The One Thing It Takes to Create Peace

The One Thing It Takes to Create Peace

This month we’re talking about peace. As we talk about the one thing that it takes to create peace, it's important to note our society and our world are divisive and polarized. We're all guilty of sharing our opinions, whether we're asked them or not, trying to convince someone else that we're right. Even our kids do it. It seems like no one has any peace. So what do we do? Are we supposed to bring peace or keep the peace? What’s the difference between peacekeeping and peacemaking?

There are a lot of questions about peace. In this episode, we're going to cover three primary things. One, we’ll define what peace actually is. Two, we'll talk about our responsibility in making peace or being a peacemaker. And third, we’ll tell you the one thing it takes to be a peacemaker.

What is the definition of peace?

The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, which is used commonly in greetings. John 14:27 says, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you, not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” These are Jesus' words. He's speaking about a different kind of peace that's not of this world, but a promise of eternal peace to all believers in the midst of trouble. The biblical definition of peace doesn’t mean the absence of trouble or that everyone lives in harmony. It's understanding that there's a bigger picture.

There's another passage, Philippians 4:7, that says, “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  This means that things are going to be okay. Not just that things will resolve themselves, but that God's got this and He's in control. But it’s not something that we can fully understand.

So, we know that peace is not the absence of trouble. Instead, it's a wholeness in the midst of knowing that we're fragmented. The more that you trust God, the easier it becomes. It doesn't mean it's automatic.

What is the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper? What is our responsibility?

One thing that comes to mind is in the Beatitudes, this version is from The Message translation of the Bible in Matthew 5:9, Jesus says that, “You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight, that’s when you discover who you really are and your place in God's family.”  The Hebrew word shalom is defined as complete well-being, both personally and communally. In this statement, Jesus says, those who put their faith in Him and actively pursue peacemaking will receive the eternal reward of being called children of God as they reflect God’s character of peace and unity.

Jesus was not a peacekeeper. He brought together 12 disciples that were different. One was a tax collector, one was a zealot, and so on. They were not all the same. Not only were they not the same, but they were enemies. Jesus was about disruption. He wasn't trying to make everyone happy.

In today’s culture, this would be like Jesus putting together the farthest right-wing Republican and the farthest left-wing Democrat together in the same group and teaching them how to co-exist. That is not peacekeeping. It’s peacemaking. If you're looking at what Jesus meant when He was talking about blessed are those who are the peacemakers for they'll be called children of God. It’s the opposite of what in our human minds we could expect to be a peacekeeper versus a peacemaker.

For Jesus, it was more important that He obeyed His Father, not quote-unquote keep Himself safe according to the world's standards. As you’re trying to figure out how you make peace, align with God and making sure that you’re obedient is a big factor. The Old Testament says that God wants obedience more than He wants sacrifices. If you are seeking God and seeking to obey and align with Him, that's where peace is going to come from.

It's important to have this perspective because it's really not about choosing sides. When you look at social media, you look at people posting things and opinions and it can stir you up. Try to not react. Letting go of the “us and them” lens is really important to help you move into the idea of being a peacemaker. We're called to be peacemakers. So, let's talk about what it means to be a peacemaker. It’s easier said than done. We have identified shalom and wholeness, and we're called to put this lens of being a peacemaker.

How do we make peace?

The one thing it takes to be a peacemaker is sacrifice.

By sacrifice we mean sacrifice trying to control how other people think or believe. Operating from an “I” statements and taking ownership of your side of the street instead of pointing fingers. Keep your eyes on where God is leading you.

There are a lot of things happening in this world. Having respect for where other people are coming from and understanding their viewpoints, is a sacrifice. Being able to sit with the differences and pray, asking God, “What are you trying to teach me?” Try to be open-handed in understanding where another person is coming from on either side of the aisle, whether politically or some other opinion. You can always learn from other people to understand different viewpoints which is sacrificing your feelings, your very strong opinions and choosing to not have to prove anything. Having humility is a big part of your sacrifice.

We don't have it all figured out. As we're talking through all of this, it would be amazing if we knew how to respond in every situation. If we had the wisdom of Jesus to be able to know when it's appropriate to flip over the table and have righteous anger versus when it's appropriate to pull together people in an intentional way to create peace in a counterintuitive way. But we don't have the perfect wisdom of Jesus, but we can ask God to give us wisdom.

You don't have to make your opinion known all the time. You don't have to be right in every situation. Instead, get in the habit of checking yourself because you don't know what other people may be going through or dealing with. You don't know the struggles. So, for you to say X, Y and Z and put them in a box that you're creating for yourself out of safety because you don't want to deal with the issue, that's not okay. So, check yourself.  

Separate your opinions from people. You can disagree and still show kindness. When we dig our heels in and say, this has to be the right answer, instead of saying, is this right? Could there be another side to that story? We miss out on beautiful interactions with people who have different backgrounds and experiences from us, but that doesn't mean that they're not adding value to our experience on earth or to the culture. Understanding people goes a long way. And it's us putting aside our judgments and being willing to sacrifice my right to quote-unquote judge you, which is not a right that I have under the cross. It’s important for us to abandon that judgment.

Sacrifice is giving something up. We started with what is peace and being wholeness is a good way to frame how to be a peacemaker. And there's some questions that we've written down that I think are really important for us to ask ourselves if we're interested in being a peacemaker rather than just a peacekeeper. The first question is, “What am I doing to move towards making something whole?” Another question is, “What am I contributing to the fracture or contributing to wholeness?” And the third question is, “What is needed? How can I use my voice or action or grieving or praying, or both?”

If we're seeking wholeness in a situation, wholeness doesn't mean happiness. Wholeness is, am I contributing to this discord on social media? Am I contributing to discord in my relationship with my ex or my kids? Analyze whether you are contributing to the fracture of wholeness. And then ask yourself, “What can I do to move towards seeking wholeness?” This is really about sacrificing our self-interest to a certain extent.

I'm thinking about just the situation, things that have happened over the last few months in Nashville where we live. There's been a lot that has been going on socially and a lot of no peace and a lot of peace too. There have been so many examples of both sides. For me in particular, I haven't been very active when it comes to speaking out on anything. I haven't buried my head in the sand, but I also haven't been an outspoken person about anything in particular. And the reason for that is I've been in a lot of prayer for it, and I have sat with it a lot and I've grieved a lot.

I feel like even in all of the activism that's been happening, especially on social media, I've really wondered, and I've pondered why am I not feeling called to be more active. I feel like that's one side of the spectrum that some people can fall into. I feel like that's where you can be confused with being a peacekeeper versus a peacemaker. We all have a different calling. We all have a different way of making peace in our own way. I don't feel like I've been called to be very active in any sort of way.

I have felt very deep sadness, grief, and a desire to pray for the people around me, for the things that I see going on in people's hearts, for all sorts of things. And so, I feel like even in my own way, that may be my version of peacemaking, to go to God and ask Him to work on my heart and lead me in His way.

I don't think peacemaking has much to do with proving a point to anybody or anything. It's really about seeking wholeness and that can be done through prayer, and it can be done by being an activist. We're all called to different ways of making peace, but what I know is that the one thing it takes is a sacrifice of ourselves to do that. And that does not mean burying our heads in the sand. It does not mean any of that. It does mean seeking wholeness and seeking the way Christ sees things.

Show me what makes you angry and I will show you what you love. And if we are really passionate about God, then those things that drive us closer to him or drive us away from him will be those things that make us angry. And so, I liked that as a litmus test. What's at the root of your anger or places you don’t feel peace? Are you willing to dive into that and say what's there? And is it something you need to sacrifice or is it something you need to refine?

How do you be a peacemaker with your ex?

A lot of the solo parents in our community have a tumultuous relationship—the opposite of peaceful—with their exes. A lot of times it’s the ex who stirs the pot or creates the chaos, which is totally out of your control. It’s extremely difficult.

Even though it’s really hard you can still make the choice to sacrifice your opinions and to show kindness to your ex. You can choose not to convince your ex of anything and focus on putting your kids’ best interest first. When your ex brings up something contentious, responding with kindness means saying, for example, “I can tell you feel really strongly about that. Thanks for sharing that with me.”

A lot of what wholeness is about is showing up and being kind, which is simple but not easy. This doesn’t apply if there’s a dangerous situation you're dealing with, with an ex, you absolutely must protect your kids. It also doesn’t mean be a doormat.

Takeaways
  • Peace is not the absence of trouble, instead, it’s related to wholeness.
  • Christians are called to be peacemakers.
  • The one thing it takes to be a peacemaker is sacrifice.

Listener Question

Hi, this is Caroline. I’m a single mom. What's the most ridiculous rumor that spread as a result of your situation?

A week after my husband passed away, my third and fifth-grade children came home and told me the rumor at school and on the bus was that it was okay that their dad had died because he was beating them. Their dad was not beating them. And even if he was, it is still not okay that he died.

My ex called the police on me because she said I was having a wild and crazy Memorial Day party. The police came over and I was having a barbecue. My pastor was there. There were four or five people. I invited the police in for some ribs and we had a pretty good time with them. They didn't stay long, but it was just unbelievable to me.

How do we handle the hurtful rumors?  

I decided to do in this case, speaking of being a peacemaker or trying to be a peacemaker, I chose to do nothing. I chose to laugh at it. It was ridiculous and embarrassing to have a house full of people and the police show up. I could have been infuriated.  But I chose to laugh at it.

I had a direct conversation with my kids and they knew that their dad hadn't beat them. They also knew that it wasn't okay that he was dead. We talked about rumors and the power of words and the fact that people are going to say things because they don't understand, and that there is a fear component there that other kids don't want to lose their dads either. And so, there are thought processes that may go on that don't necessarily correlate to reality. It was a hard conversation.

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