Friday 13 August
with Malcolm Duncan
John Hume is considered by some to be a great modern day peacemaker. He died a year ago this month and in an article in The Guardian in August 2020 he was described as a hero and peacemaker. In 2018, Bono at his concert in Belfast paid tribute to John Hume by saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” In 2010, John Hume was voted Ireland’s greatest person in an RTE poll. I can remember listening to an interview with him on Radio 4 in which he was asked why he engaged with people of violence. He said, “You will never make peace by talking to people who are already committed to it. If you want to make peace you must learn to speak to people of war, to people of conflict and people who are against peace.”
But what is a peacemaker?
We read this word just once in Scripture in Matthew 5:9. It is the only place where it appears in scripture, just in the Beatitudes at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
To be a peacemaker is to reflect the very heart of God. It is somebody who is committed to building, finding and establishing peace. It has the sense of sticking with it, keeping at it in order to create a lasting sense of peace. We need that more than ever.
In his poem Peace, Desmond Egan wrote –
with the globe still plaited in its own
crown of thorns
too many starving eyes
too many ancient children
squatting among flies
too many stockpiles of fear
too many dog jails too many generals
too many under torture by the impotent
screaming into the air we breathe
too many dreams stuck in money jams
too many mountains of butter selfishness
too many poor drowning in the streets
too many shantytowns on the outskirts of life
too many of us not sure what we want
so that we try to feed a habit for everything
until the ego puppets the militaries
mirror our own warring face
too little peace.
This week I have shared:
- Peace in Us (Monday night)
- Peace between Us (Thursday night)
- Peace Through Us (tonight)
Tonight I want to reflect what it means to be a peacemaker.
“A peacemaker is not merely someone who protests against the war; he is one who is inwardly so yielded to Christ in spirit and purpose that He can be called a “son of God.” Where he goes, God goes and where God goes, he goes. He is fearless, calm, and bold. Peace emanates from him the way light and heat radiate from fire.”Francis Frangipane
Could there be a better example of a peacemaker than Jesus Christ?
In Isaiah 9:6, He is described as the Prince of Peace and yet Jesus’ life looked anything but peaceful. At times this liberating, life-giving, transforming life was marked by conflict, accusation and attack. Our great peacemaker was confronted time and again. He entered into troubled and broken situations. He confronted legalism and hypocrisy. He confronted sin. He confronted persecution and opposition. He reminds us that being a peacemaker is not the same as being a peacekeeper.
After the Munich accord, Chamberlain returned to Britain to declare, “Peace in our Time. ” As Britain struggled with the rise of Nazi-ism in Europe, he was trying to keep the peace but he failed. He was focused on protecting or keeping a peace rather than investigating the causes of conflict.
A peacemaker is someone who is rooted in God’s peace.
Ephesians 4:14 -16 says, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of Him who is the head, that is, Christ. From Him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”
Peacemakers speak the truth in love.
But how do you know if you are a peacekeeper rather than a peacemaker>
Five Traits of a Peacekeeper
- You do things to keep people are happy rather than doing what is right
- You are willing to sacrifice the truth to avoid conflict
- You run from confrontation
- You are influenced by the temperature of the room
- You prefer the status quo to the risk of change and conversation
These traits are challenging for us. God did not say, “Blessed are the peacekeepers.” He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers”
The world does not need more nice people. We are desperately in need of peacemakers. The Croatian theologian Miroslav Volf was in Berlin when the wall came down. He was in Sarajevo when the war break out and he was in the Race Riots in LA in the 90s. But his mentor Jurgen Moltmann challenged him, “What does it look like for the church to step into the chaos, to get their hands dirty in the midst of all that life throws at them.” From that, Volf wrote “Exclusion and Embrace” exploring what it means to be people who offer peace.
When we come to faith in Jesus Christ, we become people who are in relationship with God the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. And when we come into that relationship, we come into horizontal relationship as part of a community of believers with whom we must work through our failures and mistakes. And as part of that community we are called to turn towards the world and offer them peace in Jesus name.
Who are we called to Love?
- God – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength
- Neighbour – Love your neighbour as yourself
- One Another – By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one for another
- Enemies – But I say to you… Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you
This encompasses everyone. Nobody is excluded. As God’s people connected to the Trinity, we are rooted in a story which is a better story that society tells people. We are called to be peacemakers.
What underpins our ministry of peacemaking?
This is hard but it can lead to harmony if we embrace it. We must have honest conversations not easy ones. If we will allow those spaces to become places of grace then they may be opportunities to encounter God
We must learn what it means to disagree without being disagreeable. We end up shouting at each other. We are listening to respond, not listening and stopping to be present
Peacemaking is an active response. We should be willing to go the extra mile. To find solutions. Without GRACE we cannot breathe. If there is no space for a second chance, if there is no space to start again, how can we make peace? Jesus brings us grace. Why do we compare our best to others worst instead of our worst to their best?
Truth, love and grace are the three fold foundations of any lasting peace in any relationship, in any community. And all these qualities we see in Jesus. We need to believe the best. To love one another.
While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us… Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Are you a peacemaker or a peacekeeper?
Romans 12 says, “As far as it depends on you…” Peace is not always possible in a broken world. My view of the world is not an idealised one. I know the pain and sorrow of problems that cannot be fixed. We live in a fallen world. The peace will not be fulfilled until Christ returns and His kingdom is established forever. But that doesn’t mean we should not be living and striving for the Prince of Peace now.
In “Great Peacemakers” Ken Beller and Heather Chase talk of five categories of peacemaking and we see them perfectly demonstrated in Jesus.
- Choosing Non Violence
- Living in peace
- Honouring Diversity
- Valuing all of Life
- In harmony with Creation
Put Jesus’ example into action
(In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.)
Seek God’s Wisdom
(But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.)
Tell the Truth
(They must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.) Can NI ever secure lasting peace without telling honest stories?
Be willing to be a target (Jesus endured the cross for our sake)
(For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations.)
Telemachus was a Christian who arrived in Rome and tried to stop a gladiatorial fight in a Roman amphitheatre. He jumped from his seat into the ring and shouted at the Emperor, “No More”. And he paid for that with his life. But, the story goes, that the arena grew silent and the fight was stopped.
Please God give us the grace to keep trying. I pray that we will understand the call to be peacemakers.
Sometimes we are so obsessed with keeping the peace that we cannot make peace. Our churches are fortresses rather than places where people can find hope and healing. The church is the church only when it exists for others. We help others find the peace we have discovered in God.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer became the principal of a seminary. He sat with 25 students and looked across the valley to a Nazi youth camp where night after night thousands of young people were caught in a wrong story, shouting and singing about their “supremacy”. After four or five nights he said, “We must exist until that doesn’t.”
That is the call of Jesus on the church. Where we see exclusion, fear, brokenness, pain and trouble, let us stand and be peacemakers. May God give us grace to remember that one day the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our God. Peace will prevail. Swords will be beaten into ploughshares. Javelins become pruning hooks. We are on the winning side. We know the end of the story.
May we as Christians stand until evil is conquerored, and may God who is rich in mercy, make us peacemakers tonight and always.