The Spiritual Dimension of Mediation
At the same time that I was practicing law, I was also experiencing significant growth in my spiritual life. I was raised in the Christian tradition and accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior and lord at an early age. As I represented clients in various legal matters I often saw how their beliefs about God and their spiritual life had an impact on the way that they viewed their problems and the way that they went about solving them. I found many people who got into trouble in the first place because they ignored the spiritual dimension of their life. I also met many people who were trying to apply principles found in the Bible to resolve their problem, but didn’t know how. When I took my mediation training I learned that the principles we were taught to use were consistent with the principles that I had learned by studying the Bible.
I have been around churches all of my life and during most of my adult life I have been an active leader and a Bible teacher in my local church. Churches talk about reconciliation. Indeed the central focus of Christianity can be seen as the reconciliation of humans with God. But I observed that when people I went to church with found themselves in conflict with others they turned to secular sources and the courts for help, and that the church offered very little help. They might see the pastor a few times. But particularly where their marriage was breaking up they found that it was uncomfortable for them to be in church because they didn’t fit in and people didn’t know what to say to them. So many of them drifted off to other congregations or left the church altogether. It seemed to me that of all the groups of people in the world Christians should be leaders in helping people reconcile when they have disagreements. The Christian ministries engaged in this type of work are few and far between.
I have begun to study how principles that are stated in the Bible apply to conflict resolution apply to conflict resolution in general and mediation in particular. Some of them, such as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, are rather obvious to consider, but more difficult to apply when you are in the midst of conflict. Others, such as “Love your enemy” are much more difficult. One interesting aspect to the study is that many of the principles apply to people of any faith (or no faith), not just Christians.
How do you apply those principles in mediation? Carefully, lovingly, and with wisdom. I certainly don’t have all of the answers, but I’ve had enough experience to know that each person’s faith is an important part of how they handle conflict. I have also learned that applying the principles found in the Bible, some of which are in common with the writings of other faiths, can be a valuable guide as people work through their disagreements. There are two aspects of this that are definitely not helpful: one is to try to make someone feel guilty because they haven’t followed these principles or the principles of their faith; and the other is to demand that they apply a particular principle. One of the hallmarks of mediation is self-determination, so it would be wrong for the mediator to dictate. Rather the mediator’s job is to get the parties to think thoroughly about the issues and then make their own decisions. This includes the consideration (but not forced application) of biblical principles.
One of the purposes of this Website is to offer thoughts on biblical principles and how they might apply to conflict. Hopefully they can be used as a practical tool for those currently engaged in conflict and serve as a springboard for discussion by professional mediators, counselors, pastors and other interested people.