Ed: Why did you write this book and what got you interested in this topic?
Tony: I deal with conflict daily as a pastor as well as a human being living in a fallen world! So it’s something that has great relevance. I have benefited from various books through the years on this subject, like Sande’s The Peacemaker and Poiri’s The Peacemaking Pastor. While I will continue using these wonderful books, I wanted to write something smaller and a bit more simple and to the point.
When you’re in a conflict, you don’t want a bunch of steps, and you don’t want a big book. You need biblical texts that point you to Jesus, so I tried to gather relevant texts in order to help the readers deal with their hearts and to help encourage them toward peacemaking in their relationships.
Ed: Who did you write it for?
Tony: I suppose you could say I wrote it for humanity in general because everyone deals with conflict! But to be more specific, I had in mind people in my church coming to me who are facing conflict. This might be a marital conflict, a conflict with children, or with one’s friends, neighbors, or fellow church members.
I also wrote it for pastors and ministry leaders. I envision them having a stack of these little books that they will hand out as they are helping individuals and families work through conflict resolution.
Ed: How have you seen relational dynamics and conflict change as a result of the coronavirus pandemic?
Tony: I’m not sure they’ve changed, but they have intensified for many. To be sure, COVID-19 has actually helped some relationships and marriages! What was hurting some marriages was life lived at too fast of a pace or with constant travel creating separation. But for many, added time together in close proximity has led to a lot of frustration, which has resulted in more frequent outbursts of anger. For some, the pandemic has brought about anxiety and depression, and this has had a negative impact on relationships in the home.
Ed: As a pastor, what are the most common conflicts people ask you to help them with?
Tony: Marital conflict and conflicts with kids tend to be the kinds of problems we most often deal with. In fact, as I was writing this book, one fellow pastor at our church said, “Hurry up and write that. I have three or four couples who need it!”
Ed: You use the words “peacemaking” and “reconciliation” a great deal in this book. Tell us more about those concepts.
Tony: These are wonderful gospel words. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker and reconciler who made peace through the blood of the cross (Col. 1:20). He made those who were his enemies his friends at the expense of his life.
In our peacemaking, we’re seeking to follow the way of our Lord; we’re seeking to bring peace where there’s strife, reconciliation where there’s alienation, gentleness where there’s hostility, reason where there are outbursts of anger, and mercy where there’s opposition. We are also seeking to give the world a foretaste of the coming kingdom, where Jesus will bring total “shalom.”
Ed: One of the concepts you explore in the book is overcoming evil with good. Why do you think people have such a hard time living out the example that Jesus sets for us?
Tony: Well it’s a radical idea, isn’t it? We don’t want to overcome evil with good. We may like the sound of it, but in the heat of an argument, this notion often flies out the window as we justify our violation of this admonition. Again, we can’t do this work in our own power, which is why I devote a chapter to how the fruit of the Spirit is displayed in relationships. We need the Spirit’s power to enable us to do this.
Ed: What do you hope readers do after finishing this book?
Tony: Go reconcile with brothers and sisters and be devoted to being a peacemaker. And with this, see how important this work is biblically. I think it’s undervalued. I hope they pray for people, churches and neighborhoods to experience peace in our conflict-ridden world. I also hope it makes them long for the return of the Prince of Peace.