So, what’s the difference in mediating and mediating Biblically?
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There is no lack of debate regarding what mediation is or should be. Many believe that the purpose of mediation in to resolve cases, to get them settled whatever it takes. Many believe the purpose of mediation is to benefit the courts. There are those who believe the “feelings” of the parties should be left somewhere else, that mediation is to deal with the issues of dividing assets, or establishing a value of loss, or whatever the parties have filed as demands in their case. There are also those who are of the opinion that only folks with certain degrees should be mediators.
The differences go on and on, and interestingly, as a whole mediators can’t agree on a clear definition, mainly because we are often trying to hem up something that maybe shouldn’t be hemmed up. Maybe we should each be more truthful in relating how we each operate, just a thought.
How we operate is most likely determined by who we perceive to be either our market or our boss. Like most anything else, it depends on what is most important to us. And yes, our background and training play into it.
So, for those who are Christians, some questions: Are we giving God the opportunity to work through our work? Are we giving God the opportunity to use us in connecting Him and His Word to the situations and people we are working with? Do we even know where to start?
Let’s start with the principle of reconciling man to man, and understand that we are also to reconcile man and God. Mediators have a pretty good understanding of the pain people are going through, sadly many mediators are taught to minimize the “emotional stuff” and get to an agreement. An agreement doesn’t necessarily reconcile anybody to anything.
In the same way that you look for openings for points of possible agreement between the parties, look for opportunities in reconciling man to God. Look for opportunities to encourage the parties, to support them, and sometimes even to challenge them.
Pray. Yes I do, I pray for wisdom and discernment, for the courage and tact to challenge people in a way that encourages them to consider the big picture. I pray that God will allow me to be a benefit in these peoples lives, and that His Holy Spirit will be present in the room. I don’t open mediations with a mandatory prayer or anything like that, but if the parties ask if we can pray, I’m fine with it.
We haven’t tried to reinvent the mediation process, though in some ways we are much less formal that other mediators. We don’t do as much “reality checking” based on what the court might do as other mediators. We look for what is important to the parties; for some it is their family, some their church, some their social world, and we work within what is important to them. Most folks don’t live their lives for the law, they try to live within the law, but it’s not their driving force. We don’t ignore the law, we have to operate within the world of the law, and do it as Christians.
Even in court connected mediations, actually often, someone will open the door. “Well, I’m a Christian, and God’s gonna get you for treating me like this” or “I make extra money as an evangelist, but that shouldn’t count as my income”, there’s your opening. Use your mediator skills, “tell me about your work as an evangelist…” and “have the two of you followed what The Bible says to do to resolve these issues?”
Let me share one example. Two men in a court connected mediation, both Christians and both have lawyers. During the mediation we find that the men attend the same church, and that this lawsuit is causing problems in the church. One of these has sued the other in court. Could it be that these guys are the ones causing the problems? I take them to I Corinthians 6, for a little “reality check”. Now you get there and understand what this open court battle does to their witness as a Christian, you help them realize the collateral damage at home, at work , at church, even at the country club.
We use our little brochures to show them what The Bible says. We have done mediations in court rooms and often there is a Bible there. I can tell you it’s a different mediation when The Holy Spirit is there. Our “reality checks” tend to be from a Biblical perspective, we try to focus on what Christ would have people do, and look toward the Eternal results, blessings or consequences. Believe it or not, you can still help resolve the issues that brought them there.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying that every mediation will have everyone doing what is right. Some will even confess that they know what they are doing is wrong, or will continue to justify their actions is some way, and will do it anyway. But I am telling you that you will see some amazing things happen. If you got into mediation to help people, and you are a Christian, you will be greatly challenged and rewarded, at the very least in your heart.