Thursday, August 4, 2016

4 August 2016
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Matthew 5:9 (NRSV)
“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity!” Psalm 133:1 (NIV)
“Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” Romans 12:18
            I think it would be a pretty safe bet to say seeing His children get along makes God happy. I also think this is at least partly because He would like us to realize that every single thing-skills, abilities, appearance, personalities, everything-come from Him and Him alone. We are all equal this way. We may not have received equal gifts in equal measure but we have all received “from His abundance…one gracious blessing after another” 9John 1:16, NLT). Some of you may not agree with this premise; that’s ok. I realize the need for a distinction between what we have received and how hard we work with what we receive; my concern here is with the source. We’ll come back to this in a bit.
            The foundation for peacemaking was laid thousands of years ago on Mt. Sanai when Moses received the Ten Commandments. Commandments six through ten direct our behavior towards each other; each one, in a different way, opposes peacemaking. Murder, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting; all of them, in one way or another say ‘I’m more important than you; my needs are more important than your needs; my rights are more important than your rights’. What does God say to this? ‘No, they are not. I am the only one who has any claim on your life; you listen to me.’ At this point it might be worth mentioning the relationship, the interaction, between God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three distinct persons working in perfect harmony not so much because they have to but because they want to. A mystery indeed, but well worth pondering.
            All well and good, but how do we actually become peacemakers in our little spheres of influence? The word occurs only here in the New Testament. What does Jesus mean for us to do? Well, personally speaking, I am a big fan of unity in the church; of putting relationships first. Not first to the point of throwing doctrine out the window and creating a free for all, but I believe a lot of doctrinal arguments are simply not that necessary. Once we learn to focus on the image of God in our brothers and sisters, however broken or tarnished it may be, we will be better able to apply our doctrine to redemption restoration. Paul has some interesting things to say regarding church unity and proper doctrine in Romans 14 and 15; 1 Corinthians 3 and 4 and particularly 6:1-8. The next time one of you finds yourself in some church dispute, rather than taking sides and defending your position take some time to listen to what is being said. Try to understand the opposing point of view. Look for common ground. We have a spirit of unity, not division. Listen much, pray much, speak little. Leave room for the Spirit’s guidance.
            Speaking of looking for common ground, it isn’t just for churches. I’m thinking it’s a pretty basic ingredient in most mediations, and most relationships too, for that matter. Again, this involves listening much and speaking little. It involves being openness to change and willingness to surrender a paradigm or two along the way. It most definitely does not involve anything that could be considered intentionally divisive; nothing that would create the ‘us-against-them’ mentality we see so much of today. This means being very careful what we say. Words have great and lasting power, especially to do harm. Five minutes with the nightly news proves my point here. Use your words wisely, sparingly and with consideration. This is a habit that will take some time to develop but it is well worth the effort.
            Finally, a great deal of what we have been talking about here comes down to individual rights and what we do with them. The way of the world is force of will and imposition of (or denial of) personal rights and opinions. We are not to be that way. Being a peacemaker involves looking for common ground; surrendering individual rights when necessary; being open to change and building one another up. It is rooted in the humility that comes from knowing our place before God as the source of our very life and everything that comes with it. Jesus Himself is our guide and our example; let us continually look to Him.

May the Lord bless you and keep you this day. JRG

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