I dream of being a peacemaker. What a way to show the world who God is! I don’t find many peacemakers, but I find lots of peace “keepers” who don’t rock the boat, don’t question comments and stories that lead to division, and don’t identify their own complicity in the problem because they “stayed out of it.”
I don’t blame any of us when we try to avoid the fray. It’s risky to speak out to help rectify misunderstandings or discuss issues that keep people apart. If we’re in conflict, it’s easier to keep quiet and stew in our own beliefs and hurts. Or if we are the outsider, the smooth road is to ignore those in the midst of the battle. And sadly, I’ve done all of the above.
Peace is costly because it requires sacrifice. Those in conflict have to let offenses go. Those leading others toward peace often have anger redirected toward them. Peacemaking risks others’ misunderstanding us or our motives, which may result in losing relationships.
That’s why peacemaking is a gift we give to others, to our nation, and to our world.
I’ve experienced negative reactions. Two members of my family dealt with personality struggles with each other that often ended in open conflict. Naively, I tried to help one of them understand the other many times. When she read negatives into the words and actions of the other person, I tried to calm her down. You’re likely not surprised to learn that she ended up angry at me, accusing me of always taking the other person’s side. Although my efforts at peacemaking didn’t work, I believe that speaking understanding into it was the right thing to do. Peacemaking doesn’t always work.
So why do I dream of being a peacemaker then? Because God is a peacemaker, and we are called to be like him. When we humans chose to follow our own way instead of his, he reached out to make peace with us through Jesus. That required that Jesus give up his rights of deity in heaven, take on humanity to live among us, and willingly die a horrible death in our place. He gifted us through his sacrifice because reconciliation was worth it.
I’m no expert at peacemaking, but I’m trying to live out what I do know. I’m searching for ways to bring people at odds together as I listen and then share.
A primary concern of mine is our racial division in the U.S. As a white woman, I’ve been studying and listening to better understand. I can never experience what it’s like being black in the United States, but I can act in love by really hearing those who live it every day. Through reading history that I never learned in school, I’ve been appalled at my ignorance and lament what we whites have done and continue to do to people of color. And when I hear racially based comments—whether out of prejudice or ignorance—I can speak in love to help breed more understanding. I’ve hosted two conversations on race in my home and participated in a small group for that purpose at my church. It’s all very little in light of the years I was in the dark, or even hostile to the idea that there was even a problem. I still have so far to go.
The racial conversation isn’t our only problem. We’re divided economically, socially, and politically. Every dividing point means there is a need for conversation, not avoidance. Denial and silence are the enemies of peace.
In light of the value Jesus places on unity in the church (John 17), we must act by risking negative reactions and sacrificing our own comfort. Let’s give the gift of peacemaking to God’s people and the larger culture.
“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9, New Living Translation).