Most disheartening and disturbing is the rhetoric from some who claim to be Christian. Perhaps they could claim to be “culturally Christian,” but that they fully understand the gospel of reconciliation and are obedient followers of Christ is suspect. No, I am certainly not the ultimate judge of people’s hearts and intentions, and much less of their relationship with God through Christ. I am also a bit of a historian and am keenly aware that Christians are not perfect and that throughout history genuine and sincere Christians have many times been genuinely and sincerely wrong (sinful!) in their ideas, words, and actions. Whatever others may be, it is biblically clear and demanded that conscientious followers of Christ always go back to Scripture, make judgments based on Scripture (yes, there is a place for “judging”), and speak prophetically when needed to all cultures, all peoples, and foremost to the church.
Having argued for a prophetic voice, I still must look in the mirror first. I have plenty of my own prejudices, biases, and irrational suspicions, thoughts, and attitudes towards others. I regularly ask God to make those clear to me and give me the grace and strength to confront them, repent from them, and replace them with goodness. I am first in line for needed grace, forgiveness, and lots of help. Therein lies more of my fear and trepidation – I am not very qualified to speak.
Therefore, part of the reason for my return to blogging is I want to be a peacemaker. Note that I am not talking about absolute pacifism (see here for a discussion of peace and pacifism). I am talking about being an intentional maker of peace and an ambassador of reconciliation across racial, ethnic, and cultural lines. I want to do this not primarily for political, ideological, or cultural reasons, but because being a follower of Jesus demands that I do so. Yes, there are plenty of political and cultural implications to peacemaking and I do hope to address some in future writing. Again, insecure as I am, all this just causes more fear and trepidation.
Most of you are familiar with Jesus’s words in Matt. 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” Commentator Donald Carson notes that these words do not have to do “with the peaceful but with the peacemaker.” That is, the person Jesus is referring to is not the one who is passively peaceful but the one who is intentionally and actively a peacemaker. He seeks to make peace where there is war, discord, conflict, misunderstanding, division, hatred, and broken relationships. Those who do this “will be called sons [and daughters] of God,” not in the sense that peacemaking activity gains them that particular filial status, but that they and their peacemaking activity actually reflects the character of God. This means, therefore, that peacemakers are children of God because God is a God of peacemaking. Peacemaking is a reflection of God’s very nature and activity.
I will examine the biblical and theological foundations for peacemaking in the future, so suffice it to say that God’s mission, the mission dei, is all about redeeming his creation from sin and back into a relationship with him. It is about peace: God sent his Son, the Prince of Peace, so that we would no longer be enemies of God but through the work of the cross have peace with him. The inevitable and indisputable implication of being at peace with God is active peacemaking with others, both believers and non-believers, and with his good creation.
In this Peacemaking Series I plan on examining the Old Testament foundations and the New Testament imperative for peacemaking. I’ll take a look at some common misunderstandings about the meaning of peacemaking. We’ll look at injustice and multiculturalism and their relation to peacemaking. We’ll tackle some of the burning issues in politics, race, ethnicity, and even look at other religions and the church.
The bottom line, and I give away my final conclusion now, is that regardless of the complex issues of history, politics, race, ethnicity, economics, culture, and personalities, as a follower of Jesus I have no option but to seek peace and reconciliation and be a peacemaker wherever and however I can. (By the way, the issues are usually more complex than people care to realize. Worse, the airwaves are full of overly simplistic and ideologically driven answers).
Again, I am not talking about pacifism. I certainly believe there is a time for the government to wield the sword; there is a place for hard truths and confrontation; there is also the hard work of dealing head on with all kinds of injustices, with cultural differences, and with differing worldviews. These are all legitimate and important narratives. The meta-narrative I must hold to, however, and which I will argue supersedes all other narratives is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is the absolute truth which addresses and answers all conflict (I’m not saying it is always easy to discern and apply), which judges all ideological, political, and cultural realities, and which leads to real, although never perfect, peacemaking and reconciliation. And that, my friends, is my foundational presupposition! I can do no other than stand, speak, and act from it.