Most of us are well aware that flashing the peace sign around isn’t enough to rid our world of conflict. Even in Christian families, bickering and sometimes knock-down, drag-out fights occur. Look at Jacob and Joseph, two patriarchs of the Old Testament. Their families had some serious issues. Esau sold Jacob his birthright for a bowl of stew. Their parents, Isaac and Rebekah, pitted them against each in some twisted “favorites” game. Rebekah and Jacob even tricked blind, pathetic Isaac into giving the wrong kid his blessing. Their family lied to each other, cheated each other, hated each other, plotted murder against each other. Not a pretty picture.
And then there’s Jacob’s son Joseph, a kid Jacob and his wife Rachel spoiled rotten. (Clearly, Jacob didn’t learn from his own childhood that it’s not a good idea to play the “favorites” game.) In fact, Joseph turned into such a whiny, self-important, tattling brat that his brothers sold him into slavery. Talk about a dysfunctional family.
You may be thinking, “My family’s perfect compared with these guys. I’d never sell my bratty little brother into slavery. Well…not most days anyway.” But I’m sure if you think for half a second, you can pinpoint conflicts at home, probably from this very morning. Maybe some eye rolling when Mom reminded you for the fifth time to feed the dog. Maybe your sister slugged your brother for yelling at her about how long she took in the bathroom. Maybe you asked Dad if you could go to your friend’s house after church when Mom already told you “no” because you haven’t finished your homework.
I hope your family conflict isn’t to the point of murder or selling people into slavery, but I can guarantee the sin patterns are still there. Sin patterns that displease God and that make your home life much less joyful than it could be. Sin patterns that, by God’s grace and mercy, you can help break.
Now you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, right. How am I supposed to stop my family from fighting all the time? I’m a teenager!” You may not be able to stop the fighting altogether, but you can sure make things a whole lot better. Here’s how you can become a peacemaker in your home:
Think Peace: Recognize the sin in your own heart. Think through the ways you cause or perpetuate conflicts with your family…and repent. Yes, repenting means you should tell God and your family that you’re sorry for how you’ve acted in the past, but it goes beyond that. It means turning away from those sins. It means deciding that having peace in your home is more important than getting your own way all the time. It means that from here on out, you will not get mad so quickly. It means you will choose not to provoke fights. It means you will choose not to hold grudges against your family for past wrongs.
It’s not easy to change sinful habits. It’s much easier to backtalk your dad or slap your sister than to resist sin and obey God. But if you’ll ask Him, God will help you. Memorizing Scripture will help, too. Try running these verses through your mind when temptation strikes:
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles” (Proverbs 21:23).
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9).
“Pursue peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14). Oh, and don’t forget that “all men” includes your annoying little brother.
Speak Peace: Always speak the truth, but only do so in love. Sometimes you have to tell on somebody, like when your sister plans to sneak out with the neighborhood drug dealer or your brother stole Grandma’s car. You know what I mean—the big-time stuff, the dangerous stuff. If your sister leaves the water dripping in the bathroom, that’s probably neither big-time nor dangerous. Just turn the water off; don’t run tattle. Tattling is a quick way to make enemies of your brothers and sisters.
If it’s not helpful, don’t say it. Just because Dad’s chicken casserole tastes like burnt rubber bands doesn’t mean you need to tell him that. He has taste buds. He knows it’s awful. You’ll only make him feel worse by complaining. At least he cared enough to cook, right?
Never pit your parents against each other. Going to the “soft” parent when the other parent already said “no,” is a sure way to introduce conflict between your parents. And conflict between your parents is never good for you, even if you get what you want in that instance.
Use your words to heal, not hurt. Choose to say things that promote peace. Replace “But I didn’t make the mess” with “I’ll clean it up.” Instead of “You’re such an idiot,” say “I’ll help you figure it out.” Substitute “I love you” for “I hate you.”
Do Peace: Don’t ever allow yourself to be physically violent toward anyone in your family. Pounding your little brother, yanking your older sister’s hair, shoving your mother…all are sinful actions. Don’t let yourself be a person of violence, no matter what the world says.
When conflict begins and rage fills you, walk away. Go outside and run until you’re exhausted. Punch your pillow. Bite your tongue. Whatever it takes to keep conflict from escalating to violence. It’s much harder to recover peace once violence begins. Think of Joseph’s brothers. Throwing Joseph into a pit and selling him into slavery led them to years and years of guilt and sorrow. If we let it, rage will make us do more damage than we can ever undo.
Instead, do what you can to promote peace. Obey your parents. Do your homework and your chores. Keep your promises. Look for ways to help out. Seek common ground with your family. Enjoy activities together.
Basically, live the Golden Rule. Treat your family the way you want to be treated, and you won’t need to wear a peace symbol on your T-shirt. Everyone will already know you as a peacemaker.