“Speak words of love in order to promote peaceful relationships.” * This was the statement I neatly printed on a card and posted on our refrigerator when our sons were young. Occasionally, (I use that term loosely as with four competitive sons, "occasionally" means a near daily event or multiple times per day.) individual wills collided, and I would become weary from listening to the verbal combat. When I had endured enough arguing, bickering, yelling, teasing,, etc. The voluminous assaults would require me to call the participants to me, ask for an explanation of the situation, then refer to the sign on the refrigerator. "What promotes peace in this house?" The offenders would repeat the above sentence, exchange glares, sigh, then exit after being directed to work it out, peacefully. Most days, I totally enjoyed my job as "mom." The days I didn't really enjoy it were the days I spent acting as a referee between clash of brothers!
The fruit of that righteousness will be peace; its effect will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. Isaiah 32:17-18 NIV
Who doesn't want a "peaceful dwelling" place with quietness and confidence forever? Please don't misunderstand, I love the joyful noise of competitive banter in the drive way as our sons divide into teams of two-on-two for basketball. I enjoy the 2v2 football and futball (soccer) in our backyard. Arguments would often arise when things would get too competitive, with an occasionally misplaced elbow, accidentally or otherwise, caused tempers to flare and unkind words to be exchanged. My guys are human, so battles are opportunities for learning to resolve disputes between themselves with phileo (brotherly) love. I am also confident my sons will find these learned skills advantageous in the boardroom someday.
Teaching children to resolve differences independently provides a little peace for our home today and avoid lingering resentment between family members. If we as parents take on the job as referee for every fray, how will our children learn conflict resolution? At times our household may resemble two teams fighting for a national championship, but our long range goal should be to build unity within our home, so efforts may be focused on those who oppose our walk of faith.
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. 1 Peter 5: 8-9 NKJV
God's plan for our families is to live in love, unity and peace with each other, to know what is acceptable behavior and to govern ourselves with self-control. Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, was a wise man and provided insight to Moses about how to govern the new nation of Israel. We have only four sons who could wear me out from "morning till evening" trying to settle their childish disputes. I can't imagine a few million...
The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?” ...Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave. But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.” Exodus 18:13-23 NIV
My husband and I desire for our sons to be "capable men...who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain." Encouraging and teaching them how to independently work things out, using kind words, moderate voices and honest debate is our goal as parents. Just because someone was a few years older, weighed a few more pounds or stood a few inches taller was not permission to dictate orders to a younger brother (which is a good things since the youngest is now the tallest). Larger and louder does not mean "always right" and things go your way.
Finally, peace does not mean passive, weak or timid. A peacemaker is a warrior like those of Joshua and David, who battled the enemy in order to provide peace for the LORD's select. We must first identify the enemy, know who we should battle and whose back we should protect. I love reading the accounts of Joshua and his "mighty men of valor" and David's "mighty men." They were brave, selfless, completely dedicated to their commanders orders and the LORD's glory. These are the types of men (and women) the LORD desires: mighty men who are set on the LORD's peace, willing to fight for peaceful dwelling places, able to stand strong, willing to settle things peaceable as much as it depends on them, to protect the family of God, but brave enough to stand strong against the opposition when necessary. Many times it takes more strength, courage and self-control to keep the peace in obedience to the LORD than it does to retaliate to the wrongs around us.
Commander of the LORD's army, please encourage __________ (insert name) to be of the same mind toward others. Do not let __________ (insert name) be wise in his/her own opinion or repay evil for evil, but to have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on __________ (insert name), may he/she live peaceably with all men. As Your beloved, help __________ (insert name) not avenge themselves, but rather give place to Your wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. Therefore, Holy God Almighty, may __________ (insert name) obey Your words, "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head." Please strengthen and encourage __________ (insert name) so he/she will not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:16-21 NKJV)
* The quote at the beginning of this post, as best I can recall, comes from Bringing up Boys, by James C. Dobson, which I read several times when our boys were small. Coming from a family with only daughters, this book significantly impacted my understanding of God's plan for raising sons in the image of Christ. I cannot recommend a book more highly for those of you blessed with sons. Thank you, Dr. Dobson.
The other book that helped me understand God's broad purpose of Christ-like men was Wild at Heart, by John Eldredge.