Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
Sarah Bessey called it the "summer of sadness" and that resonated within me. We saw Boko Haram kidnap schoolgirls from their beds, ISIS chasing villagers up the mountain to die, civilians in the Gaza strip dying by the hundreds, over 50,000 children traveling thousands of miles in hopes of a better existence being detained in camps...the list goes on and on and on. I felt all of it. And even more so, I felt my helplessness in the face of it. I wasn't sure that anything I did would make a difference. One afternoon, I was in my room, praying, processing, thinking in blog (I do this more than I should admit) and wondering what-if anything-I should do.
On my nightstand there was a Relevant magazine that I'd looked forward to reading for weeks but hadn't had a chance yet because of the move, work schedule, etc.
I'd looked at this thing for weeks but somehow at that moment, the title hit me harder than it had before. "Blessed are the peacemakers" I realized two things almost simultaneously.
1) Peace doesn't just happen. It's made.
2) As much as we are called to be advocates, abolitionists and bearers of justice...we are more called to be peacemakers. Jesus says in his Sermon on the Mount that the peacemakers will be called children of God.
I had to admit...quite painfully...that I wasn't sure how to be a peacemaker. I was pretty sure I had the role of "activist" down pretty well, but peacemaker...
In an article by Lynn Hybels, she says "there is a huge difference between being an angry activist and being a peacemaker" and goes on to explain that one can cause more harm than good-to herself as well as the people she wants to help. The truth of it that hit home but I was hoping for a list or a character summary or something that would help move me from one to the other. Lynn Hybels suggested 1 Corinthians 13 as a start. You know, the love chapter. Apparently Jesus actually meant that being known by our love thing since it keeps coming back to that.
For the record, angry activist is easier. Especially this week.
My heart is breaking and I'm angry and disgusted and discouraged. Social media has me so disgusted that I refuse to log on in the fear that if I do, I'll lose all hope in humanity. But, at the same time, I don't want to remove myself completely. Because, if we need anything right now, we need peacemakers. And I'm still learning, still wobbly, and completely and totally imperfect. But I'm trying. And I think that slowly, if there are enough peacemakers, there will be change.
If you, like me, want desperately to see peace...if you are working toward being a peacemaker...but you wouldn't mind a list, here's what I have so far...
1) Being a peacemaker doesn't mean not speaking truth. In the 1930's world leaders, desperate for peace, allowed Hitler to do things they should never have stood for...in the hopes he would be satisfied and there would be no war. Obviously, that didn't work out. Being a peacemaker doesn't mean not standing up for what is right. I think it's the way we take our stance that makes a difference. There is a huge difference in taking a stance with our hands out than with our fists up.
2) Jonathan Sacks says "The greatest single antidote to violence is conversation" Here is my experience and I believe it is a universal one...it is a lot harder to judge a minority, a "side" or a person when we know them, when we have relationship with them. And the way we build relationship is through conversation. The way we understand the other "side" is through conversation. And by conversation, I mean two way communication. In which there is talking and listening...and attempting to understand even when you don't agree. I don't care if you don't believe racism exists in this country...if the person you are talking to believes it, then that is their perception and therefore their reality and you arguing with them without any attempt to understand why they feel that way isn't going to change anything. If the person you are talking to doesn't believe racism exists in this country, calling them names isn't going to change their mind. All the yelling, name calling and finger pointing in the world isn't going to change anything. It just sends people to their corner, ready to come out fighting.
3) Step out of your conventions, your boundaries and your comfort zone. We serve a Jesus who walked through Samaria, talked to women in public, and touched lepers. So maybe a conversation with someone who identifies as LGBTQ, sharing a meal with an immigrant (and not worrying about their legal status) or going into neighborhoods we wouldn't normally step foot in (for some that is the poverty stricken areas...for others the home of a "soccer mom").
4) Stop identifying the "issue" and see the humanity behind it. This is one of my biggest problems right now...especially in the Christian community, we discuss the LGBTQ community, the situation in Ferguson and the immigrant community as issues to be debated rather than seeing the people involved. It is telling to me that in Darren Wilson's interviews that were released this week he identified Michael Brown as "it" more than "he". In warfare the military dehumanizes the other side giving them common nicknames like "Charlie" because it is harder to kill an individual. Likewise, it is a lot easier to debate issues than people. Recently in my public speaking class I was to give a presentation...before the presentation I asked three questions and after the presentation I asked the same three questions. Before I gave my presentation, the answer to "describe what you think the average person on food stamps is like" went along the lines of "drug dealing, ghetto, welfare mom" (seriously, those were the answers). After my presentation, after finding out 25% of our military families are on food stamps, after hearing about how I'd been on food stamps...the answers were drastically different. The issue had been humanized.
5) Approach everything with and in love...if we are to be known by our love, 1 Corinthians 13 is how we should be approaching every one and everything we encounter. If the fruits of the Spirit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control...what are we exhibiting on our Facebook feed? We don't do this in our own power. I am certainly not going to be able to love the prejudiced truck driver making racist comments in my front lobby without the help of Jesus. For those wrestling with this, I suggest a lot of prayer and maybe a word study in your Bible (or...like Lynn Hybels....reading 1 Corinthians 13 every morning and evening until it starts to work).
6) Be willing to get your hands dirty. In the current situation, the town of Ferguson needs to know it is loved. The library is providing a safe haven for students, the food banks are open, and there is a lot of clean up to do. If you can't be there to get your hands dirty, provide resources so others can. It's important that our words and actions match. But don't do so to take sides. I love what Elias Chacour, an Arab priest, said to a group of women coming to Palestine "If you are here to pick sides, then please leave. We don't need you. But if you're willing to figure out what it means to be a common friend to both Israelis and Palestenians, we welcome you." We are there to help, to work for common good...and to do so, we need to be a "common friend."
Be willing to let your heart be broken. If the stories we are hearing aren't breaking your heart, you aren't listening. Or maybe you are afraid if you let your heart be broken, it'll never come together again. But God is the God who can put can put Humpty Dumpty (and our hearts) back together again. And I'm convinced that to be a peacekeeper, we must feel the hurt of the broken, the angry, the oppressed.
Carry On, Peacemaker