Becoming God’s Peace Makers
The first step in responding to God’s peacemaking call is for people to ask themselves a personal question, “How do I become a peacemaker?” Until we are personally invested in responding biblically to conflict in our own lives, it is hard to build relationships that help others do so.
Scripture tells us that every Christian is to be a peacemaker. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone,” the apostle Paul urges in Romans 12:18. This sort of personal peacemaking begins at home, in our closest family relationships, and extends into our workplaces, our churches, and the communities in which we live. It assumes that Christ is at the center of our lives and that peace with God is a reality we live out day to day. This peace overflows into our most personal relationships as we incarnate Jesus’ commands to love one another and do good to those who oppose us.
Peacemaking is more than something we do. It is who we are. If we are not incarnating the peace of Christ in the way we live, we should not expect to be very useful in bringing the peace of Christ to our churches and communities. On the other hand, if we are alert to all the peacemaking opportunities around us, personal peacemaking can easily become a full-time calling.
But It Does Not Stop There…
From time to time, God affords us opportunities to provide counsel to friends and acquaintances–people in our relationship networks who are themselves involved in conflicts. The apostle Paul seems to have this in mind when he instructs the Galatian church: “Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. …Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:1-2).
One-on-one conflict “coaching” settings are wonderful opportunities to “carry each other’s burdens,” as we listen, encourage, and suggest ways to respond biblically to the problems of everyday life. I use the word “coaching” deliberately. When we assume this role, we are like a coach helping prepare an athlete to compete.
Coaches do not take the field themselves; they equip others to do the work. Similarly, a “conflict coach” does not resolve the conflict, but guides and encourages others to approach their problems biblically and to live out the gospel faithfully.
Sometimes opportunities arise to serve as facilitators between people in conflict. When this happens, we take on the role of conciliator, providing a structured forum where Christ-centered discussion can bring reconciliation and healing.
God regularly uses seemingly ordinary people like you and me to bring together quarreling family members, to resolve conflicts between church members, or to ease tensions and promote reconciliation between neighbors. You may find this to be particularly true if you have children, are a classroom teacher, or manage others in some capacity–as much of each day, it seems, is spent trying to resolve the conflicts of others.
Being involved in day-to-day conflicts does not typically result in headlines. Nonetheless, common as they are, such opportunities are not trivial. Instead, they are common circumstances in which God’s uncommon power is on display–as we depend on him and obey his commands.
Opportunities for peacemaking are available to all believers all the time. There is never a shortage of peacemaking work for those whose ears are open to God’s call.
Judging Facts & Circumstances With Love
In community, instead of judging others critically, God commands us to judge charitably. Making a charitable judgment means that out of love for God, you strive to believe the best about others until you have facts to prove otherwise. In other words, if you can reasonably interpret facts in two possible ways, God calls you to embrace the positive interpretation over the negative, or at least to postpone making any judgment at all until you can acquire conclusive facts.
Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:12, sets forth the Golden Rule. “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” How do you want others to judge you? Do you want them to believe good about you instead of evil? To interpret your actions in the best possible way? To really try to understand your side of the story before drawing conclusions or talking to others about you? If so, Jesus commands that you do the same for others.
Our responsibility to judge others charitably is reinforced by Jesus’ teaching on the second great commandment, “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:39). Just think of how quickly we judge ourselves favorably! When we are questioned or criticized, our natural response is to explain our actions in the best possible light and make excuses for any perceived wrong. If this is how we are inclined to love ourselves, it is also the way we should love others.
The Apostle Paul’s teaching on love in 1 Corinthians 13: 4-7 further supports peace making with Love in the center.
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”
Paul teaches that love “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” In other words, love always looks for reasonable ways to trust others, to hope that they are doing what is right, and to interpret their words and actions in a way that protects their reputation and credibility.
Christ-followers seek to represent Him in love, as individual peacemakers, mediators and friends. What better opportunity to display the gospel then to display love while seeking resolution to circumstances of conflict. Matthew 5:9 emphasizes specific, eternal benefits, “Blessed are the peace makers, for they will be called sons of God”.