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Cultivating Peace

Momentum: How to Make Progress in Your Christian Life

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. (Matthew 5:9)

 

In a world of conflict, God calls us to reflect his glory by being agents of peace. A peacemaker is a person who has peace and brings peace to others.

 

We saw last time that God is the great peacemaker. He is the God of Peace. He has peace in himself, and he has made peace through Jesus Christ by the shedding of his blood on the cross (Colossians 1:20).

 

We asked the question: Since God is the great peacemaker, how did he go about making peace?  The blessing promised to peacemakers is that they will be called sons of God.  So what will it mean for us to reflect God’s way of making peace?  We ended last time with three observations…

 

WANT TO BE A PEACEMAKER?

a. Be prepared to give up your rights

Christ was in the form of God, and he gave up his right to an unbroken experience of heavenly joy.  But he gave up his right and came into the world, in order to make peace.

 

You cannot make peace by standing on your rights.  If God had stood upon his rights, I would be in hell and so would everyone else.

 

WANT TO BE A PEACEMAKER?

b. Move toward the trouble

When the world was in rebellion against God, he moved toward the trouble in the incarnation.  My natural instinct is always to back away from trouble, but peacemakers move toward the trouble.  That’s never easy.  For Jesus, it led to the cross.

 

WANT TO BE A PEACEMAKER?

  1. Love before you are loved in return

If God had waited for us to love him before he loved us, there would never have been peace.  There would have been an eternal showdown.  God made the first move.  We love him because he first loved us!

 

These are the broad strategies that we can draw from the Prince of Peace, and if Christ is your Savior, he is also your example.

 

So here are the kind of people who can be peacemakers in this world of conflict—people like Jesus.  People who are ready to give up their rights move toward the trouble and love before they are loved in return.  “Lord, make me that kind of person.”

 

What we have looked at so far might be described as the broad strategies for making peace.  The kind of person who can make peace… Today we are looking at what we can actually do to promote peace.

 

What does peacemaking look like in practice?  Today we move from broad strategies to down-to-earth, practical tactics: things that we can do in the pursuit of peace.

 

Ten Tactics for Peacemakers

 

1. Recognize where there is a problem

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (Jeremiah 6:14)

 

There were people then, as there are now, people who made a living saying, “Peace, peace, even when there is no peace.”  They tell people what they want to hear.  So the wounds of the people are dressed lightly.

 

We might say they “put a sticking plaster over a septic wound.”  Everyone knows that can only make the problem worse.

 

Making peace does not mean avoiding conflict.  It’s not pretending that everything is ok.  It’s not “anything for a quiet life.”  A conflict avoided is often conflict postponed.  Kent Hughes says,

 

This is particularly a male tendency.  Even in our most intimate relationships, men tend to act as if everything is OK when it is not.  Men often avoid reality because they want peace.  But their avoidance heals the wound only slightly and prepares the way for greater trouble. [1]

 

When God makes peace with a person, he begins by wakening that person up to the fact that there is a problem that needs to be faced.  The honesty that says, “Well, there’s a problem here,” is the kind of honesty that leads to peacemaking.

 

2. Deal with conflict early

The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.  (Proverbs 17:14)

 

This makes me think about being at camp as a child with a group of other kids.  We gathered rocks to build a dam in the stream, so that we could create a pool of water to swim in.

 

You know what it’s like: You build the dam, and then you get a pool of water backing up—success!  You notice a little trickle of water that comes through the dam.  If you don’t plug that hole, the trickle will become a cascade.  The water will move the rocks and all your work will be lost.

 

That’s the picture here: The beginning of strife is like letting out water—the beginning of strife!

 

Think about this: every broken marriage had a point where the strife began!  The first harsh word, the first wound, the first moment of distrust. You didn’t see it at the time, but the end was in the beginning.

 

You look back and you say, “If I could go back to that moment and change what happened then, I might be in a different place today.”  But you can’t go back!

 

So here’s what we learn: Deal with conflict early.  “The beginning of strife is like letting out water,” so quit before the quarrel breaks out.  Don’t let small things fester.  Don’t let it take root, because if you do, it will grow.

 

3. Practice restraint, especially with your tongue

Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger. (James 1:19)

 

Peacemakers practice restraint.  At times when you could unload, if you are a peacemaker, you will hold back.  This is surely one of the most obvious tactics and one of the most important.

 

What is the leading idol in our culture?  “I must say what I think! I must say what I feel!”  Really?  Do you really have to?  When you hear that, sometimes the right answer is to say, “What would happen if you didn’t?”

 

If you want to be a peacemaker, learn to practice restraint.  Even in honest confrontation, you don’t need to unload everything.  If you are a peacemaker, you won’t!

 

If God unloaded, all at one time, every way in which you and I had wronged him, we would never recover!  In God’s grace, he shows us our sins slowly.  So why would you want to do that to someone else?

 

Practice restraint, especially in relation to the tongue.  The fruit of the Spirit is self-control.  Very rarely have I had reason to regret staying silent.  But too often I’ve had reason to regret something I said.

 

4. Prepare for a long journey

Seek peace and pursue it. (1 Peter 3:11)

 

The word “seek” tells us that sometimes peace will not be easy to find.  The word “pursue” means that the path of peace may be a long journey. Peacemaking is a process, not an event.

 

Where there are deep wounds, the path to peace may not be quick or easy. If you want to be a peacemaker, be prepared for a long journey.  God speaks about making peace with those who are “far off” (Ephesians 2:13).

 

Think about the length of the journey it took for God to be at peace with you!  Where did the problem begin?  How did you become alienated from God and at enmity with him?  Was it the first time you did something wrong?  Of course not—the problem goes much further back than that.

 

Where does it go back to?  Some people say that their problems go back to their parents.  That may be true, but it doesn’t go far enough.

 

The Bible goes further:  The real root of all your problems, and especially your alienation from God, goes all the way back to your first parents who sinned in the Garden, got themselves thrown out, and then passed on the impulse to sin all the way down to you…

 

You were born into a world that is hostile to God, and that hostility was in you by nature.  You were born alienated from God.  That’s in your DNA, until God makes you a new creation.

 

The process of God making peace with you was a long journey.  It goes back to the beginning of time.  It took all the promises of the Old Testament, all the work of redeeming Israel, and all the ministry of sending the prophets.

 

It took the coming of Christ for you to have peace with God.  It took 33 years of perfectly fulfilling all that God requires of you.  It took his atoning death as the sacrifice for your sins.  It took his rising from the dead, and his ascending into heaven, and even then it was not done.

 

It took the sending of the Holy Spirit, who awakened you to your need of Christ, and caused you to be born again.  He applied the full effect of the cleansing blood of Jesus to your life, moving you from a state of condemnation into the blessing of life as an adopted child of God!

 

That is a long, long journey!  God has been relentless, over the centuries, in pursuing peace with you: “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”  One of the ways in which peacemakers are like him is that they are prepared for a long journey.

 

5. Take a step toward peace

If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. (Romans 12:20)

 

The longest journey begins with a first step.  When peace seems a long way off, think about what might be one small step in the right direction. What could I do that would be well received by the other person?

 

Is there an act of kindness I can show, an evidence of goodwill I can display?  What would be one step that would make this better, one step that might make another step possible?

 

I’ve been reading the story of the Cuban missile crisis.  The world was on the brink of a nuclear holocaust.  Two mighty nations were standing toe-to-toe, ready to unleash enormous nuclear arsenals to unimaginable destruction.  It remains the most dangerous moment in world history ever.

 

The key question at the heart of the Cuban missile crisis was simple: What could be done to begin a process of de-escalation?  What would be one step that might ease the tension and allow the other side to respond by taking another step back from the brink of mutual destruction.

 

Will you look this week for one step that might make a counter-step, however small, possible?

 

6. Aim at humility, not humiliation

Being found in human form, he humbled himself. (Philippians 2:8)

 

Think about the humility of Christ.  When God was giving the law, his voice thundered impersonally from Mount Sinai.  They heard his voice, but they did not see him.  But when God is making peace, he comes to us and speaks face-to-face.

 

When God makes peace, he does not come to us with a display of strength.  He comes with his glory veiled—God speaking to people face-to-face.  He comes to us in weakness, Christ crucified in weakness…

 

God makes peace, not through a triumph of power, but through a triumph of love.  He wins us.  He woos us.  He draws us.  His love constrains us. That is how God makes peace.  And then think about this: He did this when right was all on his side and wrong was all on ours!

 

Peacemakers aim at humility… but never humiliation.  If you’ve been drawn to Jesus, was it not his love?  Was it not his grace?  Think about the father when the prodigal son returned home.  There’s not a hint of the father rubbing the son’s nose in the dirt of his own failure.  No!  He embraces the son.  Don’t you want to be more like him?

 

When you have been wronged, ask yourself what you really want.  Do I want vengeance (for the other person to squirm)?  Do I want vindication (for me to be proved right)?  Or do I want to make peace?

 

These are 3 very different things.  People who want vindication or vengeance cannot make peace.  If you want to see someone who has hurt you grovel in the dust, you are not ready to be a peacemaker.

 

In his book about the Cuban missile crisis, Robert Kennedy quotes his brother, the President,

 

If anybody is around to write after this, they’re going to understand that we made every effort to find peace and… give our adversary room to move.  I’m not going to push the Russians an inch beyond what’s necessary.

 

Then Robert Kennedy notes,

 

After it was finished… he instructed all members of the… government that no interview should be given, no statement made, which would claim any kind of victory. [2]

 

Why?  Peacemakers aim at humility, but never humiliation.

 

7. Trust the injustice you have suffered to God

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. (1 Peter 2:19)

 

Friend, it is a terrible thing to be wronged, slighted, or treated unfairly, to be passed over, taken for granted, to have evil returned for good, or to give of yourself and receive wounds in return.

 

Jesus knows all about that.  No one has been wronged more than he has. No one has had their rights ignored and flouted more than your Savior.  No one has been a peacemaker like he has.

 

If you have been wronged, and you want to be a peacemaker, you have the most marvelous model to follow in Jesus.  Peter tells us what he did (1 Peter 2:19-25).  This is a key passage for anyone who has been wronged and wants to be like Jesus.

 

Peter is speaking here about what to do if you want to be a peacemakers in a situation where you have suffered an injustice.  You’ve been treated unfairly, and your natural response would be resentment.  You’re losing your own peace.  You can feel yourself getting angry.  You realize that you could easily head down a path you don’t want to go.

 

If when you do good and suffer for it, you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. (1 Peter 2:20)

 

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. (1 Peter 2:21)

 

What’s the example of Christ that we’re to follow when we suffer injustice as he did?

 

Two things Christ did not do…

  1. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return. (1 Peter 2:23)

People spoke out against him.  They insulted him, spat on him, and provoked him.  But when he was reviled, he did not revile in return.  Why?  Because he came to make peace.

 

  1. When he suffered, he did not threaten. (1 Peter 2:23)

Soldiers flogged him and nailed him.  They inflicted unimaginable pain on him.  He is the Son of God—all judgment is in his hands.  He could have said, “You wait!”  But he did not do that.  Why?  He came to make peace.

 

Two things Christ did…

  1. He continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. (1 Peter 2:23)

Here’s what that means for us: You say to God, “I am committing this injustice to you.  You know all about it, and I trust you to deal with it.”

 

  1. He continued entrusting himself to him… (1 Peter 2:23)

It’s not just the injustice.  Christ trusted himself to God.  In other words, he does not seek his own vindication, because he knows that his vindication is with God.

 

Here’s a tremendous release: When you’ve been wronged or slighted, your vindication is with God!  You can trust yourself to him who judges justly.

 

It would be a very small thing for you to vindicate yourself.  How much better for your vindicator to be God himself!  What does it matter if you have to wait until heaven for that?  It’s only a short step away!

 

Another thing Christ did, for you

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree. (1 Peter 2:24)

 

He bore this injustice.  He bore what had been done against him.  He absorbed the pain of it without passing it on,

 

Bearing shame and scoffing rude, in my place condemned he stood.

Sealed my pardon with his blood, Hallelujah, what a Savior! [3]

 

Christ bore it for your sake and you can choose to bear it for his sake.  He left “an example, so that you might follow in his footsteps” (1 Peter 2:21).

 

Notice the result: “By his wounds you have been healed” (1 Peter 2:24)!  Christ’s wounds brought healing for you.  Your wounds, in terms of human wounds, can be healing wounds too—if you bear them, as you trust yourself to him who judges justly.

 

8. Pray for peace

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! (Psalm 122:6)

 

The Scripture urges us to pray for all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way (1 Timothy 2:2).  If you’re committed to peace, praying for peace will be a part of your prayer life.

 

9. Share the gospel of peace

As shoes for your feet…put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. (Ephesians 6:15)

 

We use the phrase “run with the Gospel,” which we took from 2 Thessalonians 3 where Paul says, “Pray that the word of the Lord may speed ahead,” move swiftly.

 

The Bible connects the Gospel with feet, movement, running: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news” (Romans 10:15).  Here the Gospel of peace is like shoes for your feet.

 

Some writers think the seventh beatitude, “blessed are the peacemakers…” is entirely about making peace between men and God, and so they see it as a call to evangelism.

 

I don’t think we should limit peacemaking to helping people find peace with God, but we certainly can’t live out this beatitude without it.  Leading a person directly to faith in Christ may just be the greatest peacemaking that you ever do.

 

10. Cherish peace wherever you find it

Maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace… (Ephesians 4:3)

 

Sometimes a simple phrase can stay in your mind and do you good years after it was said…

 

I once met another pastor for a meal in England.  It was the only time I ever met him, and we got together for a meal because we had to talk about an issue on which it was possible that we might disagree.

 

He offered to say grace when the meal was served, and this is what he prayed… “Lord, we were one when we met.  Let nothing in this conversation make that less when we part. Amen.”  It was a wonderful meal.  His prayer was answered, and there was peace.

 

© Colin S. Smith

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By Colin S. Smith. © Colin S. Smith. Website: UnlockingtheBible.org

[1] Kent Hughes, “The Sermon on the Mount,” p. 63, Crossway, 2001.

[2] Robert Kennedy, “Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” p. 98, W. W. Norton, 1999.

[3] Phillip Bliss, from the hymn “Man of Sorrows,” 1875.