Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians by John Paul Lederach
I have been reading this book that I bought at last year’s Annual Conference. I read several books written by John Paul Lederach in college as a Peace Studies minor and was pleased to see that he had written a new book. Lederach is well known by Anabaptists for his work in conflict transformation. This new book, Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians, is a different style for Lederach.
Rather than another book on the theory of peacemaking and conflict transformation, Lederach attempts to provide some theological grounding for his work in peace. Lederach weaves together stories of his experiences with conflict and helping others through conflict as well as important scriptures that have informed his work over the years.
Specifically, Lederach looks at the stories of Jacob and Esau, Jesus’ ministry, Creation, the Psalms (and specifically Psalm 85), Matthew 18, Acts 15, and Paul’s letters. Each of these scriptures gives insight into the inevitability of conflict and how God intends/hopes we will work through conflict. And each of his experiences put these scriptures into modern contexts.
As a lifelong Mennonite and as a practitioner of conflict transformation, Lederach weaves both scripture and his own experience together in ways that challenge us to see the complexity of both local and global conflict but it also challenges us to see the way in which God can work through and in spite of conflict. We often look toward scripture as an ideal for discipleship, especially the example of the early church, but our biblical exemplars were not without conflict. Instead, they can model for us how to deal with difficult issues in ways that honor both God and one another.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to explore the connection between scripture and modern day peacemaking both personally and globally. Lederach’s faith and self-reflection allow us to consider our own views on peacemaking and challenge ourselves to love our enemies, do conflict well and honorably, listen in moments of crisis and chaos, and to recognize our role in the ministry of reconciliation.
Reconciliation is the good news proclaimed by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Through Christ we are invited to be reconciled to God and to one another. “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it” (Ephesians 2:13-16). If we believe in the power of God through Jesus Christ, then we have to be about the work of reconciliation in our world!