A Primer for Biblical Counselors in Relational Conflict – A review of The Peacemaker by Ken Sande

The past few years have highlighted how broken our world is and how easily any of us can find ourselves mired in conflict. Whether marriages are on the brink of disaster with mounting pressures of life or conflict among families and friends regarding issues of politics, race, or public health, we find relational conflict at every turn. But this fractured world also provides a unique opportunity to the church and biblical counselors to provide hope and help by speaking the truths of God’s Word to those overwhelmed by relational conflict. Ken Sande’s The Peacemaker is a classic primer that gives biblical counselors a comprehensive introduction to lead others through this treacherous terrain of navigating and mending relationships in God-honoring ways.

Overview Summary of Content

The first section of Sande’s book explores how relational conflict is not a hopeless quagmire but is actually an opportunity to glorify God in handling conflict by applying God’s Word to the situation. In part two, Sande explores how the reader should examine his potential contribution to the conflict. Rather than focusing entirely on others in the conflict, God’s Word calls us to examine our own hearts. Once one has dealt with himself, he can then move to seek restoration with others involved. Parts three and four of the book give a wide range of biblically established principles and tools to help in seeking restoration. The elements surveyed in this portion of the book are diverse, including elements, such as, how to approach the other party in the conflict, when to involve others in the process, when church discipline may be necessary, how to practice forgiveness, and working together to seek a solution to a conflict.  Sande then concludes with a number of helpful appendices to complement what he has outlined in the book.

Primary Area of Usefulness

This book truly is an introductory primer to relational conflict, serving as both a reference tool for the biblical counselor as well as a resource one may use with counselees. For example, if a counselee knows she is wrong and has sinned against another, how can she seek forgiveness in a way that will honor God and not minimize the hurt the person has faced? Chapter seven, “Confession Brings Freedom,” serves as a powerful guide to this counselee. What if a biblical counselor has a husband and wife who are struggling greatly with communication, letting past hurts fester into bitterness, and never reaching solutions on how to handle life’s problems? Walking this couple through this book could serve as a powerful guide in reorienting the couple to honor God and giving them the tools they need to resolve past hurts. It could also provide a transformational, redemptive approach to resolving conflicts that would display God’s glory through their lives and bring them unity they may have never known.

Example Uses of the Resource

Because we all face relational conflict in this life and struggle with the hearts that we bring to those conflicts, the opportunities to utilize the biblical principles found in this book are nearly limitless. However, let me provide you with a few examples of how this resource has been a benefit to me, personally, as well as to my ministry.

A few years ago, in my own life, God used this book as a great catalyst to help me navigate a conflict. I had a situation in life where someone was unwilling to reconcile with me. Left in such a situation, it was easy to fall into the trap of self-pity and let bitterness fester in my life. Ironically, working through this book in preparation for teaching on conflict, I was reminded I needed to examine my own heart. I should have been cultivating a heart that was honoring God rather than feeding my own flesh, even to the point of thanking God for this person and what God was doing in me until restoration was possible.

In biblical counseling, I have had couples that do not understand biblical forgiveness. In particular, one couple dealt with conflict by letting time pass and merely “brushing hurts under the rug.” Then, new conflicts arrived, revealing the true nature of their hearts and the lack of genuine restoration, especially as they weaponized past hurts. Sande’s book served as a powerful foundation for this couple in building a God-pleasing relationship, practicing forgiveness, and handling conflict in a radically different manner. They now saw conflicts as an opportunity to honor God and grow in unity rather than something that tore apart their marriage.

In training others in discipleship and biblical counseling, this book has served as a great foundation for those I am discipling. It has been a tool to help them understand the basics of relational conflict and provide the necessary tools to work with others. Recently, I had a conversation with a youth pastor who is trying to help two young women navigate a conflict. I was able to point him to this book as a resource and it provided him the tools to help him shepherd these two young women through their conflict.

Jeremy OliverJeremy Oliver
Pastor of Soul Care Ministries at Harvest Bible Church, Phoenix AZ