In my junior year of college, I took a class called Interpersonal Relationships. As a psychology major and an innate people person, I assumed I would coast through the semester, using lectures to complete other work. Each class leading up to the first exam, our professor warned us that the information we were learning seemed simple. It was the type of stuff you heard and thought, “well of course, I already knew that.” I heard her warnings and counted myself among the few who really did know it intuitively…until she passed back our first exam and it quickly became clear that my participation was going to require that I become less passive and more active.
For much of my life, I skimmed over Matthew 5:9 with a similar sense of apathy. Where I should have slowed down and dug in, I kept moving in search of the ‘deeper’ theology that would challenge my mind. To be a peacemaker seemed like a given, a natural byproduct of accepting Christ. It was all so simple…until it wasn’t. It was easy as long as it was passive, but when it became an action, something I was called to do, I realized there was nothing easy about it. Anyone can love peace, but to create peace is far from the fluffy, flower-power images I had in mind. It is bold and intentional and tender.
My children reflect me. The youngest physically resembles my family, specifically my grandfather; and while the oldest is the spitting image of my husband, much of his personality mirrors the extroverted, never-knew-a-stranger child I once was. As my children, they look like me.
Peacemakers will be called the children of God because their lives will reflect the character of God, just as children reflect the image of their parents. They will look like their Father. They don’t stop at loving peace. They put in the self-sacrificing work to make peace – just like their Father (John 3:16-17).
At our core, we know this is true, but we may skim past it too quickly, rather than allowing it to take deep root within us. Perhaps this is one of the discrepancies that led Mahatma Ghandi to say, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Let’s slow down for a moment and take inventory of our hearts, considering the places we might profess a love for peace while demonstrating something quite contrary.
Peace in Our Home
When my husband and I got married, we were both working in ministry. A few weeks prior to the wedding, we had lunch with my father-in-law who also happened to be the pastor officiating our ceremony. Among the many wise words he shared with us that afternoon, he said, “Your marriage is your first ministry. You take care of this first.”
With bold ambition and wonderful intentions, we may ‘serve’ the rest of the world as a peacemaker without first tending to the conflict, pain and wounded places in our own homes. Whether we are married, living with roommates or living alone, our homes are the epicenter of our lives. Are we peacemakers with our spouses, our children, our roommates? Or do we serve the world relentlessly and leave these relationships broken and bruised? Are we peacemakers towards our own souls, or do we fill our minds with conflict, drama, violence and the empty-calorie junk food of the internet?
If we can’t live out the gospel in our homes, with those whom we share life’s most ordinary and sacred moments, we cannot effectively take it into the world.
Peace in Our Local Community
There’s nothing like an election season or a slice of political controversy to bring out our lack of understanding in matters of peace. A 60-second scroll of Facebook will show how quickly we revert to mud slinging. While the issues debated may be at the heart of God, there is no Biblical justification for the vicious name-calling that often accompanies our defense of them. The relationships at stake and the picture we paint of Jesus himself cannot be sacrificed in the name of political awareness.
The homeless man at the stoplight, is he one of ‘us’? Jesus would have spoken to him, cared for him, shared life with him. Do we respond with this commitment to peace and love, and or do we trivialize his plight by calling him ‘lazy’? Do we look away or do we step forward?
Whether it’s politics, church competition, or a general way of interacting with the world, if our language reflects an attitude of us versus them, we are not capturing God’s heart for reconciliation and true peace.
Peace in Our Global Community
There are 27 million slaves in the world today. There are more slaves right now than throughout the entire transcontinental slave trade combined. There are slaves overseas and slaves in our neighborhoods. It’s a 32 billion dollar industry churning out the very products we fill our homes with and feed our families.
In America, a white male with a criminal record is 5% more likely to get a job than a black male with a clean record. When it comes to college, 71% of white people will receive a bachelor’s degree versus only 21% of people of color.
Ebola raged on in West Africa for months before the world intervened, when it seemed that it might affect their interests as well.
These issues and others like them must move us to action. As far as it depends on us (Romans 12:18), we must do more than be aware. In the face of the suffering of millions - individual people who were born out of the very breath of God that brought each of us into being - what we will we do?
Instead of turning a blind eye or brushing their pain off for being too big, too complex or too removed from our own lives, we must ask what our part is. In our homes and with our resources, how can we work for peace for those that seem far from us?
In a culture driven by cynicism and drama, we are called to lay down our lives for the sake of peace. In our homes, our minds, our communities and our world, we must “make every effort to do what leads to peace” (Romans 14:19). What does that mean for your life today?
Cara Joyner is a freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom living on the East Coast with her husband and two sons. After years of working in student ministry, she has come home to raise her boys and begin tackling grad school. She loves hanging out with college students, watching Parenthood and eating chocolate like it's one of the food groups. In addition to iBelieve, Cara is a contributing writer at RELEVANT and Today's Christian Woman. She writes about faith, marriage, motherhood and intentional living at www.carajoyner.com. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.