Someone much wiser than me once said, “Blessed are those who make peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Blessed means fortunate or happy. The key there is being seen as a child of God, because the act of peacemaking doesn’t feel especially blessed when you’re in the middle of it.
I’ve tried to be a peacemaker over the years, and I can’t say I’m very good at it. Regardless, I am convinced it is the best way for me to align with how life is designed to work, as best as I can understand those things. However, it is not easy, and it can quickly make me into a target for folks on either side of a conflict.
Sometimes I shy away from the work of peacemaking. It’s easier to choose a side. It’s easier to vilify the other side. It’s easier to dehumanize my enemy. It’s harder to see them as fellow bearers of God’s image because that truth calls me to lean in more, to see the value they inherently carry, and listen more openly. At the end of it all, we may still disagree, but hopefully they’ll know I love them, even if we can’t agree.
Back in my grad study days, I read portions of a book by E. Stanley Jones, called The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person. He wrote a little about peacemaking and I find his words encouraging. Basically, he talked about three different ways we can respond to those around us:
Evil: Someone is good to you, and you respond with evil or hatred.
Normal: An eye for an eye… You return good for good and evil for evil. Makes sense to an extent, but never brings real resolution.
Good: Someone does you harm, and you love them in response. You return good for the evil they gave you. You know, like “turning the other cheek.”
Mr. Jones labels that last way as the “Christian” way, but that word has lost it’s meaning in 21st century America. I think there’s a better word: holy.
Now, I recognize the word “holy” likely needs to be demystified a little. It’s a very churchy word unfortunately. To say someone or something is holy is to say it is unique, set apart, different, etc. It is transcendent in a way.
On the Tomme Suab Show on Converge Radio on Wednesday nights, I’ve been talking about the need for us to make different choices. We look around us and we see all kinds of conflict and turmoil. Division is pervasive. Dehumanizing and vilifying the “other” is the norm. If we want something different, and I really hope we do, it will require us to make different choices. It will require us to live extraordinarily. It will require, if I may, an element of holiness.
Peacemaking is a holy act, which is why engaging in it shows us to be God’s children. Peacemaking requires courage, humility, and a measure of vulnerability. It is not easy. However, there is no better way to approach conflict. In fact, Mr. Jones, who I referred to before, wrote that, of the three levels, it’s the only one that actually has power. Returning evil for good perpetuates evil. An eye for an eye only makes the world go blind (thank you, Mahatma). Choosing to respond to evil with love changes the game.