Peacemakers is a program which teaches students and adults a Biblical way to deal with conflict situations that focuses not only on the resolution of the conflict (working toward win-win solutions) but also toward reconciliation and restoration of relationships.

Here are some of the principles we teach our students:


The Slippery Slope: Staying on Top of Conflict


Slippery Slope

Conflict can make life very awkward. It often catches us off guard and leads us to say and do things we later regret. When someone offends us, we often react without thinking. Soon it is as if we are sliding down a slippery slope and things are going from bad to worse. As the illustration shows, this slippery slope can drop off in two directions.

Escape Responses

The three responses found on the left side of the slippery slope are commonly used by people who are more interested in avoiding or getting away from a conflict than resolving it. Child friendly equivalents are in brackets.

Denial (Deny)—One way to escape from a conflict is to pretend that no problem exists. Another way is to refuse to do what should be done to resolve a conflict properly. These responses bring only temporary relief and usually make matters worse (see 1 Sam. 2:22‐25).

Flight (Blame Game)—Another way to escape from a conflict is to run away. This may take the form of ending a friendship, quitting a job, filing for divorce, or leaving a church or school. Flight may be legitimate in extreme situations (see 1 Sam. 19:9‐10), but in most cases it only postpones a proper solution to the problem (see Gen. 16:6‐8).

Suicide (Run Away)—When people lose all hope of resolving a conflict, they may seek to escape the situation (or make a desperate cry for help) by attempting to take their own lives. Suicide is never a right way to deal with conflict (see Matt. 27:1‐5).

Attack Responses

The three responses found on the right side of the slippery slope are often used by people who are more interested in winning a conflict than in preserving a relationship.

Assault (Put Downs)—Some people try to overcome an opponent by using various forms of force or intimidation, such as verbal attacks (including gossip and slander), physical violence, or efforts to damage a person financially or professionally (see Acts 6:8‐15). Such conduct usually escalates the conflict.

Litigation (Gossip)—Although some conflicts may legitimately be taken before a civil judge (see Acts 24:1‐26:32; Rom. 13:1‐5), lawsuits usually damage relationships, diminish our Christian witness, and often fail to achieve complete justice. This is why Christians are commanded to make every effort to settle their differences within the church rather than the civil courts (see Matt. 5:25‐26; 1 Cor. 6:1‐8).

Murder (Fight)—In extreme cases, people may be so desperate to win a dispute that they will try to kill those who oppose them (see Acts 7:54‐58). While most people would not actually kill someone, we should never forget that we stand guilty of murder in God's eyes when we harbor anger or contempt in our hearts toward others (see 1 John 3:15; Matt. 5:21‐22).


Conciliation Responses

The six responses found on the top portion of the slippery slope are directed at finding a just and mutually agreeable solution to a conflict. These responses may be divided into two categories: personal peacemaking responses and assisted responses. For children, these six can be simplified into three, listed in brackets:

Overlook an offense (Overlook)—Many disputes are so insignificant that they should be resolved by quietly and deliberately overlooking an offense. "A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Prov. 19:11). Overlooking an offense is a form of forgiveness, and involves a deliberate decision not to talk about it, dwell on it, or let it grow into pent‐up bitterness or anger.

Reconciliation (Talk it Out)—If an offense is too serious to overlook or has damaged our relationship, we need to resolve personal or relational issues through confession, loving correction, and forgiveness. "[If] your brother has something against you ... go and be reconciled" (Matt. 5:23‐24). "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently" (Gal. 6:1; see Matt. 18:15). "Forgive as the Lord forgave you" (Col. 3:13).

Negotiation—Even if we successfully resolve relational issues, we may still need to work through material issues related to money, property, or other rights. This should be done through a cooperative bargaining process in which you and the other person seek to reach a settlement that satisfies the legitimate needs of each side. "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the  interests of others" (Phil. 2:4).

If the parties cannot resolve a dispute through personal peacemaking, they should pursue one of the assisted responses. This will require that they seek help from other people in their church or community.

This will require that they seek help from other people in their church or community.

Mediation (Get Help)—If two people cannot reach an agreement in private, they should ask one or more objective outside people to meet with them to help them communicate more effectively and explore possible solutions. "If he will not listen [to you], take one or two others along" (Matt. 18:16).These mediators may ask questions and give advice, but they have no authority to force you to accept a particular solution.

Arbitration—When you and an opponent cannot come to a voluntary agreement on a material issue, you may appoint one or more arbitrators to listen to your arguments and render a binding decision to settle the issue. "If you have disputes about such matters, appoint as judges even men of little account in the church" (1 Cor. 6:4).

Accountability—If a person who professes to be a Christian refuses to be reconciled and do what is right, Jesus commands his or her church leaders to formally intervene to hold him or her accountable to Scripture and to promote repentance, justice, and forgiveness: "If he refuses to listen [to others], tell it to the church" (Matt. 18:17).


2. The 7 A’s of Confession

As God opens our eyes to see how we have sinned against others, He simultaneously offers us a way to find freedom from our past wrongs. It is called confession. Many people have never experienced this freedom because they have never learned how to confess their wrongs honestly and unconditionally. Instead, they use words like these: "I'm sorry if I hurt you." "Let's just forget the past." "I suppose I could have done a better job." "I guess it's not all your fault." These token statements rarely trigger genuine forgiveness and reconciliation. If we really want to make peace, we can use the Seven A's to guide our confession.

1. Address everyone involved (All those whom you affected)

2.  Avoid “if”, “but”, and “maybe” (Do not try to excuse your wrongs)

3. Admit specifically (Both attitudes and actions)

4. Acknowledge the hurt (Express sorrow for hurting someone)

5. Accept the consequences (Such as making restitution)

6. Alter your behavior (Change your attitudes and actions)

7.  Ask for forgiveness


A Child Friendly Version is the 5 A’s of Confession

1.  Admit what you did wrong.

2.  Apologize for how your choice affected the other person.

3.  Accept the consequences.

4.  Ask for forgiveness.

5.  Alter your choice in the future.

See Matthew 7:3‐5; 1 John 1:8‐9; Proverbs 28:13.


3. The 4 Promises of Forgiveness

Through forgiveness, God tears down the walls that our sins have built, and He opens the way for a renewed relationship with Him. This is exactly what we must do if we are to forgive as the Lord forgives us: We must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us. We must not hold wrongs against others, not think about the wrongs, and not punish others for them. Therefore, forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises (with options that are more child friendly):

1. "I will not dwell on this incident." Or “I promise to think good thoughts about you and do good for you.”

2. "I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you." Or “I will not bring up this situation again and use it against you.”

3. "I will not talk to others about this incident." Or “I will not talk to others about what you did.”

4. "I will not let this incident stand between us or hinder our personal relationship." Or “I promise I will be friends with you again.”

(summary: Good Thought, Hurt You Not, Gossip Never, Friends Forever)

By making and keeping these promises, we can tear down the walls that stand between us and those who have hurt us. We promise not to dwell on or brood over the problem or to punish by holding the person at a distance. We clear the way for our relationships to develop unhindered by memories of past wrongs. This is exactly what God does for us, and it is what he calls us to do for others.


4. The PAUSE Principle of Negotiating

Even when we manage to resolve personal offenses through confession and forgiveness, we may still need to deal with the content of the disagreements that led to the hurt. These issues should not be swept under the carpet or automatically passed to a higher authority. Instead, they should be negotiated in a biblically faithful manner.

As a general rule, we should try to resolve these issues in a cooperative manner rather than a competitive manner. In other words, instead of aggressively pursuing our own interests and letting others look out forthemselves, we should deliberately look for solutions that are beneficial to everyone involved.

As the Apostle Paul put it, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others" (Phil. 2:3‐4; see Matt. 22:39; 1 Cor. 13:5; Matt. 7:12).

A biblical approach to negotiation may be summarized in five basic steps, which we refer to as the PAUSE Principle. This principle can also be used to help students work through conflict:

1. Prepare (pray, get the facts, seek godly counsel, develop options)

2. Affirm relationships (show genuine concern and respect for others)

3. Understand interests (identify others' concerns, desires, needs, limitations, or fears)

4. Search for creative solutions (prayerful brainstorming)

5. Evaluate options objectively and reasonably (evaluate, don't argue)


Extra: The 12 Principles of Young Peacemakers

1. Conflict is a slippery slope. (Escape Zone, Attack Zone, Work‐it‐Out Zone)

2. Conflict starts in the heart.

3. Choices have consequences.

4. Wise‐way choices are better than my‐way choices.

5. The blame game makes conflict worse.

6. Conflict is an opportunity.

7. The Five A's can resolve conflict.

8. Forgiveness is a choice.

9. It is never too late to start doing what's right.

10. Think before you speak.

11. Respectful communication is more likely to be heard.

12. A respectful appeal can prevent conflict.

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