The headlines remind us that our world is filled with conflict — we accept political, ideological, military, and other kinds of conflict as facts of life. It would be easy to throw our hands up in the air and say there is nothing that we can do to make peace. But people of faith 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.
There are three choices that peacemakers need to consider.
- Suspicion vs. trust: We make room for internal conflict when we approach others with suspicion instead of trust. Suspicion causes us to put up our guard and make judgments about other people’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. But 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.
- 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 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.
- Self-interest vs. compassion: Self-interest breeds conflict. It is at the heart of the suspicion and fear that cause 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 hymn ring in my mind:Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.