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Above anything else, I want my home to be a safe place for our family. I don't just mean a physically safe place (though I definitely do want that).

I want home to be the place where it is safe to retreat after a colossal failure and to receive the encouragement necessary to go back out and try again. I want home to be the place where it is safe to share your crazy dreams and secret aspirations. I want home to be a place where it is safe to cry or laugh, ask questions or sit quietly, all within the framework of knowing that you will always belong here and will always be embraced.

But this kind of environment, this culture and atmosphere is a tall order!  Peace in the household requires more than simply "live and let live" or "do no harm".  It is not enough to avoid actively hurting or offending others.  Rather, peace takes purposeful, intentional (and often strenuous, self-sacrificing) effort!  Listen to how God's Word talks about peace ...

Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. Psalms 34:14 

Deceit is in the heart of those who devise evil, but those who plan peace have joy.
Proverbs 12:20 

If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
Romans 12:18 

So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.
Romans 14:19 

Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. Hebrews 12:14 

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
James 3:18 

... be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace.
2 Peter 3:14 

Even as I read this, I am struck by how little of my day is spent intentionally seeking the peace of the household.  And, of course, none of us can do this consistently or perfectly.  So why make a case out of it?

This concept has been a helpful tool in getting to the bottom of some of the trickier instances of sibling conflict.  Yes, there are certainly times when someone actually meant to hurt someone, damage their property or say unkind things.  But at least as many times there are things said or done that weren't intentionally wounding and yet everyone nearby can sense that the result was upsetting. 

Rather than asking my children "Were you being unkind?" or "Why did you hurt her?" I realized that it often makes more sense to ask "Were you seeking the peace of the household?" or "Were you living peaceably, as far as it depends on you?"  

This isn't meant to "pin" them with blame or to create a "gotcha" moment. And I don't intend to convey that a failure to seek peace is an equally grievous offense as an intentional desire to wound.  Rather I simply want to reframe the attitudes and goals of interactions in the household.

Our goal as a family isn't to proceed on following our own desires and hoping to avoid conflict, but to actively plan for peace.

"Not thinking" about what you are doing or saying is not an excuse that renders you blameless in the offending of others.  "Not thinking," rather, is an admission that you were not seeking, striving, pursuing and planning for peace.  It may be true that you "didn't intend" to hurt.  But did you "intend" to bless, encourage and build up?

Dear Mama, as you lead your children in considering their hearts, consider your own as well (or perhaps first per Matthew 7:4).  How many times a day do we all fall short in this way?  We have our own agenda in mind and we fail to ...

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Are you seeking peace ... or just wanting to get the stupid laundry and school work accomplished?  Are you planning for peace ... or planning to avoid inconvenience and discomfort?  Does this seem unbelievably challenging?  Humanly impossible?  Well, it should!  This is a divine task to which we have been called.  Peace doesn't come cheaply.  Think of what it cost Christ:

For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
Colossians 1:19-20

He shed his blood to gain peace with us.  And he shed his blood to give us the freedom to purposefully, diligently and actively pursue peace with others.  When you fail to seek peace, go to the cross in front of your children.  And when they fail to seek peace, lead them to the cross with you.  Pray with me as I pray for our household and yours!

May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.
2 Peter 1:2-4

The LORD bless you from Zion! May you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life! May you see your children's children! Peace be upon Israel!
Psalms 128:5-6

  • Sooooo good! Thanks for this insight.

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    Lynna Sutherland is the mother of eight kids ages teen to toddler. She hosts the Sibling Relationship Lab podcast and writes about sibling conflict resolution and sibling relationship building. Lynna believes that the gospel transforms sibling conflict from an obstacle to an opportunity and loves to show other parents the freedom and confidence of gospel-centered parenting.