“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14a)
What does it mean to “make” peace—to be a peace “maker,” rather than a peace “keeper”? To “make” means to create something where it wasn’t before. It means we’re actively engaging… bringing peace to situations that are not peaceful otherwise. Can you think of situations right now where peace is needed?
These days, with ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on face-to-face gatherings, more of our communication is taking place online than ever before. Particularly on these (highly visible) platforms, Christians have a lot of opportunities to engage with culture in ways that model the peace of Christ. That can feel pretty challenging sometimes, especially in a global pandemic—or an election year.
In a recent perspective called “Peacemaking in a Polarized Society” https://www.wesleyan.org/peacemaking-in-a-polarized-society on The Wesleyan Church blog, Pastor Andy Merritt observes
“Social media is beginning to feel like the middle-school lunchroom. There are sides to pick everywhere, and whichever table you sit at will draw criticism from someone. ‘Sitting’ with one person or group means you can’t possibly be friends with another.”
But we’ve seen a different way from the Prince of Peace—Jesus, Friend of Sinners, Who sat with crooks, prostitutes, political zealots, and religious authorities alike.
These are acts of peace “making”—not “keeping the peace”—that change lives that change the world. These are the kinds of acts which require us to lay down our lives, our conveniences, our personal preferences—to check our egos at the door and be willing to be misunderstood for the cause of Christ. These are acts as simple as knowing when to engage and when to not.
And, in many ways, these are the kinds of acts that can happen at any time, in any place, with anyone who happens to be there, in person or out in cyberspace.
It doesn’t mean we should all delete our personal profiles or declare a social media fast. But maybe it means we’re quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19). Merritt continues
The conclusion of peacemaking is long and difficult, but acts of peacemaking are
On any platform, peacemaking isn’t a glamorous undertaking. Peacemaking doesn’t win us the last word as much as it leaves us feeling, frankly, used or abused at times. Remember, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself stood under all sorts of unfair interrogations and outrageous accusations, wherein He “gave no answer” (Matthew 27:12) and “made no reply” (Matthew 27:14). That had to hurt!
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” He says, but notice peacemakers are listed in the same ranks as the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, those who are persecuted, and all the rest who suffer hatred and humiliation for the gospel. These ones aren’t of a highly esteemed lot—they’re those whose ways of victory and freedom from sin make no sense in the eyes of a mocking, ungodly world.
But peacemaking isn’t the way of the world. It doesn’t go along with the crowd but dwells with the outcast. It rejoices with those who rejoice and weeps with those who weep—wherever they come from and whoever they voted for.
Peacemaking is a courage of good humor and grave consequence. It’s a voluntary displacement from the preoccupations of cancel culture. It’s sitting with people in holy moments of confusion and loss and betrayal with no thought of what others might think.
It’s holding an open posture for the insults to pass through, ungrudgingly, so we may welcome the stranger and love our annoying, sinful neighbor because “they” are a part of “us.”
It’s a tedious, tireless practice of taking the slings and arrows, covering over a multitude of sins, absorbing griefs and offenses, lowering oneself as Christ lowered Himself and trusting God to search our hearts, to see what’s done in private—including what we were tempted to say, but didn’t.
Peacemakers aren’t pacifists. Peacemakers aren’t always popular. They’re intercessors, negotiators, strategic thinkers, bridge builders, mercy givers, forgiveness seekers, truth tellers, wrongs righters, active pray-ers, reconcilers.
Peace isn’t made via long-distance verbal skirmishes, with careless words grenade-launched into unseen lives. Peace is made person to person, one by one, heart to heart, day by day. Peace is made where doors are opened, tables are shared, rest is found—whether we agree on everything, or especially if we don’t.
Peacemakers don’t blend in. They stand out. They’re noticeable. Of all those Jesus calls “blessed” (Matthew 5:3-10), it’s these ones—the peacemakers—who “will be called children of God” (v. 9). It’s these ones who will be recognized as sons and daughters of the Almighty Himself. This ascription alone tells us peacemaking is no minor add-on to our spiritual lifestyle, but a testament to the Holy Spirit power of the Lord, our Christ… the power it takes to actually live this way, on earth as it is in heaven.
To “make” peace doesn’t mean a “peaceful,” trouble-free life. After all, it was in foretelling His own crucifixion and the persecution of His followers that Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you” (John 14:27). His peace comes to us in the most paradoxical ways. His peacemakers are witnesses of the most culturally contradictory sort.
“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
And so, may we be known as His by the lives we live—yes, even online as we are in person.
“When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” (Acts 4:13)
What do you think when you hear the word “ordinary”? Does ordinary mean plain, ho-hum, run-of-the-mill, boring, same-old-same-old? Well, let me ask… When you read the gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) or the story of the early Church in the book of Acts, what do you think the “ordinary” life of the Christian is like? What is it about these “ordinary men” who were with Jesus—everyday followers—that left rulers, elders, and teachers of the law “astonished”?
Lately, I’m noticing that word “ordinary” a lot, in connection with daily disciplines and spiritual practice. How do we view an ordinary day, and how does Christ call us to make the most of every opportunity? Are we cultivating a way of life—a way of paying attention, being aware, and noticing God’s Holy Spirit presence in the middle of the seemingly mundane?
Recently, I picked up a book called Living Christ: Embodying Jesus’ Life in Worship Through the Christian Year by Wesleyan author Daniel L. Rife. In this book, Rife applies an understanding of the Christian calendar to our everyday, seasonal rhythms of Christian living. Rife connects our sense of time with the life of Christ and the life of His Church, outlining ways Christians have traditionally observed our “ordinary” year together.
This might already sound boring to you. Perhaps you’re generally familiar with some dates of the Christian calendar, as many are—aware of terms like Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter, maybe without always understanding exactly what these seasons or their associated customs represent. Personally, I’ve learned a lot since God called me toward ministry back in 2012, but most recently, Rife’s book has introduced me to a fresh look at the period in our Church year called “Ordinary Time.”
This is the time after Pentecost (a day which commemorates the Holy Spirit’s outpouring of power on the early believers), continuing till the first Sunday of Advent, which we’re approaching in a few weeks. Although it tends to get lumped as “the rest of the year” outside major holidays, Ordinary Time doesn’t equate to boring time. As Rife writes,
“Ordinary Time is anything but ordinary… [Professor] Constance Cherry explains it like this: ‘Ordinary refers to the ongoing work of the church to spread the message of Jesus Christ—his teaching, healing, restoration, reconciliation, forgiveness, etc.—the ordinary work and ministry expected of Christ’s followers.’ Ordinary Time reminds and exhorts us to live out of Christ’s basic, fundamental, ordinary expectations of us.
How do we celebrate a season of commitment? There’s something about this time of commemoration, in daily practice with one another, which seems particularly precious in conjunction with the long COVID-19 season we’re experiencing. Even as we’ve undergone stressors of health risks, social distancing, and many economic uncertainties ahead, we’ve also had an unequaled opportunity to remember our connection to our community and to the universal Church—both around the world and throughout Christian history.
Another book that’s come my way this fall is called The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World. There’s that word “ordinary” again... In this book, author Rosaria Butterfield describes the critical, here-and-now urgency of opening our doors to the people around us, engaging in the hard and holy work of welcoming actual humans into our actual lives. She writes,
“Who else but Bible-believing Christians can make redemptive sense of tragedy? Who can see hope in the promises of God when the real, lived circumstances look dire? ... And where else but a Christian home should neighbors go in times of unprecedented crisis? Where else is it safe to be vulnerable, scared, lost, hopeless?”
If we see ourselves as ones positioned by God Himself in a world where so many are experiencing such a time of unprecedented crisis—how, then, shall we live? That’s where the “ordinary” life of the everyday Christian lights up like a radiant beacon for an astonished world to see. Having given His people the power of His Holy Spirit to break out of our captivity to sin, Jesus extends the invitation—no, He has issued the commands—to “Love one another” (John 13:34) and “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Jesus spells out for us in no uncertain terms that freedom from sin means commitment to the wellbeing of others. Butterfield continues,
“[H]e did not leave us there, little isolated agents of grace, running our own ‘random acts of kindness’ campaign. No, he gave us his bride, the church—his church—to which we who believe are called to make a covenant of membership, to become a family, to be both set apart from and missionally placed in the world, to take care in a daily way of our brothers and sisters in Christ... to draw others... into our homes, families, and churches…
God has positioned His people in ordinary places as agents of His extraordinary power and grace. Together, we are the body of Christ—His healing, merciful presence among hurting humankind. Wherever we are and whatever we’re doing, each and every one of us is uniquely gifted and equipped to welcome the stranger and love our neighbors as ourselves. These are “good works” prepared in advance for us to do (Ephesians 2:10).
Maybe you feel impatient with this, thinking there must be something “more” or “better” for you out there. But in God's economy, it’s the small things, over time, that add up to the big thing in the end: a life conformed to Christ, for His glory, for the sake of others.
That makes the small things into big things. Every single day—with all of its tasks, errands, and interruptions—presents a dazzling array of invitations to live and move and have our being in the Lord Jesus Christ. In Him, the simple act of going about our day becomes a training ground for spiritual exercise, seeing the world the way God sees it.
After all, this is the God of all Creation—Maker of heaven and of earth (Genesis 1:1)—the God Who sees every sparrow (Matthew 10:29), Who numbers every hair on your head (Luke 12:7), Who points to the flowers of the field (Matthew 6:28) and the ants going about their labor (Proverbs 6:6) to teach us about our way of life as His people. What is it about these ordinary things that we have so much to learn from?
It’s a question I hope we’ll keep asking ourselves. As our current season of Ordinary Time turns toward the season of Advent to come, in the month ahead, I pray God opens our hearts and our minds to the convergence between the two—the life of the Church welcoming in the life of Christ. I pray we aspire to be ordinary people ever more attuned to the extraordinary work of God, Who keeps us encountering grace, growing in grace, and giving grace all year round. May our whole understanding of what is "ordinary" be radically reoriented the more we seek God’s will for us each day, as committed members of the body of Christ.
(If you’d like to learn about church membership as a next step of commitment, you can sign up for our Nov. 8th Membership Class here or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.