Peace. Speak the word and let it echo in your mind. Peace. What a wonder. Peace. What a gift. Peace. How I long for peace.
Jesus’ most famous sermon began with a series of be-attitude statements to re-orient the mind and the heart. One of these be-attitudes reads:
“Blessed are the those who work for peace,
for they shall be called children of God.” — Matthew 5:9
A common interpretation of Jesus’ words is to think about world peace, eliminating conflicts between nations and ending civil strife in countries around the world. The world needs peace. Ukraine cries out for peace. Civil war in Sudan, Guinea and Ethiopia continue to tear apart families, communities, and whole nations. Even our own nation struggles with heated and divisive conflicts in our political, economic and cultural systems. America is not at peace with itself. Peace. How I long for peace.
However, when Jesus talked about being a peacemaker, he was not speaking about global intervention or political mediation. It was far more personal and therefore, challenging. All the be-attitudes are very personal: humility, mercy, and purity of heart to name a few. Jesus wants me and you to be peacemakers in the daily fabric of our lives and relationships.
Jesus commanded his followers to go and make peace. First, he said in Matthew 5:23 that if someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice at the altar and go and be reconciled. Then return and offer your sacrifice. In other words, God is more interested in our reconciled relationships than our religious sacrifices and activities. So, if someone has something against us, we are to go and work for peace.
Later in Matthew 18 Jesus outlined the process by which we are to go and be reconciled to those who have sinned against us. The Mathew 18 process begins at the lowest level and only escalates if things do not go well. So, whether we have something against a person, or a person has something against us, Jesus wants us to work for peace.
Our attitudes often work against peacemaking. Some people lean toward peace-faking. Sweep it under the rug. Make pretend everything is fine. Avoid the person and walk on eggshells. The extreme peace-faking response is to run away and abandon the relationship.
Other people lean toward peace-breaking. Peace-breakers must win the conflict. Take out the other person with verbal attack. Use every weapon in our arsenal so they will never mess with us again. Extreme peace-breaking responses take a scorched earth approach to relationships.
I confess that I can be a peace-faker and a peace-breaker. My gut responses have been conditioned by my family of origin, my culture, and my own broken nature. Jesus-inspired peacemaking does not come naturally to me.
There is hope! For Jesus is the perfect and ultimate peacemaker. He made peace between us and God even when we were enemies of God. He does not simply ask us to transform our attitudes. He gives us the desire and ability to be transformed into peacemakers. He does this through the work of His Holy Spirit. We can work for peace because we are at peace with the Prince of Peace.
Chapel by the Lake is on a peacemaking journey. Our church has a history of peacemaking, peace-faking and peace-breaking. We long for peace in our relationships and community. We recently brought in consultants to train a team of people to serve as peacemaking coaches. Our coaches can come along side people stuck in conflict. We want to be a church where conflicts are dealt with grace and mercy. If we can help you in any way, please reach out as we count it a privilege to serve our friends in Juneau.
• The Rev. Tim Harrison is senior pastor at Chapel by the Lake. He and his wife Karen (also an ordained pastor) have been in ministry together for over 35 years. They served Presbyterian churches in Florida, Washington, New Jersey and Wisconsin. Their son Noah lives in Florida.”Living & Growing” is a weekly column written by different authors and submitted by local clergy and spiritual leaders. It appears every Friday on the Juneau Empire’s Faith page.