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Spring 2016 · Vol. 45 No. 1 · pp. 107–108 

Book Review

Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians

John Paul Lederach. Harrisonburg, VA: Herald, 2014. 190 pages.

Reviewed by Grace Spencer

John Paul Lederach is a professor of international peacebuilding at the University of Notre Dame and the founding director of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University. He has extensive experience in international conflict management and has written numerous books that are foundational in his field. In Reconcile: Conflict Transformation for Ordinary Christians (a revision of The Journey Towards Reconciliation), Lederach offers a much needed on-ramp for how to approach conflict and pursue reconciliation from a Christian perspective. He invites his readers on a journey embedded with engaging narratives and biblical texts that support his theology of conflict. What Lederach provides is brilliant—he combines theology with practice, inspiring and daring his readers to reimagine and reorient themselves towards a lifestyle of reconciliation.

Through his analysis of the Jacob and Esau story, Lederach lays the groundwork for the rest of the book. Jacob’s journey to reconcile with his brother insists that conflict opens a holy path that is a journey, an encounter, and a place. Lederach acknowledges that this journey is unique and transformative; it “is marked by places where we see the face of God, the face of the enemy, and the face of our own selves” (43).

The work Lederach does with Psalm 85 makes for an intriguing chapter. Over the years, Lederach has used a conflict resolution workshop in which he personifies truth, mercy, justice, and peace. Each concept, represented by a person, enters into dialogue with one another. This exercise illustrates the primary task of reconciliation: to create a dynamic space where the four interdependent social energies genuinely meet (91). His experiment is powerfully communicated and must be even more inspirational to experience firsthand.

Lederach uses classic biblical texts to develop his theology of conflict. His analyses of Acts 15 and Matthew 18 jointly contribute to his argument that conflict is an opportunity for growth and offers a space for revelation. Conflict, he notes, existed before the fall “and cannot be seen as a disruption in our otherwise peaceful life” (122).

The last chapter, a concise and well-crafted description of Paul’s atonement theology, ties the book together. Lederach explores a perspective of the atonement that presents holiness as right relationships. He asserts that the journey of and towards reconciliation is the gospel, not a by-product of it.

Reconcile is both challenging and practical, and serves as a compelling introduction to the field of peacemaking and conflict studies. {108} Lederach has taken a dense and pressing subject and made it accessible to the lay reader. He also includes valuable resources, tools for understanding conflict, and opportunities for practical application. The book is worth reading because of its ability to cast vision pragmatically—it has the potential to convince anyone that they can and should embark on the journey towards reconciliation.

Grace Spencer
MDiv Student
Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary, Fresno, California

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