Monday, September 15, 2014

What if You Don't Want to Be a Peacemaker?

It wasn't long into my marriage that I learned what my role was going to be in every disagreement.  I was the peacemaker.

Husband grew up in a house much like mine where conflicts were aired with great gusto to keep them from festering into a toxin while swept under some rug.  Somewhere at the fringes of adulthood, I learned how the occasional verbal disagreement was necessity for marital harmony.  Keeping those hurts and perceived injustices bottled up inside would never work in the long run.  They were bound to spill over at some point, and usually at the nasty velocity of a champagne cork.  I determined quickly that it was best to be aggravated with my husband, speak with carefully chosen words (not verbal swords) to let him know about it, forgive, and move forward.

Husband, on the other hand, never came to that conclusion.  Instead, he left his childhood home with a complete aversion to confrontation.  To him, a verbal disagreement was to be avoided at all costs like the eight Egyptian plagues.  That meant any time I was displeased with him and gave voice to the problem, he would avoid me, often spending the rest of the day walking in and out of the room I was in without saying a single word.  His logic was, "She's mad at me.  I'm going to give her some space until she gets over it."

At one point, we went a solid week only speaking when communication was absolutely necessary.  I knew the only way to move past our disagreement was for me to don my peacemaker hat as usual, only I was tired of being the peacemaker.  Couldn't my husband play that role just once in our marriage?

This concept of peacemaker has been at the front of mind lately as I have read The Berenstain Bears' Blessed are the Peacemakers to my children.  It's a good book for teaching children how to make peace with others, even quoting the Bible verse "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

But being a peacemaker isn't always easy.  Still, it is commanded.  Right at the end of The Beatitudes, Jesus slips in the phrase "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt. 5:9).

Blessed are the peacemakers.

I have often looked back at the Beatitudes and thought, "Please, Lord.  Call me to be merciful, meek, pure of heart, or even to be persecuted for righteousness' sake...but not a peacemaker."

With the second half of the verse saying "for they will be called children of God," it seems this is a verse specifically for God's children, since they are the only ones able to be true peacemakers in this world. Yes, that means true peace in men can only exist between two believers who are both at peace with God.  

This is because peace is a gift from God.  Ephesians 2:14 says Jesus is our peace.  1 Corinthians 14:33 says "God is not the author of confusion but of peace."  

If Jesus is our peace, that means for a peacemaker to do his/her job, s/he must first make peace with God in her own heart.   As long as I'm battling God in my heart, I can never make peace with anyone else in my life.  I'm too proud to make peace, too self-righteous to make peace. Making peace requires a hefty dose of humility.

Only when the peacemaker is submitted unto Christ can he be at peace with God, and only when that peacemaker is at peace with God can he sufficiently humble enough to seek peace with other men.

But how does this peacemaker hat work with Jesus' own words that say "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you no, but rather division" (Lk. 12:51) or "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword" (Matt. 10:34).

Division.  A sword.  Those don't sound very peaceful, at least not by the world's definition.

Yet, in both these Scriptures, I believe Jesus is telling Believers that true peace isn't a mere truce.  It isn't a tense compromise.  It isn't evading the problem to avoid confrontation either.  Instead, true peace can only come for the Christian who enters the conflict with the sword of truth, who confronts heresy and false doctrine in love, and who calls sin a sin instead of  "life choice."  

The first step to true peace is ensuring both parties are right with the Father.  A verse my boys have learned this year in their Royal Ambassadors program says, "Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ; certain that God is appealing through us, we plead on Christ's half, 'Be reconciled to God'" (2 Cor. 5:17-20).  

If we are truly ambassadors of peace for Christ, we must first seek for them to be at peace, to be reconciled, with God.

Many times, using the sword of God's Word is divisive, is confrontational.  But it is necessary.  Only when sin has been dealt with in the lives of both parties, when whatever issue is truly resolved, can there be true peace. 

In short, being a peacemaker doesn't mean we stick our heads in the sand and pretend everything is ok.  It doesn't mean we lay down like the proverbial doormat either.  Being a peacemaker means wielding the sword of truth--God's Word--and not backing away from the truth in exchange for an uneasy "peace" that isn't rally truth peace.  

It means confronting sin, false teachings, and injustice in order to achieve true peace, which is only accomplished through Jesus.  It means ensuring both parties are right with God.

Fourteen years into my marriage, my peacemaker hat still hangs by the back door, ready for me to pick up at a moment's notice. And yet, I have learned if my heart isn't right with God, I dare not pick it up lest I use it as a weapon of pride and self-righteousness to beat someone over the head.

First, we peacemakers must make peace with God.  Then and only then, our hearts are such that we can make peace with other believers in our lives.

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