Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

Book Review: The Peacemaker — Peace at Any Cost?

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.

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9 Comments

  1. Veronica Miyake

    I was in a bible study years ago that was about this Peacemaker stuff with Ken Sande. I talked to the woman who led the study about this very issue. (She and her husband were trained by Sande and met with couples in the mega church I worked for at the time.) She believed that EVERY issue could be solved with learning and embracing Sande’s concepts about forgiveness and peacemaking. Women I counseled who were in abusive marriages were sent to this couple with their spouses to “make peace.” It was a crime and I was criticized for not trying to help the woman save her marriage. While the concept of peacemaking between TRUE believers in relationships is good and biblical, it is indeed very dangerous and cruel for women and children who are in a situation with an abuser. Another thing that’s sounds “Christian” but isn’t.

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  2. Lynn

    One has to know what true forgiveness and repentance is and what it looks like. Sande does not. He burdens victims and shifts responsibility away from the abusers. He has given abusers a weapon to inflict even more harm on victims by forcing forgiveness and reconciliation when it isn’t warranted.

    This is dishonest and dangerous. For true forgiveness to take place between victim and abuser, the abuser has to be convicted of his or her sin BY GOD, feel contrition and prove by his or her actions that they are broken up by the pain they have inflicted on the victim. They will voluntarily do everything in their power to restore that which has been lost, stolen, or destroyed. I have never seen this happen by an abuser. They love themselves, their own power, and control too much to admit that what they did was wrong.

    They may mouth I’m sorry, but that is just a manipulation tactic. They do not stop their abuse. They do not change their behavior. They get more secretive and creative so that the victim ends up looking and feeling crazy by all the abuse that they are experiencing.

    When we look at Colossians 3:12-14, we have to understand who Paul is speaking to and then compare it to the challenges facing victims of abuse. Paul is speaking to genuine Christians, not wolves masquerading as Christians.

    How do you know if you are dealing with a wolf? See how someone responds when you enforce a boundary they don’t like. See how they respond when they are confronted with their sin. If the fangs come out, you know you are not dealing with a genuine believer. If they repent of their sin and ask for forgiveness, then you know they are genuine in their faith. Forgive them as Christ forgives us.

    If their repentance is words only and lacks deeds, it isn’t genuine. People show you who they really are. Believe in their actions more than their words. Words deceive. Actions are a lot more honest.

    For victims of abuse, your journey of healing to process the abuse is different than forgiving and reconciling with an abuser. Turn over your cares to God. All of them. The good. The bad. The ugly and let him take all of the emotions that the abuser’s actions have stirred up in you. He can handle it. It’s okay to be angry at your abuser(s), but don’t live in a state of anger as a result of the abuse. For me, this is where imprecatory prayer has been really healing. To seek out God’s perfect justice against those who have abused us is a right and good thing to do.

    God hates the wicked and promises time and time again in scripture to inflict punishment upon them for all of their sins. That hasn’t changed from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The difference in the New Testament is that God sent his son to redeem His people, regenerating them from darkness to light. This gift allows us to live in peace with God. But it also guarantees that we will have enemies who will seek to destroy us and ruin our peace while on this earth. They hated Christ when he was on earth, and he told us that his people too will be hated. We cannot and should not make peace with the world. What does light have in common with darkness?

    That is why pursuing peace at all costs is foolish. Abusers don’t want peace. They want power and control, no matter the cost. There is a time to take a stand and say ENOUGH! You shall not pass! No more! But you have to be willing to pay the price that taking a stand will cost you. It may cost you family, friends, jobs, your home, or your life. If you cave, if you go back, the latter will be worse than the former.

    Evil flourishes in the face of weakness, cowardice, and apathy. We are seeing it happen in real-time in Eastern Europe as Russia invades Ukraine. When you have a power-hungry despot in control and he sees an opportunity to get what he wants, we shouldn’t be surprised when he takes action to make the fantasy in his mind a reality.

    When the visible church is so corrupt that you can’t really tell the difference between them and the world, and they have been lulled to sleep by a life of ease here in the US, it’s not surprising that we are seeing such a rapid decline in our western society. The seeds of the last 6 decades in today’s churches are coming home to roost. Let me say that most of it is rotten fruit. The visible church in the US is spiritually fat, lazy, ignorant, and entitled. It looks nothing like what Christ envisioned for his bride.

    That is not to say there aren’t believers out there, because there are. God always keeps his remnant. But that doesn’t mean that most of what professes to be Christian is of God. It’s not.

    If you want true peace, it is found in Christ. Does that mean that each day will be bliss? Of course not. But there is great comfort to be found in knowing that you have been made right with God, that he loves, accepts, and has adopted you into his family. It won’t stop the trials and tribulations that characterize this second age until the return of Christ, but it promises a great and glorious end – eternity with God and his people in a state of perfect peace, wholeness, free from pain, sorrow, and the grief that comes from the pain of loss. So if you haven’t made peace with God, do so now. If you have, perservere till he comes or he takes you home. For whom the son sets free is free indeed.

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  3. Be free…..

    Thank you Pastor Crippen for raising the awareness here, and Lynn’s advice and imprecatory prayer reminder.

    I laughed when I saw the title Peacemaker…. it reminds of what they do to those that are abused – require them to be the “Peacemaker” by being the scapegoat for the evil choices of the abuser and those in the church who look the other way. The title of the book is wrong, and the more I hear the word peace the more I don’t want to hear it since it’s been so misused in the church.

    The imprecatory prayer seems it is the most balanced approach when faced with the injustice within the church and those who are parading around as Christ followers as a front for wicked and evil coverups within the supposed body. This prayer option is a gift and I thank you and Lynn for having brought it up several posts ago – it is in itself an answer to prayer when faced with so much of this in our families, etc.

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  4. Noka

    When I see people teach such a distorted forgiveness as this book, I just assume they have never been forgiven themselves or they have never had to repent of anything and don’t understand the Gospel at all. They don’t have a relationship with the God of the Bible, but have created a new-age-god of their own making.

    I just don’t see how someone can have the Holy Spirit and have such a shallow view of something so foundational and important to the Christian faith and to the character of God. It makes me so angry because I have seen how damaging and enabling it is to teach forgiveness this way. They are guilty of taking God’s name in vain!

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  5. Z

    Psalm 120:6-7 says, “Too long I have lived among those who HATE PEACE.
    I am a man/woman of PEACE; but when I speak, they are FOR WAR.”

    The title of that book is so twisted! “The Peacemaker”-hah! A mockery of what it means to be truly born again, true repentance and a true desire for forgiveness. ALL the heavy lifting and burden is placed on the victim of the wicked. Why? Because the wicked abuser will NEVER CONFESS AND TRULY REPENT! So there would be no book to be written by Sande if REAL forgiveness were to be the topic. So it’s purported to be incumbent upon the victim to forgive (and even reconcile!) no matter what. False teaching. So, so damaging to abuse victims.

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  6. Innoscent

    Interesting how we see so many books on forgiveness, like Forgive and Live, or Live to Forgive, or Forgive and Forget, etc. and yet so few on True Repentance. And yet “repent” was the very first word or chief theme of the preaching of John the Baptist (Mt 3.2); Jesus (Mt 4:17; Mk 1:15; Lk 13.3, 5); the 12 disciples (Mk 6:12); Peter (Ac 2:38; 3:19); and Paul (Ac 17:30; 26:20).

    The preachers shrink from presenting the true message thus disobeying the Lord’s command. They view repentance as a not so “glorious” of a topic as (their distorted) popular forgiveness . They’d have to dig the word, see the light, dive into the whole truth on discipline, justice and evil. This, they won’t do as it would make them uncomfortable, unpopular. They’d have to stand for victims and hold the wicked accountable. Ouch…

    I notice the multiple “we must”, “must not” from that excerpt. This kind of book by Sande is none other than a collection of Pharisees’ commands, of men’s traditions, and dare I say, false prophets who want to utter pleasant things to the crowd. And by feeding the folks an unbalanced diet, these become braindead, hypnotized, since they don’t study the Bible for themselves either, til they crave the smooth talk, nothing else.

    “That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits. ” Is 30:9-10. They’d rather gnash their teeth and stop their ears at the truth preached by Stephen and stone him. (Ac 7.54, 57).

    With the All-Forgiveness mantra blinders on Sande, like many people, won’t see verses such as Lk 17:3 “Take heed to yourselves: If thy brother trespass against thee, rebuke him; and if he repent, forgive him”, let alone the word second “if” in that verse. Any such verse is not in their man-made bible, so much so that they can’t draw righteous principles established by God on how to deal with the wicked and how to defend and care for the victims. They haven’t got a clue on how to properly exercise justice and end up condemning the oppressed for their own convenience.

    Forgiveness is first and foremost about holding the sinner accountable thus shaking his conscience dulled by his sin. Either he will listen to the rebuke and woeing of the Holy Spirit and turn around in contrition and repentance, followed by reparation whenever possible, and thus become allegeable for pardon. Or he will resist the Spirit’s voice and conviction, and harden his heart thus being denied forgiveness. God NEVER forgives the unrepentant, and so doesn’t expect us to either. We can become willing to forgive and God notes that, but it is the impenitent that ultimately forfeits forgiveness. Therefore, there cannot be any peace and mending of relationships.

    The four principles enunciated by Sande only work between true brothers/sisters in the faith, regenerated in Christ, who love the Lord and are open to godly reproaches for their good. Not so with serial reprobates.

    “Don’t rebuke a mocker or he will hate you. Rebuke a wise person, and he will love you.” Pro 9:8

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    • Jeff Crippen

      Thankyou!!!!

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      • Innoscent

        So grateful to you Jeff for bringing this topic from yet another angle.

        (oops. I meant become “eligible”, not allegeable)

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  7. Noka

    I just love people’s comments on here. I feel more spiritual connection and real fellowship with like minded believers I never met, than with false professing Christians in person. You all are so wise and insightful. . I learn so much from you and many times make observations about things I haven’t thought about.

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