Many people think of peacemakers as just a personality type. I used to. I don’t doubt at all that it comes more naturally to some than it does others, but God actually calls us all to be peacemakers. Jesus was a peacemaker. But what does that even mean?
Rick Ezell puts it this way, “A working definition of a peacemaker is someone who is actively seeking to reconcile people to God and to one another.”
When we reconcile something, in this case people and God, we restore friendly relations. That doesn’t mean we’re supposed to be walking around policing and pointing fingers at people. But as far as it depends on us, when we find ourselves faced with conflict, we should be pursing and working for peace.
What does that mean, though? Is peace just the absence of conflict? Biblical peace is based on righteousness and justice. So ultimately, the peace we are after is born out of truth. Without these things, peace cannot last.
That means peacemaking is not the absence of conflict. It’s not avoidance, appeasement, or acceptance of any outcome for the sake of resolution. That’s peacekeeping. A peacekeeper is someone who doesn’t speak up for the right thing and goes with the flow. Peacekeeping is pacifism. It’s a “don’t rock the boat” mentality. Those things do not represent the character of Jesus. Jesus basically did nothing but rock the boat.
Why we should be peacemakers
In the short time that Jesus lived on this earth he shared so much truth. If you read the gospels — Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John — you will find Jesus in all his glory. He loves, leads, teaches, comforts, corrects, and sacrifices. Jesus was a walking, talking example of how we can live a life that glorifies God. He does it a lot better than we ever will, but he shows us the way.
He came specifically to give us the gift of peace with God. Peace that comes from living in the light of truth.
In Matthew chapter 5 we find the beatitudes (the eight blessings) that Jesus shared with the crowds of people in the famous sermon on the mount. One of them addresses the blessing of being a peacemaker.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.Matthew 5:9
Peace is a topic discussed over 400 times throughout the bible. It’s safe to say it’s a topic worth paying attention to. But God doesn’t just call us to be peaceful people, only concerned with ourselves. Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers. That’s significant. That calls for initiative and action. If we are called to be like Jesus then passivism is not our directive.
Answering the call to be a peacemaker
The thing about peacemaking is that it’s messy. Truth causes disturbance and stirs up conflict, there’s no way around that. We are told that we’ll be persecuted and hated when we proclaim the name of Jesus. Still, we are called to make peace in the face of that persecution for the purpose of reconciling people to God. It’s a divine work and absolutely impossible without God. God is the author of peace and we are the conduit through which his peace will flow to the world.
So what does that mean we’re supposed to do? When I think about how clearly divided we’ve become as a nation and how conflict continues to escalate, I get overwhelmed and sometimes confused about where I should be taking stands. So I try to remember the following things when I am faced with an opportunity to be a peacemaker.
Look at your own heart first
As Christians, I believe the most important thing we can do in the face of conflict is to deal with our own hearts first. I don’t know about you, but my initial reaction to conflict can often be prideful, stubborn, and arrogant. I tend to have a very strong desire to be right. Unless I deal with my sinful nature first, I cannot be a peacemaker for God. Even if I’m fighting to be right about the truth, if I haven’t dealt with my own heart, I’ll be chasing people away from God instead of reconciling them to God.
Know what you’re standing for and why
Truth is not subjective and it’s not relative. Our individual perspectives are subjective and relative based on our experiences, but there is only one truth. I’ve learned the hard way that sometimes I’m passionately standing for my perspective or opinion rather than the actual truth. God’s truth. And I might be basing my argument on God’s truth, but also applying my feelings and judgements.
On the other hand, sometimes we’re standing for good things that should still be questioned. A few years ago, I spent about a year being seriously challenged by the question, “Is it a good thing or a God thing?” To me, the question was prompting me to decide if what I was fighting for was effective for God’s Kingdom or just something that’s good, but only matters in this lifetime. There is a difference and as Christians, our relationships matter. Those relationships with people are only worth subjecting to conflict over God things, not just good things. Because winning people for God is our number one priority, we choose our battles. Those battles we choose are eternal, ultimate truth battles, not just good.
Find the middle ground
Avoidance and attack. We commonly see these two ends of the spectrum all around us when it comes to response to conflict. When we find ourselves in a position to be peacemakers, after we’ve got our hearts in check, we know what we’re standing for and why, then we come to the part people actually see. This is part that reveals what is really in our hearts. Our response.
A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.Luke 6:45
Finding ourselves landing somewhere in the middle of those polar opposites of avoidance and attack is what makes us look different than the world. Peacemaking is only possible in the middle of the extremes of avoidance and attack. When people see reasonableness, mercy, forgiveness, patience, and kindness in your approach, that’s when they start opening up to what you’re saying.
Hang out with Jesus
You’ve probably heard the saying that we become like the 5 people we spend the most time with. We’ve probably all experienced this with our friends and family. The same is true with Jesus. You may have read to this point thinking, “This is easier said than done.” I agree. But we have an incredible friend and mentor in Jesus. Just like the popular saying in the self-help world goes, you should spend time with the people who are already doing what you want to do and being who you want to be. The more time we spend with him, the more like him we’ll be.