An Evaluation of the Judeo-Christian Model

What is the Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking?

The Judeo-Christian model of peacemaking is the model advanced by Dr. Ken Newberger.  Dr. Newberger earned his Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and his Ph.D. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution from Nova Southeastern University.  He has formerly served as a pastor and now serves the broader church as a conflict resolution practitioner, trainer, coach, and speaker.  Notably, Dr. Newberger grew up in a Jewish home and lived in Israel on two occasions before coming to faith in Jesus ha messiach.  His Jewish background and grasp of the Old Testament as connected to the New are evident and extremely valuable to the formation of a whole-biblical model.

The Process of Peacemaking

The Judeo-Christian model of peacemaking is a third-party Christian conciliation process based on a “mediatorial model to make peace.”[1]  Dr. Newberger organizes his model in twelve stages (not steps).  Stages, as opposed to steps, may overlap within the overall process of mediation.  The twelve stages, in his own summary, are as follow:[2]

Initiating the Process

In the same way, God, the aggrieved party, initiated the process to make peace with mankind by sending his Son as mediator, so the aggrieved party initiates the process by contacting a qualified peacemaker.

Mediator Immersion

In the same way Jesus was fully immersed in the identity, perspective, and experiences of both God and man as mediator between the two, so the peacemaking mediator immerses himself or herself in the perspective of each side of the conflict.

Envisioning Justice

In the same way God set forth a vision of ultimate justice for the sins we commit against him, so the peacemaker learns from the aggrieved party what they would consider a just outcome for the wrong they suffered.

Envisioning Shalomic Peace

In the same way God set forth an image of shalomic peace that includes sinful mankind, so the peacemaker helps disputing parties paint a picture of shalomic peace that is inclusive of the other side.

Humanizing One Side to the Other

In the same way God created humanity with no essential differences, so the peacemaker helps parties in conflict understand that there are no inherent differences between them.

Seeing the Error of One’s Ways

In the same way sinners are urged to change the erroneous thinking that has brought them into conflict with God, so the peacemaker helps offending parties see the error of their ways.

Making a Genuine Apology

In the same way a person’s confession of sin to God is expected after repentance, so the peacemaker encourages the offending party to follow up the recognition of wrongdoing with a verbal apology to the injured party.

Making Reparations (Restitution)

In the same way God expects those who sinned against him and hurt others to make reparations to those harmed, so the peacemaker encourages the offending party to make the aggrieved party materially whole again.

Exercising Faith

In the same way people place their trust in Jesus as the mediator to make peace between them and God, so the parties in dispute place their trust in their mediator to make peace between them.

Granting Forgiveness

In the same way God forgives repentant sinners, so the peacemaker encourages aggrieved parties to forgive those who express genuine sorrow for the wrong they committed against them.

Building of the Spirit of Reconciliation

In the same way God reconciles with those he has forgiven, so the peacemaker encourages the parties to build upon their spirit of reconciliation and work toward a future characterized by shalomic peace.

Problem Solving Follow-up

In the same way Jesus continues to serve as mediator for believers even after they have made peace with God, so the parties rely upon the ongoing work of their peacemaker to help them resolve all remaining issues in order for reconciliation to be complete.

Areas of Strength

This model has very much to commend and recommend it.  Among models currently used for Christian conciliation among the Evangelical community, this is perhaps the one that most exemplifies the spirit of the Scripture.  Several areas of strength in this model stand out from other extant models of peacemaking that are worthy of note:

Biblicity of the Model

God has given us the holy and inspired canon consisting of sixty-six books, thirty-nine of which we share with the Jewish people.  Dr. Newberger has wisely articulated a model that reflects the entire sweep of biblical revelation.  The model reflects an understanding of both continuity and discontinuinty between the testaments in keeping with the God-given progressive nature of revelation.  This model avoids any remnant of Marcion-like division between the testaments.

Reflecting the Character of God

God is a God of love and a God of justice.  Shalom, as we have seen is a concept large enough to hold both of these divine attributes together.  Dr. Newberger wisely connects the victims need for justice with the goal of shalomic peace.  God, throughout the Old Testament and the New Testament, is portrayed as sympathetic and compassionate toward the plight of those on the receiving end of maltreatment by others.  God is not a neutral onlooker to the oppression of people in His image.  By placing stage three, envisioning justice, near the beginning of the process of peacemaking, he reflects an understanding of the largest obstacle in the way of the aggrieved party’s potential for regaining a measure of shalom.

Biblical View of Forgiveness & Repentance

There is a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding among the Christian community in regard to the biblical nature of forgiveness.  The Judeo-Christian model has clarity in this area.  It rightly connects vertical and horizontal forgiveness, as they are connected in Scripture.  It avoids the common pitfalls of cheap grace (antinomianism) and therapeutic forgiveness.

Recommended Model for Third-Party Conciliation

The model, as we have seen, is designed for use in third-party conciliation processes that are mediator-led.  Though there are helpful insights to the process of conflict resolution in general, the model specifically proposed does not directly address non-assisted processes.  That being said, this model is highly consistent with the truth and process commanded in Scripture.  As such, this is the model of conciliation recommended for third-party mediation or arbitration.

Areas of Weakness

The Judeo-Christian has much to recommend it.  There are, however, a few areas that should be used with appropriate caution.  There is no perfect model.  So, while this may be the preferred model, it must still be exercised with appropriate wisdom and humility.  Though this model is highly consistent with the truth of Scripture, the following areas are potential concerns:

Mediator Role & Responsibility

Perhaps the greatest strength in this model is potentially its greatest weakness.  The model, patterned after no less than the mediatorial work of Jesus, creates big sandals for the peacemaker to fill.  Succinctly put, the model is as effective as the individual in the role of peacemaker.  If that individual is Christ-like and led by the Spirit, the model can be highly effective.  If less than those traits are present, the process will likely fall short of optimal outcomes.  Trust in the person of the mediator is indispensable to positive results.  Trust is directly connected to several factors, including trustworthiness.  The personal character and wisdom of the singular mediator will make or break the process.

For this reason, many other conciliation processes recommend a plurality of mediators.  With a peacemaking team approach, multiple perspectives are often helpful to the overall process of conflict resolution.  Differences exist between parties.  These differences include race, ethnicity and cultural differences, gender, age, etc.  In plural mediation teams, some of these differences can be better accommodated.  It is also true that “in the multitude of counselors, there is wisdom” (Prov. 11:14; 15:22; 24:6).  Therefore, though it is likely true that one highly skilled and experienced mediator may be a better answer than a lesser skilled team.  The entirety of the process itself rests, perhaps too much, on one individual.  We can remember the plight of the singular mediator, Moses (Ex. 18).

Humanizing Foolishness

The opposite of humanizing is dehumanizing.  This is a common tendency among aggrieved parties as they consider the wrongs done to them and the nature of their oppressor.   Dehumanizing is failing to see that each of us, even the worst offender, remains the image bearer of God and has certain inherent rights and dignity.  Further, we are not simply what we do.  Dr. Newberger’s caution is wise:

As hurt individuals, we often shrink a person down to the size of the act that was committed against us. The worse the offense, the more reductionistic and simplistic the description. . . Every such description only serves to diminish one’s ability to relate to that person.  The person becomes known, totally and completely, by what he or she did wrong. . . Each one of us is more than a given instant or period in our lives.[3]

While it is true that a person is more than any one act, it is also true that people are what they do, in terms of overall life trajectory and character.  We become, through patterns of behavior, foolish or wise over time.  This is the thrust of the wisdom literature.

So, while we need to always remember the humanity of the other, the image of God in them, we can slightly disagree with the idea that all people can or should be humanized.  Humanizing Adolf Hitler or Usama Bin Laden, while at some level possible, may not reflect the Bible’s connection of what we do and who we are.  Those who continue in their sinful and foolish ways will ultimately be judged, as we have seen, on the basis of their works which bely their true character or lack thereof.  In some segments of the Christian community, humanizing others is needed.  In the greater part, however, we’ve humanized ourselves to death.

Summary Evaluation

The Judeo-Christian Model of Peacemaking is one of the most thoroughly biblical models available today.  Dr. Newberger has done a masterful job of organizing the material in a way that reflects the overall thrust of the inspired content of Scripture.  The model wisely balances love and justice.  The sections on repentance, apology and forgiveness are excellent and stand out in the literature on these subjects.  In short, this model, with minor situational modifications as wisdom requires, is a highly recommended model for use in third-party attempts at resolving conflicts among Christians.

[1] Newberger, 23.

[2] The descriptions of the stages are presented verbatim as summarized in the overview of the process in Newberger, 48-49.

[3] Newberger, 135-136.

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