The Difference – Between Secular and Biblical ADR©

P.E.A.R.sPeriodic Encouragement And Reminders

Robert E. Alderman, Jr.,

It’s been my experience that only a small percentage of the general public, church leaders or even attorneys and judges are familiar with Christian Conciliation (i.e. Biblical ADR) as a more comprehensive and productive option to secular Alternative Dispute Resolutions in place of civil litigation.

Depending on the nature of their jobs and social or religious relationships, some people do have a basic sense of the ADR concept – for saving time and expense when conflicts or disputes arise between individuals, companies, etc., – but seldom have any extensive understanding of the intricacies, nuances and benefits that are possible within the secular process AND virtually no knowledge at all regarding the biblical approach.

Although secular and biblical ADR both utilize private negotiations, mediations and arbitration in lieu of civil litigation (though not with the same structure or focus) to resolve disputes and conflicts involving monetary recovery, contract performance, real estate matters, landlord/tenant obligations, trust and will validity issues, inheritance entitlements and marriage discord, the biblical approach incorporates the relationship issues as well to produce a more comprehensive and positive final result.

Thus, ultimately, the difference between Secular ADR and Biblical ADRAC can be summarized accurately (though over simplified) with the conjunctive word “and”.

Biblical ADARC pursues resolution and conciliation; addresses material and relationalship issues; creates immediate and long term solutions; focuses on the centrality of Christ and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit; provides glory to God and abundant life to the participants.  All of which Secular ADR does not and cannot offer.

It’s a: what’s-impossible-for-man-is-possible-with-God difference. (Matt 19:26, Mk 10:27 and Lk 18:27)

Although the setting of those verses is a young, rich man asking Christ what he must do to enter heaven, Peter’s subsequent inquiry and Christ’s response encompass the broader subject of our values and priorities in life.  This includes our tendency to focus on and place our trust in the limited capabilities of men to accomplish a task rather than in God who has no limitations whatsoever.

(NOTE: The fact that this teaching is found in all three synoptic Gospels signifies the breadth and importance of what it conveys.)

In the realm of conflicts and struggles, this means we usually find ourselves defaulting to Secular ADR – and when we do that, we are declaring a willingness to accept less in the way of complete resolution even though Biblical ADRAC with its far greater reach and production is available in every situation.

The following statements succinctly capture the difference between secular and Christ-oriented approaches:

I don’t expect to be happy, I just don’t want to be unhappy – Charlie Brown Peanuts

If we consider the unblushing promises of reward and the staggering nature of the rewards promised in the Gospels, it would seem that God finds our desires not too strong, but too weak.  We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea.  We are far too easily pleased.- C.S. Lewis The Weight of Glory and Other Addresses

Ugh!  Being willing to settle for less, when much more is possible.

Unfortunately, less is all that Secular ADR can provide.  It can give relief, but not joy or personal fulfillment. It can produce an end to hostilities (at least for a while), but cannot cure the underlying cause. And, because the problem source has not been eliminated, somewhere, sometime, somehow and with someone, that volcano is going to erupt again.

Biblical ADRAC on the other hand, never accepts the mere end of current hostilities between parties as real peace.

In fact, the hostilities factor is a secondary target ultimately dependent on achieving the higher priority of identifying and replacing the root cause of the conflict.  Only when the root cause has been identified, removed and replaced will a foundation exist capable of supporting real peace for the parties in their present situation as well as all future interactions they may have between themselves and/or with third parties.

True resolution of conflict must always be built on the two step process of: getting out and getting in; taking off and putting on; removing the heart of stone and replacing it with a heart of flesh.

The analogy I like to use is home construction. (Matt 7:24-27) Lay the right foundation; construct the walls and ultimately put the crowing roof of success in place.  (A process that syncs or parallels: justify, sanctify, glorify.)

(For some additional, Scriptural teaching on the benefits and consequences of choosing to act with rather than apart from God, see John 15:5, Matthew 7:21-23, John 14:27, Philippians 4:7, Mark 8:36, 1 Corinthians 3:11-13)

* * * * *

Bringing this article to its end, I want to emphasize that Secular ADR is not a bad thing. (In fact, for many years as an attorney I provided secular mediation and arbitration services to the Los Angeles Court system, the California Bar association and in my private law practice.)

BUT, secular ADR is incomplete.  And because it is incomplete, the source cause of the conflict continues to exist.  And as long as the source is not identified, removed and replaced, true and final resolution cannot be achieved.

Lyrics from Sunday School song Sandyland that my kinds used to sign sum it up well:

Don’t build your house on the sandy-land; don’t build it too near the shore.
Well, it might look kind of nice, but you’ll have to build it twice;
Oh, you’ll have to build your house once more.

God’s blessings AND peace to you,

Bob Alderman  (and always to my family: Love, Dad)

PERMISSION is given to reproduce any of my articles, “P.E.A.R.s”™ or Blogs in any format – provided they are not altered in any way including retention of the author “by” line and © in the title; no cost is charged to the recipients beyond the cost of reproduction, if any; not more than fifty hardcopies are reproduced without my further written permission; AND “Reproduced with the express permission of Robert E. Alderman, Jr.  On the Rock Conflict Conciliations – all rights reserved” is provided at the end.

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