I hesitated writing – adding my voice to the loud, obnoxious noise of the past week (well really the past year). There are so many voices, so many opinions, so much banter – I really just wanted to curl up in ball and hide under the covers.
I woke up Wednesday morning in a fog. In the midst of a bright, beautiful, Arizona morning, it was as if there was a black cloud with the looming heaviness of an ensuing downpour. I just wandered around doing my normal morning routine – coffee, reading, lunch-making – but with this nagging nausea. I knew the world wasn’t ending, I knew Jesus held the chaos in His all-knowing love and yet there was still something I couldn’t shake.
I decided that I would hunker down in my PJs, put on some music, light a candle, put my head down and work. Just get on with it.
But as I sat there alone with the cloud overhead, I knew I must get out. I must be with people. I must be kind. I must make conversation. For me, it’s the way I follow Jesus.
And if my following Jesus is going to require being with people, then it’s going to require being a bridge-building, a peace-pursuer.
I never really thought much about Peacemaking. I knew that Jesus mentioned it in the Sermon on the Mount, and that the word Peace is mentioned a myriad of times in the Bible – either referring to peace with enemies or inward peace. But I never really thought it as an active participle – something that I pursue, work at, fight for. I really just thought of peace as something that hopefully would be there – almost an inanimate object that just floats around and lands at will in some place or another.
It wasn’t until Morocco that I realized that peace is not something that just happens, it takes work. It takes understanding. It takes humility, being wrong, apologizing over and over and over again. Peace really is like a foreign language. It doesn’t just magically appear. We don’t pick up peace by osmosis. It takes time and patience, and again, HUMILITY.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Before I lived in Morocco, I had “peace” with my neighbors, those who looked, thought, lived, acted, believed differently than me. And really by peace, I mean, indifference. I’m ashamed now to say that I did not have one good friend who looked, thought, lived, acted or believed differently than me. The peace in my life came from an ignorance and therefore an indifference to my neighbors around me. It’s easy to be a Peacemaker when everyone is pretty much the same. It is easy to be a peacemaker in my comfort zone.
When Jesus is giving the disciples the Beatitudes, he gives the list of “Blessed are…”. And following the “blessed” are the things that these “blessed” shall receive: kingdom, comfort, inheritance, satisfaction, mercy, eyes to see God, reward. There is only one “blessed” that is followed up with a name, an identity: sons of God. We, followers of Jesus, will be known by our Peacemaking. “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be sons of God.”
Growing up Evangelical, we always talked about wanting to be a light in the darkness, or a city on a hill. I always thought that meant that I needed to be evangelizing, or standing against abortion, or telling people they were wrong to believe this, that or the other. We were supposed to be in the world, but not of it. We were basically supposed to be this giant light on a hill, but that definitely had a wall around it to make sure we were still safe and secure.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized that following Jesus means breaking down walls and building bridges. It means that the assumptions I lived with and the fears I had were not protecting me in the way I thought, they were only proving to put gigantic walls up between myself and the people Jesus had called me to love, to make peace with. I heard someone say recently, “A theological conviction should never be a catalyst to devalue another person. (Caleb Kaltenbach)”. I was taught (not overtly) that my theological convictions were the walls that kept me safe, on the right track, in the “right” box. I didn’t realize that these convictions were really just barriers to relationships, to love and to following Jesus into the places He wanted to take me.
It is not easy. Peacemaking is really awkward. Peacemaking is really humiliating. And yet, at the same time it’s not hard. It’s showing up. It’s deciding to follow Jesus out of your comfort zone. It’s deciding that following Jesus is worth putting aside your fears and assumptions. It’s taking Him at His word when He said, “I came that they may have life and have it to the full. (John 10:10)”
So, during this trying season, when I would rather roll my eyes and be judgmental, I feel Jesus calling me to Peacemaking more than ever. There has never been a better opportunity for people who call themselves followers of Jesus to be His hands and feet. To be bridge-builders. We should be desperate for eyes to see those who have been forgotten, whether we think they should be forgotten or not.
We are followers of a God who ran towards us, who came to us, made himself known to us to demonstrate His un-ending love. May we be people who follow in His footsteps. Who realize how unbelievably generous Our Father has been with us and may we be generous with those around us. May we “Seek Peace and Pursue it (Psalm 34:14).” And as we seek ways to be Peacemakers, may we experience the the fullness of following Jesus.