“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.