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Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Jesus said, in Matthew 5:9, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God."

I've often looked at that verse and took for granted that I knew what it meant. But lately I've been on a quest to understand the conflict that I seem to get involved in wherever I go. Clearly I don't create it, because it's often there when I show up and others are all to eager to tell me about it. But there I am. And there it is.

I'm interested in knowing my part, my role. I don't want to leave any stone unturned when it comes to my role in conflict. But this requires that we look beyond the obvious. There is more to being a peacemaker than meets the eye.

1 Peter 3:11 tells us to, "... turn from evil and do good, ... seek peace and pursue it." What does it mean to pursue peace? Does anyone know how that's accomplished in personal relationships? We get to see our government do it with diplomats, embassies and a whole orchestration of activities. (Some would say our government hasn't been terribly successful in that pursuit either!) So what does a sincere individual who is doing their level best to live a godly life do with this?

Too often we seem to see peace as merely the absence of conflict. And we think of peace making as a passive role; we refer to people as having a peaceable spirit or demeanor. Frankly, I'm coming to view that as an oxymoron. If you ask me, a peaceable spirit is anything but passive.

Rather an effective peacemaker actively pursues peace --- by building effective relationships. He (or she) knows that peace is a by-product of commitment. Let me say that again. Peace is a by-product of commitment. What the heck does that mean?

The real peacemaker anticipates problems and deals with them before they occur. When conflicts arise or are encountered, the peacemaker wades into them fearlessly. The peacemaker is ready to get their hands dirty, to wade into the messy relationships of other people, and yes --- to risk becoming the target of the conflict even. Their purpose is to resolve the conflict and find the peace that God calls us to.

Without an effective peacemaker to wade into the muck of the conflict, the conflict will just fester. Unresolved conflicts turns into toxic and sometimes explosive situations. Relationships are destroyed, severed and terminated. Think I'm kidding about that? Look at the last time there was unresolved conflict in your church. People got mad. People got hurt. And people left ... never to return. Those are severed relationships. Conflict won. Peacemaking lost.

Now the truth is that peacemaking is hard work. Like I said, it's nasty and dirty. It requires courage, fortitude, resolve and strength. Fortunately the Holy Spirit gives us all of those things when we need them. But peacemaking is often more work than waging war. Think I'm kidding about that too? Consider whether it's easier to stay in a marriage or to end the marriage with a divorce. Anyone who's done that will tell you that staying in the marriage is harder than walking away from it.

So, Jesus says, "Blessed are the peacemakers." Indeed they are. They may be the unsung heroes who show up ... and may not be very appreciated. But they pursue peace nevertheless.

It's funny, when we were growing up, our mother taught us to "mind your own business." Somehow we got the impression that this was what peacemaking is all about. Avoid conflict. Stay out of it. Be safe. Now, here I am to tell you that this is not accurate.

The Biblical peacemaker that Jesus says will be blessed doesn't mind his or her own business. They don't stay safe. They never avoid conflict. In fact, they bravely walk right into the conflict that they see ahead of them.

Why do they do this? Because they know who they are in Christ. And they truly believe that, despite the risks and costs, blessed are the peacemakers!

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