Every relationship involves an occasional conflict, and even more so within our families because of the amount of time we spend together under one roof. When sinful people (that’s all of us) are in such close proximity, there will be a rubbing against each other that sometimes results in conflict. But the friction doesn’t have to escalate and damage our relationships.
I’ve come to see family as God’s way of refining us. While that may sound harsh, it’s actually a good thing. God uses our families to help us grow and mature into His image. That rubbing? It can result in a beautiful pearl.
Home is the perfect place to apply the Bible to our lives. And one very important biblical application for families is that of being a peacemaker. In the rest of this article I will share with you 16 ways to be a family peacemaker.
1Examine your heart
All conflict starts in the heart. The choices we make, the thoughts we think, and the words we say all originate in the heart. The wise man said, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do” (Proverbs 4:23, NLT).1 A regular heart check will help you make and keep the peace in your family.
2Avoid the blame game
When fingers start pointing, tempers start flaring. Adam invented the blame game, and Eve perfected it (Genesis 3:11–13), but that doesn’t mean we have to keep playing it. To keep the peace, take responsibility for your own actions without making excuses. And when it comes to someone else’s wrongdoing, let them learn to do the same. Don’t rat on them unless it’s a potentially dangerous situation. Finger-pointing has never brought peace to a family.
Conflict is quickly resolved when forgiveness is offered immediately and sincerely. A quick “sorry” in passing just doesn’t ring true, though. Tell why you’re sorry and that you don’t want to damage the relationship. A true peacemaker is willing to forgive others just as in Christ God forgave us (Luke 23:34; Ephesians 4:32)
4Don’t take offense
So much family conflict is the result of someone taking offense at something someone else said or did. Determine at the start of each day that you won’t take offense. When you don’t let things bother you on a personal level, there will be less conflict and more peace in the home.
Let’s face it—everyone has bad days, and some of us, PMS. A little grace goes a long way in keeping the peace. Luke 6:31, otherwise known as the golden rule, applies here: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” If you want grace, give it. Generously.
Whether it’s another family member’s personal space or the conversations we have, everyone, from parents to the youngest sibling, deserves to be treated with respect. Disrespect most often comes across in the form of words or looks, but it can also include such things as allowing your personal items to clutter the entire house or eating the leftovers that your spouse intended to pack for work. Being a peacemaker requires respect in all areas at all times.
This may seem like a strange way to be a family peacemaker, but it’s crucial. Our thanksgiving—or lack of it—will determine whether or not we become bitter or better as a result of the family conflict or crisis. Notice that there’s only a one-letter difference between the two words: “e” in better and “i” in bitter. I alone determine whether or not a situation will cause me to become bitter, thus eliminating the possibility of becoming a family peacemaker. No matter what’s going on, there’s always a reason to be thankful.
8Tame the tone
Raised voices, sarcasm, and criticism only fan the flame of conflict. Many times family conflict escalates, not because of what is said but because of how it’s said. I know a family where the husband is very verbal and outspoken, and when tensions rise with his wife or the kids, his voice tends to rise also, and he’s not even aware of it. And keep in mind that your body language also portrays a “tone.”
9Put other family members first
No one has to teach us to put “me” first. We don’t need instruction on how to be selfish. Because of our fallen nature, we come by it naturally. “Self” is the cause of many family problems, but Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Being a peacemaker means we will have our priorities in order: Jesus, others, yourself equals JOY. Sounds peaceful to me!
10Love one another
Don’t just say “I love you” to a family member—demonstrate it in practical ways. Make a sandwich for your little sister. Put your big brother’s sneakers away so no one trips over them. Wash the dishes for your wife or mow the grass for your husband. The apostle John said, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (1 John 3:18). Saying the words I love you is good and necessary, but true love manifests itself through actions as well.
11Set a good example
If you’re the parent, your personal example is crucial. Children won’t follow “Do as I say, not as I do.” Be the example for your children to learn experientially. If you’re a child or teen in the home and have younger siblings, realize that they look up to you, and your peacemaking efforts will set a good example for them to follow. And if your parents aren’t Christians, you can be a good example to them as well. It takes only one person to initiate the change that peacemaking brings.
When an issue arises in the home, do you respond or react? There’s a big difference between the two. One will lead to a peaceful resolution, the other to increased conflict. Consider this: if the doctor says you responded to your new medication, that’s good. If he says you had a reaction to it, that’s not good. To be a peacemaker, always choose to respond.
13Run to God
I’ll be honest—my default setting is to run from God when family hardship hits. Maybe I’m scared, confused, or just plain angry. But the best and safest place to be during a family crisis is in the arms of your heavenly Father. You may not understand why or how it will all play out, but you can safely go to Him with your questions and fears and allow Him to guide you through the storm. I can’t administer peace if I don’t have it myself.
Change is a part of life, but it doesn’t have to tear families apart. Anger, bitterness, and resentment will only make things worse for everyone. We may not always like the changes that come to our families, but we choose by our words and our actions whether or not the changes become blessings in disguise. By learning to accept change, you’ll be able to help other family members do the same, thus keeping the peace.
One of the hardest things in life we will ever have to do is to learn to trust God. And in times of family problems, we can learn to do that. If everything always went smoothly, we’d have no need to trust. But we all know that’s not how life works. People die, spouses divorce, homes are lost. While we don’t know how or when the crisis will end, we know that God is still with us; He has not abandoned us. Trust God and allow His peace, which passes your understanding (Philippians 4:7), to flood your soul. Only then can you be a peacemaker.
Sometimes our family problems are too big for us. Maybe a family member has died, and everyone is so caught up in their own grief that they’re unable to help one another. Or maybe everyone’s thrilled about the family’s upcoming move out of state—everyone except your teenage son. It’s OK to seek help; in fact, it’s recommended. “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, NKJV).2 God never meant for us to go it alone
We don’t have to dread problems in the home. Conflict and hardship are opportunities in disguise. By handling them from the perspective of peacemakers, we glorify God and become more Christlike in the process.