Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Mediation and Judgment

Gayle and I were reading the great advice of Jesus in Matthew 5: "Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison."

As we discussed the passage, the procedure in special education cases came forcefully to mind.  When someone asks for a hearing, usually the parent, but sometimes the district, the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) schedules a mediation and a hearing.  Almost always, cases settle before hearing, and usually in mediation.

Before going further with the parable, it's important to note that Jesus is NOT expecting us to agree with our adversaries quickly by ourselves.  Reconciliation is a work of God, so that Eli the priest told his sons - who unwisely blew him off - "If one man sins against another, God will mediate for him; but if a man sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?" (1 Samuel 2:25).

Thus, agreeing with our adversary along the way is done, in Jesus's mind, through mediation.  What Jesus says here is that you can choose God as your mediator, or you're likely to get God as your judge - and maybe you won't be happy if that happens.

At OAH, mediation is voluntary.  Either party can cancel mediation, and either party can walk out whenever they like.  And if that happens, see you at hearing.

At mediation, which is voluntary, the mediator really has no authority.  He or she is there to help the parties reach a deal.  And with the mediator's help, the parties can come to whatever deal they want.  A good mediator will get to what each party really needs and help to figure out how to give the other party what he needs too.

If you go to hearing, you go before a judge, and the judge runs the hearing.  The judge hears the evidence, and the judge gives a decision.  You don't get a deal; you get an order, and for sure someone will not like it.

This reflects real life.  We can seek peace and pursue it, with the help of God the mediator.  If we don't want that, we will face God the judge.



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