In the land of “Minnesota Nice,” October 1, 2013 is a day that betrayed my state’s moniker. Yes, it’s the day the U.S. government shut down because of pointed differences with Obamacare. But it’s also the same day that Osmo Vänskä resigned as beloved conductor of the Minnesota Orchestra, a position he’s held since 2003. Vänskä’s resignation follows a bitter year-long lockout between the Minnesota Orchestra board and musicians. After the board cancelled the highly anticipated Carnegie Hall concerts, Vänskä walked. Both parties fault the other while music lovers fight disillusionment as we witness the jarring dismantling of a prominent orchestra. For the birthplace of Prince, Bob Dylan, the Andrews Sisters and Judy Garland, Vänskä’s departure, even though he’s from Finland, is quite a blow to our Scandinavian psyche.
Which, oddly enough, brings me to Richard Baxter.
Baxter is a Puritan from the 1600’s who wrote a massive (nearly 1000 pages), yet massively helpful, book called A Christian Directory. It was re-released in 1990 with a money-Foreword by J.I. Packer, who wrote, “It is the fullest, most thorough, and in this writer’s judgment, most profound treatment of Christian spirituality and standards that has ever been attempted by an English-speaking Evangelical author.” The book’s front cover includes an endorsement by then relatively unknown pastor Tim Keller, who had just planted Redeemer Presbyterian Church, asserting that A Christian Directory is “the greatest manual on Biblical counseling ever produced.” High praise, indeed.
But (you ask), how does Baxter’s A Christian Directory relate to the U.S. government shutdown and the Minnesota Orchestra lockout? Yes, filthy lucre is central to both stories, but both dilemmas can be summed up in one pregnant word:
Conflict, originating from the Latin meaning “to strike together,” even sounds awful to say. Chances are you’re dealing with conflict right now, whether in your family, job, church, neighborhood, or with a friend. Maybe you’re experiencing conflict in every key relationship imaginable. When that happens, life seems unbearable. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I wish I was writing as someone with a great track record for handling conflict in God-glorifying ways. But all too often I don’t. I need help in better dealing with, anticipating, or even preventing conflict altogether. It’s an area in my life where I need to grow.
Yet conflict is not reserved exclusively for embittered politicians or musicians. We all experience it in various degrees. But whether you’re presently embroiled in conflict, or to better prepare you to manage, or even avoid unnecessary strife, Richard Baxter’s A Christian Directory can help.
One of the book’s sections, “Christian Politics,” includes chapter 13, “Directions for Keeping Peace with all Men,” containing 16 practical directives on how to keep peace with everyone. It’s surprisingly practical, even for the 21st century.
This post is merely the kickoff to Baxter’s 16 “conflict directives.” Part 2 will cover directives 1-8, while Part 3 will cover directives 9-16. My aim is to bring Baxter’s helpful counsel on how to better, and more biblically, handle conflict for us today. When necessary, I’ll update Baxter’s archaic 1600’s King James English to modern vernacular, as well as incorporate brevity.
Baxter’s A Christian Directory is available for free on Kindle (although, regrettably, it doesn’t contain Packer’s Foreword).