. He is faithful to the text and maintains a clear reading style. I simply could not want more. Buy it, read it, re-read it, pass it out, and most importantly, pursue peace.