The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande is no friend of abuse victims and has real potential to increase their suffering greatly. This book has been in use for some years now (1991) and we have had reports of it creating havoc in abuse settings.
Sande makes a very common and serious error, quite evident in his 10th chapter which is entitled “Forgive as God Forgave You.” The central Scripture cited is —
Colossians 3:12-14 ESV Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (13) bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (14) And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
Many of our readers are no doubt familiar with distortions of this Scripture, along with its parallel in Ephesians 4:32. The argument is that if we are to forgive as Christ has forgiven us, then surely forgiveness must always include reconciliation of relationship and re-establishment of trust. The nature of true biblical repentance is not adequately developed by Sande and there is no sufficient discussion of the mentality of abuse and how the deceptive nature of the abuser so often falsifies repentance.
In fact, this book is essentially empty of any acknowledgment of true evil. The nature and tactics of abuse seem to be foreign to the author’s thinking. One comes away from this book with the sense that in any conflict or sin, the real bulk of the responsibility for making peace with the one who has offended rests upon the person who has been wronged. I think that abusers would love this book and that it will provide them with all kinds of pious-sounding arguments to coerce their victim into massive guilt and confusion.
Here is Sande’s standard formula for forgiveness:
“Through forgiveness, God tears down the walls that our sins have erected, and he opens the way for a renewed relationship with him. This is exactly what we must do if we are to forgive as the Lord forgives us; we must release the person who has wronged us from the penalty of being separated from us. Because we must not hold wrongs against others, not think about them, and not punish others for them, forgiveness may be described as a decision to make four promises:
- I will no longer dwell on this incident.
- I will not bring up this incident again and use it against you.
- I will not talk to others about this incident.
- I will not allow this incident to stand between us or hinder our relationship.
It will not take our readers long to understand how this rigid and simplistic definition of forgiveness is going to victimize abuse victims terribly. Tell me, would Sande apply these requirements to a girl whose father had incestuously raped her? Or to a rape victim? Would he demand that in all cases of domestic or sexual abuse or in cases of the most heinous crimes against one’s person, the victim must always work toward reconciliation with the evil one? Sande of course says that the wrongdoer must repent. But we all know how rare true repentance is. Sande does not give us that impression but makes repentance sound rather easy. For example:
“Confirm repentance. It is difficult to forgive a person who has failed to repent and confess clearly and specifically. When you find yourself in this situation, it may be wise to explain to the person who wronged you why you are having a difficult time forgiving. [NOTE: Sande puts the chief burden on the victim in these words]…. If you are having a difficult time forgiving someone, you may need to help them see where their confession has been deficient and encourage them to take repentance more seriously. “
Mr. Sande, I am sorry, but I have to ask you — what fantasyland are you living in?
The Peacemaker will not make peace. It will further terrorize victims of abuse and serve as an evil weapon in the hands of evil people.