|True Stories: Laying Down Rightsby Ken Sande, Founder of Peacemaker Ministries
In this foundational peacemaking resource, Ken Sande describes the powerful biblical principles you can use to resolve conflict. Download Chapter 1 for FREE!
Ted worked for a government agency. As a new Christian, he was enthusiastic about his salvation and had tried to talk to his co-workers about Christ, but no one had shown any interest. Ted and his supervisor, Joan, had never gotten along well, especially since Ted continually tried to tell her how she could run her department more effectively. His enthusiasm for Christ provoked her further.As her frustration toward Ted increased, Joan had given him particularly difficult work assignments, even though she knew he had a back problem. Eventually he injured his back and had to leave work for several months. Although he received some disability benefits, Ted lost several thousand dollars in wages and medical expenses. As a result, he filed a lawsuit against Joan and the agency.
As the the lawsuit moved slowly through the court system, Ted told a friend about his situation. The friend challenged him to take a hard look at his own contribution to the conflict. By God’s grace, Ted identified several things he had done that had contributed to the conflict with Joan.
Seeing his own fault more clearly, Ted began to consider settling the lawsuit by accepting the $5,000 the agency had offered him a few days earlier. Although his damages exceeded that amount, his attorney advised him to accept the settlement. On the other hand, several of Ted’s friends were encouraging him to either demand more money or continue the litigation.
A few days later Ted decided to drop his lawsuit without accepting the settlement offer. The more he had reflected on his own fault in the matter, the less comfortable he felt about accepting money from the agency. At the same time, he had concluded that laying down his right to restitution would be an effective way to demonstrate the mercy and forgiveness that he himself had received from God.
The next morning, Ted went to talk with Joan. He admitted that he had been disrespectful, arrogant, and rude, and he asked for her forgiveness. Joan seemed suspicious of his motives and did not say anything in response. Ted went on to explain that he had forgiven her for ordering him to move the heavy boxes and that he was dropping his lawsuit. Finally he said he hoped they could start over in their relationship and learn to work together in the future.
More suspicious than ever, Joan asked why he was doing this. He replied, “I became a Christian a year ago, and God is slowly helping me to face up to a lot of my faults, including those that contributed to the problems between you and me. God has also shown me that his love and forgiveness for me is absolutely free and that I can do nothing to earn or deserve it. Since he has done that for me, I decided I want to act the same way toward you.”
Amazed by his answer, Joan mumbled something like, “Oh, I see. Well, let’s let bygones be bygones. Thanks for coming in.”
Although Joan’s response wasn’t quite what Ted had hoped for, word of their meeting got around. The next day a union representative who had heartily supported the lawsuit against Joan confronted Ted and asked whether he had really dropped his lawsuit. When Ted said yes, the man asked, “Is it true that you did it because you’re a Christian?” Ted again said yes, and the man’s scowl turned to a look of puzzlement. As the man walked away, Ted heard him say to a bystander, “Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a Christian’s faith cost him anything.”
Like ripples in a pond, the effect of Ted’s decision moved slowly throughout the department. A few days after Ted dropped his lawsuit, two co-workers asked to meet with him over lunch once a week to discuss the Bible. Later, other co-workers asked him questions about his faith. For the first time since Ted’s conversion, he felt he was really helping people to learn about God’s love.
Although Joan continued to treat Ted rudely at times, he learned to submit to her authority and to use her provocations as further opportunities to show God’s work in his life. When she was replaced a few months later, there was no doubt in Ted’s mind who had arranged for him to have a more pleasant and supportive boss.
Three years later, when asked whether he regretted his decision to give up the settlement, Ted said, “No. That was the best five thousand dollars I ever spent. God used those events to bring several people to Christ. He also helped me to overcome some personal weaknesses. My family saw me put my faith into practice, and we all grew through that. If faced with the same situation today, the only thing I would do differently would be to try to restore peace more quickly.”
Adapted from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict (Baker Books, Updated Edition, 2003).