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Christ-Centered Conflict Resolution Author Q&A

Andy Whisenant | Jun 1st

Tell us about this book. Why did you write it or what got you interested in this topic?

I deal with conflict daily as a pastor—as a husband, father, friend and neighbor—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 Peacemakerand 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, and so I tried to gather relevant texts in order to help the reader deal with his or her own heart and to help encourage them toward peacemaking in their relationships.

Who did you write it for?

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 a conflict. That 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.

How have you seen relational dynamics and conflict change as a result of the pandemic? What types of conflict does this book address?

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.

How do you hope pastors and leaders are equipped by this resource?

As mentioned, I hope they have it on hand and give it out. This study will also be excellent for use in small groups.

When preaching on this subject, they may also utilize it sermon prep or they may point others to it as an additional resource.

We will use it for training our aspiring pastors, as this is such a regular issue in pastoral ministry. Missionaries who cross cultures also experience conflict in various ways, and I think pastors may be able to help prepare sent ones for this reality by giving this book away. Finally, teenagers need to learn how to navigate conflict a biblical way, so it could be useful for youth groups.

Is this book about stressors related to COVID-19 in particular? Or do you think it speaks beyond this stressful time? How so?

COVID-19 has intensified problems caused by stress in some cases, and there are obvious stresses of this pandemic, but in most cases the same sinful desires that lead to relational conflicts are timeless.

I point to James 3:13—4:3 in the book and highlight how James teaches us that cravings lead to conflicts. These cravings were temptations before and will remain long after COVID-19 is gone: cravings for power, control, a hassle-free life, well-behaved kids and so on. So, I think it definitely speaks beyond this stressful time.

As a pastor, what are the most common conflicts people ask you to help them with?

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!”

What is the biggest misconception you think people have about the relational conflicts in their lives?

Some people always view conflicts negatively, but we should always remember that conflicts are opportunities for growth, healing and displaying the reconciling love of Jesus!

What are a few unhealthy ways we typically respond to conflict, and why do you think we respond those ways sometimes?

Escape or fight. We have to avoid these two extremes and seek to work together for unity and harmony. These wrong responses can be traced back to the garden when our first parents fell into sin.

Our instinct as fallen people doesn’t move in the direction of peacemaking, but peace-faking or peace-breaking. That’s why we need the gospel. That’s why we need the pattern of Jesus and the power of Jesus.

This isn’t just a book about resolving conflict; it’s about the whole process being Christ-centered. Tell us why the angle of the book is about Christ-centered conflict resolution—as opposed to any other sort of angle you could take on the topic.

I believe everything flows from the heart. And while sinful cravings lead to relational conflicts; holy cravings lead to relational health. When my own heart is captivated by Jesus, it’s amazing how that changes everything in my life — from money and time to energy and relationships.

You use the words “peacemaking” and “reconciliation” a great deal in this book. Tell us more about those concepts.

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.”

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?

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.

What do you hope readers do after finishing this book?

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.