During Advent, we reflect on the themes of hope, love, joy and peace. But this year, peace seems especially elusive. Daily headlines remind us that our world is filled with all kinds of conflict — political, ideological, military, and so on. We are a world in dire need of people committed to making peace.
It would be easy to throw our hands up in the air and say that there is nothing that we can do to encourage peace. But as people of faith, we don’t have that luxury. We are called to be peacemakers. Making peace is a creative work that allows God’s Spirit to work in and through us in whatever context we find ourselves. Wherever we are, we can and should be the conduit of God’s Spirit to bring peace.
Here are three choices that peacemakers need to consider.
1. Suspicion vs. Trust
Conflict begins within each of us when we approach others with suspicion instead of trust. Suspicion causes us to put up our guard and make judgments about another person’s actions and motives.
Suspicion is the enemy of authentic, loving relationships because you can’t reveal your true self to someone that you are guarded against.
Trust is the opposite of suspicion. Trust allows us to think the best of other people and avoid judgment. Is there risk involved in trust? Absolutely. However, peacemakers find deeper more authentic relationships because they approach people with trust instead of suspicion.
2. Fear vs. Courage
People will let you down. You will get hurt. These experiences can cause you to put up defenses and avoid people or situations that might hurt you again. But when we react that way, we allow fear to control us and prevent us from pursuing the hard work of peace-filled relationships.
Peacemakers experience pain, too. But they don’t allow fear of pain prevent them from doing what is right. They forgive freely and have the courage to mend relationships. They recognize that the past does not have to be the future and that people can change.
People committed to making peace have the courage to rise above their fears and past experiences for the sake of peace in their homes, their families and their communities. They are willing to risk being hurt for the sake of peace.
3. Self-interest vs. Compassion
Self-interest breeds conflict. It is at the heart of the suspicion and fear that causes us to judge other people’s actions and motives.
Peacemakers understand that life isn’t all about them. They aren’t self-interested, but other-interested. They take seriously the call to lay down their lives for others and live out the words of Philippians 2:3:
Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.
Peacemakers are compassion-filled people. When another person is unkind they recognize that people are living with all sorts of pain and stress. Knowing that there is always more happening inside others that we cannot see, they extend grace and compassion to others. They recognize that judgment is up to God, not them.
As individual peacemakers we can’t change the world. But as the collective Body of Christ working towards peace we can. The words of the old hymn “Let There Be Peace on Earth” ring in my mind today. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.