November 21, 2012

Giving Peace a Chance

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Then he goes on to say a bit later to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your father in heaven.”

With the ever-increasing polarization of our society today (think politics, religion, etc.), it’s vital that we, as Christians, understand what it means to be a peacemaker. Christians are drawing lines in the sand. Dioceses, parishes, and vestries are being torn apart. Many Christians find themselves on opposing sides from one another. But a wise friend of mine taught me that an effective peacemaker doesn’t draw a line in the sand, nor do they stand on one side or another; rather “they take their foot and erase the line altogether.”

The Episcopal Church has ALWAYS been a body of all sorts of believers, actively trying to live out their baptismal covenant to “respect the dignity of EVERY human being.” Lately, though, many of my fellow Episcopalians are feeling like they don’t belong, and that’s sad. The truth of the matter is that we all belong. There IS room at the table for YOU, regardless of your political or theological stance, your sexual identity, your race, gender, etc. How can we promote peace among nations if we can’t promote peace in our own backyards or even in our own sanctuaries?

The next time you think about drawing a line in the sand, or standing on one side or the other, consider these Pillars of Peace that can help one live into being a peacemaker:
  • Grace: 1 Peter 4:10 says “Each one should use whatever gift one has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.” In order to be a peacemaker, be gracious to others as God is gracious to us.
  • Mercy: Mark 11:25 says, “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him or her, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Peacemakers forgive as we are forgiven.
  • Patience: Ephesians 4:1-2 says, “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Being patient means to be kind and gentle and persevering; it doesn’t mean just holding out to eventually get something you want.
  • Honor & Respect: Philippians 2:3 says, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than oneself.” Respect means approaching others with humility and understanding that everyone has gifts and talents bestowed on them by God. Some say respect is earned, but I say respect is just a gift we give others regardless of their deserving nature. Afterall, none of us really deserve anything. Romans 12:17 says, “Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable.”
  • Humility: 1 Peter 3:8 says, “Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers and sisters, be compassionate and humble.” Peacemakers are not presumptuous. They are concerned more with relationships and bridge-building rather than proving someone wrong.

This world needs warriors for God, but Christians shouldn’t be fighting about who is right and who is wrong. Warriors for God in today’s world should be peacemakers. They strive for reconciliation—reconciliation with all of their neighbors. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Colossians: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col. 3:12-13)

Lord above, you made each and every one of us differently, with different opinions, different passions, different gifts, and different life circumstances. Thank you for the variety by which you’ve blessed this world. Continue to give us opportunities to practice patience and build peace. Help us to love your creations and every being within it—not just despite our differences, but because of them. Amen.

Dedicated to my “wise friend”—Tim Carr, GTS Class of 2013, Diocese of Newark