Peace. People long for peace. We want world peace. We want peace in our homes. We want peace on social media. But most of the time we are not willing to be peacemakers. We would prefer to be peacekeepers. The problem is that where peacekeepers are, there isn’t usually true peace. So what is the difference between a peacemaker and a peacekeeper?
A peacekeeper stands between two people with their fists up and keeps them from hitting one another. A peacemaker stands between two people with their fists up and works to solve the problems that got them there in the first place. The peacemaker’s goal is not just to keep the fight from occurring, but to get to the point where no one has their fists up to fight at all.
Esau McCauley in his book Reading While Black talks about peacemaking as it relates to justice. This is a summary of what he says. Peacemaking is a tool to achieve justice for those who are experiencing injustice. We know that the kingdom of God is one of peace. The lion will lay down with the lamb imagery in Isaiah is just one place of many that we see that. Jesus is called the Prince of Peace. The kingdom of God will be one where true peace is, where reconciliation has occurred between God and humanity, and between humanity itself (and perhaps even animals). And for McCauley, true peacemaking starts with truth-telling. If we don’t tell the truth about the situation, about the injustice, we can’t work for true peace. True peacemaking doesn’t push the problem under the rug (peacekeeping) but it calls it out. It says what can we do to fix this situation? How can we restore relationships? What needs to be done to right the wrong? It stands in the middle and looks at the fight from both sides to find a path to reconciliation. (McCauley, Esau. Reading While Black. Downer’s Grove, InterVarsity Press: 2020. 67-69.)
Peacemaking, not peacekeeping,, is what we are called to do. Psalm 34:13 says “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” Doing good is seeking peace. Not keeping a fake peace, but seeking to have true peace. I don’t know where you see a lack of peace today, but I know in this world there is injustice and fighting and wars almost everywhere we look. It is likely there is a lack of peace somewhere around you. How can you work to bring about peace? What is one thing you can do?
As one example, last summer, peacekeeping failed as protests against injustices based on color gained momentum. My son spent time protesting for black lives matter downtown. While I did not do that, I did go to an “open conversation” and Q and A to hear other perspectives, and I have been reading books that help me better understand the views of people who look different than I do. This listening posture begins to bring me into the middle where I can begin to be a peacemaker instead of just a peacekeeper or a member of a side.
Peacemaking isn’t easy. It calls us to step outside of ourselves and our views to see the views of others. It calls us to do the hard work of truth-telling, reconciliation, restoration and restitution. And as Matt Bruce said yesterday at church, it brings us into the crosshairs of at least two sides, and stepping into the middle when people are firing at each other can be scary. But Jesus says peacemakers are blessed, and the end result is that we will be called true children of God. That’s a picture of reconciliation. God has made peace with us by the mediator Jesus. Now he asks us to go do the same for others.
May you be blessed by God’s word today, and go make peace.