by Margaret Warren
There’s a scene in the movie Miss Congeniality where Miss USA contestants are interviewed as part of the competition and asked, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” The answer, from all the contestants except one, is “world peace”. Sandra Bullock’s character, an undercover FBI agent replies, “Harsher penalties for parole violators” resulting in stunned silence from the audience. There’s a long pause before she finishes her answer, “and…. world peace” and the crowd goes wild.
We live in a time of great conflict and the longing for peace in our families, relationships, nations and the world resonates with all of us. We all want to live in peace, to see an end to conflict and the pain and suffering that is the inevitable result. But longing for it is not enough to make peace. Those who carry the deep Shalom peace of God within, those who are followers of the ultimate peacemaker, Jesus, have the honour and the responsibility of being peacemakers in our world, and also the means to do so. We carry joy, love, security and ultimately, peace within us. Colossians 3:15 says, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.”
Conflict comes at the deepest level from pride. It’s fed by a belief that I am right and you are wrong; I am more significant than you; my thoughts, feelings and perspectives matter more than yours.
Peacekeeping seeks to maintain peace by avoiding conflict, operating at the deepest level from a place of fear and insecurity. It smooths over the cracks in relationships and situations and buries the issues that need to be resolved.
Peacemaking, however, seeks to restore peace. It is not passive, but rather the proactive, careful navigation of a way that is not fight or flight, but the pursuit of reconciliation and justice and love. It comes from a place of security - of knowing who we are and whose we are. For if we know, as Paul writes in Ephesians 1: 17-18, “the hope to which he has called us, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe” we have no need for pride or for fear. They are both disarmed and we are free.
The Old Testament scholar and theologian Walter Brueggemann said, "People notice peacemakers because they dress funny. We know how the people who make war dress - in uniforms and medals, or in computers and clipboards, or in absoluteness, severity, greed, and cynicism. But the peacemaker is dressed in righteousness, justice, and faithfulness - dressed for the work that is to be done."
If we are to be peacemakers in our world, our community, our workplaces, our relationships, our families, then this is how it will be accomplished. Every day we will have an opportunity and the choice to be a peace maker, not by escalating or avoiding conflict, but proactively working through conflict, struggling with ourselves and others towards reconciliation, restoration and peace. And as Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9
Margaret Warren - lover of Jesus, learning new things every day about His grace and mercy. One of the family at Riverlife Baptist Church
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