Part 1: An introduction to the Recipe
We often have misconceptions about peace and conflict. Our inclination is to define peace as the absence of conflict. We avoid conflict, therefore we try to avoid “controversy,” uncomfortable topics, and painful truths. The end result, is quite often silence in the face of problems, silence in the face of injustice, silence in the face of wrongs, dishonesty, disunity, and other sins (among them, racism).
I have often heard it said that if we “just stop talking about racism,” it will simply go away. There is a tendency for us to simply “paint over” wrongs, deem them relics of the past, and characterize those who point out there is a problem and insist on talking about it as “troublemakers,” or “divisive,” or “stuck in the past,” or “seeking conflict” instead of peace. Avoidance does not lead to peace, but simply drives problems underground so that they may continue and simmer.
The family in the video below took a unique approach of leaving up the racist, threatening, degrading graffiti for awhile in order to stimulate dialogue in their neighborhood and to identify a problem. This is an approach we can take in various areas of life (and not just about racism)…and it is one that the Church needs to take as well. We can pretend a problem is not there….but it is still there, under all the paint we may layer over it.
“Take the boys out the back when you take them to school. I don’t want them to see this …but while I am thinking that through..I’m like I’m going to hide this from my son? That will be wrong of me.” Ken Jenkins, Homeowner and victim of racist graffiti
“But you won’t talk about it? That won’t change anything. How will your son understand it later when he deals with it?” Ken Jenkins, ” Homeowner and victim of racist graffiti
Too often, we want peace without experiencing the conflict. We want reconciliation without doing the hard, painful work. We don’t want to examine ourselves. Whether the problem or the injustice is caused by ourselves or others, whether it is in our workplace, our home, our family, our relationships, or in our Church, we want everyone to “just get along,” “keep the peace,” and keep everything calm and smooth.
We want this…even when under the surface are buried wrongs, ongoing, unaddressed problems, unspoken interpersonal conflicts, tormenting internal conflict, deep wounds, and hidden sins.
What are we called to do as followers of Christ?
Whatever the inclinations of our “natural man,” what are we called to do as followers of Christ?
Matthew 5:9 reads: “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.” (KJV). The Greek meaning of the word “peacemakers” in this verse is “one who restores peace and reconciliation between persons and even nations.” (Strong’s Concordance, 1518).
Another meaning of peacemaking is “to make peace, to cause reconciliation between two parties, as in Christ causing the believer’s peace with God.” (Strong’s Concordance 1517). Jesus Christ came as the ultimate peacemaker. Through his sacrifice on the cross, He created peace and reconciliation between fallen, lost humanity and His father. Through Christ, we are able to call God our Father as well.
We are called to follow Christ. We are called to be peacemakers and reconcilers, helping others to make peace with and be reconciled to God. We are equally called to be peacemakers by helping to restore peace and reconciliation between persons and nations. In biblical times, the word “nation” was not used to indicate nation states as we understand them in modern times, but rather people groups or tribes. So, we believers are called to make peace between persons and also people groups.
How do we restore reconciliation?
How do we go about “restoring peace and reconciliation between persons and nations?”
If we examine the biblical model, we see that long before God sent Christ to earth to reconcile human beings to himself, first, humanity had to recognize the truth of their separation from God, their sinful, fallen nature, so that they would see that they were in rebellion against God and see their need to be reconciled with God. The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 3: 24 regarding the role of the Old Testament law, “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.” (KJV)
God used the law to expose to humanity our lost condition. He used the law to reveal the truth of the human condition.
In simplistic terms, God told humanity the truth about our problem: though we are made in his image and likeness, from birth we are born into sin and possess a fallen nature.
So, before God sent his Son, the peacemaker, the reconciler of us to himself….He told us THE TRUTH about ourselves and our need for a savior.
What are our roles as peacemakers?
So, what does this tell us about our role as peacemakers/reconcilers and the process of peacemaking and reconciliation?
It tells us that whatever the problem, the situation, the injustice, the sin, the division is that cries out for reconciliation, we FIRST must expose and acknowledge the TRUTH of that situation. Without hearing, examining, speaking, acknowledging the TRUTH, reconciliation will NOT happen.
But facing truths about ourselves, about our loved ones, our church, about our history, as well as other problems, including interpersonal relationships is usually hard, painful, and something we tend to shy away from.
But as peacemakers….we cannot run from the truth. We cannot evade self-examination. We cannot evade facing painful truths. We cannot take refuge in the cocoon of silence, or proclaim a “false peace” of “getting along.” We cannot order the wronged party to simply “forgive,” yet be unwilling to examine the wrong, the injustice, or the situation that brought about the division that brings the need for forgiveness. We cannot take refuge in pat answers, cliches, quick “I’m sorry’s” or cheap grace.
But speaking the truth is costly. It comes with a price.
And the truth inevitably leads to conflict…..
To be continued . . .