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FAITHFUL LIVING: Peacemakers rely on God's help
I was a young, elementary school student the first time I stood in line at McDonalds. It was a Saturday, early evening, and I had been lugging a box of light bulbs throughout my neighborhood, serving as Daddys helper as he fundraised for his Kiwanis Club. I recall wearing a small apron identifying our service club affiliation and dutifully handing out each box, containing two bulbs, as they were sold. I had put up with more than a few patronizing pats on the head and while I know I had been well behaved around the customers, I probably grumped to Dad while walking to each house. For my good humor and exceptional patience I was rewarded with a trip to the new restaurant and boy, was I excited. There were huge golden arches lighting up the walk-up windows and the exterior was covered with large shiny red and white tiles that made the old Dairy Queen across the street look rather tame.
If memory serves me right Dad bought me a regular hamburger, fries and a soft drink for a dollar. I remember the way the small, soft burger felt in my hands and the enjoyment I got out of stuffing the salty, soft fries into my mouth.
I also recall an extremely rude customer standing immediately in front of us. She yanked on her childrens arms and hollered when the teenaged employee miscounted her change. While watching the scene I encircled my dads leg with my tiny arms and buried my face to hide the tears that filled my eyes. To this day my eyes water when I observe someone behaving badly in public. I frequently feel embarrassed for people embroiled in conflict and cannot believe that they would choose to be unkind rather than take a breath and consider quick, civil ways to make things right between each other.
I routinely react this way because I am a peacemaker. So is my dad. Its the way we are wired and like anything else, it can be a blessing at moments and a burden at others. When its a blessing I experience deep satisfaction. I watch as calm presides over formally stormy seas. People grow in character, new relationships form and learning to live in love seems possible. Peacemaking feels like a burden when there is anger and misunderstanding and I am pulled into the fray, affectively disarmed by the drama. I frequently feel deep pain, at my worst cannot think clearly when there is strife and want to run far away from the rift or hurt or conflict, all the while knowing I cannot.
The New Testament frequently instructs readers on various ways to get along and promises spiritual maturity as a reward. To many, however, peacemaking conjures up ideas Im not sure God intended. I do not think God mixes peacemaking with peace loving, for example, as we so often do. Peace lovers seek calm and solitude and resent those who like heat and tension and a good fight. Then there are the peaceable people who rarely get disturbed by much of anything. They are the ones who are so heavenly minded they are of no earthly good to anyone.
Peacemakers observe people and situations and ask God for guidance and strength as they encourage deeper, more committed relationships to form. Sometimes peacemakers avoid the fight. Sometimes they actually create it. Mostly they seek to resolve conflict and bring people back into communion with each other.
According to Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-driven Life, our focus should stay on relationships and how we might be a part of reconciliation. To constantly seek resolution to problems rather than encouraging people to work toward understanding and respect, love and companionship, is to polarize people. After all, it is completely unrealistic to believe that people, after enough talk at best or fighting at worst, will eventually see matters eye to eye. It is impossible to gain a 100 percent consensus of opinion. It is quite possible for people to love each other and still not share the same points of views on issues of little and great importance.
There are seven approaches peacemakers use to help bring people back into a right relationship with each other. For now, privately consider who it is that you are no longer close to but you feel you need to make peace with. Pray for wisdom and next week well investigate new ways you might begin to act as a peacemaker.
Freelance writer Joan Bay Klopes e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org