To practice the grace of peacemaking is to practice love. It is practicing love because the love of God is expressed to us in the offer of peace through the person and work of Jesus Christ. By spreading that peace through the sharing of the gospel and by living at peace with one another, we mirror and reflect God’s love to the world. God is a God of peace, therefore His children are peacemakers.
Whose responsibility is it to make peace? It’s our responsibility! We want it to be their responsibility (whoever “they” might be) but God makes it clear it’s our responsibility! If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. There are no exceptions. God did not provide any kind of loop hole or small print in the margins of Scripture for this command. If you are not at peace with somebody, no matter who it is, no matter whose fault it is, no matter how serious it is, it is your responsibility to work for peace!
The reason it is so important to be a peacemaker is because this is how God wants us to see and respond to conflict. Conflict is the opportunity to show the power of God’s grace. Conflict is the classroom where we learn to love others as Jesus loves us. If we want to follow Jesus’ command to love one another as He loves us, then we need to respond to conflict in the same way He responds to conflict.
When we see people outside of the love and care of Christ, and therefore living in conflict with God, we need to respond by bringing them to Jesus by sharing the good news of the gospel with them. When we find ourselves or others in conflict with one another, we need to respond with the power of the God of Peace to restore our relationships with one another. To practice the grace of peacemaking is to practice God’s love.
But that isn’t the attitude most of us have about conflict is it? You don’t hear people saying, “Yes! Conflict! Another opportunity for me to grow and share the love of Christ!” That’s not what you hear, you hear what I hear: “Great! More conflict! I don’t need this God! I need peace! Why do You continually surround me with such miserable, lousy, thumb sucking, spoiled brats? I can’t get away from all this conflict!”
Let me tell you something, the reason God gave you your miserable wife, husband, son, daughter, mother, father, friend, or boss not because He’s mad at you, but because God loves you and wants you to be learning how to be a peacemaker! And you can’t do it without having conflict!
Jesus is not a peace giver, He’s a peace maker! Making anything takes work. Making anything takes effort. Making anything has a cost. Making peace is no different. Jesus had to make peace between us and His Father before He had any to give. Jesus calls us to be peacemakers so that we can be like Him. An overwhelming part of the Christian life is spent dealing with conflict so that we can be learning what it is to be a peacemaker! What a thing to be learning!
How do you become a peacemaker? Let me close by sharing a few specific habits we all need to be learning so that we can excel at being peacemakers.
- Over look as much as possible. Love covers a multitude of sins (Proverbs 10:12). So much conflict can be squelched before it even begins by just keeping our mouth shut! We do not need to point out every wrong, hurtful, or ignorant thing that people do or say. Remember that the Holy Spirit does not treat you that way. If He had a buzzer go off in our head every time we did something wrong, we would have a constant ringing in our ears! Don’t be a constant ringing in your neighbor’s ear. Over look as much as possible.
- Be willing to yield first. Consider others better than yourself (Philippians 2:3). Making peace almost certainly comes at personal cost and this often means being the first to yield when we are in conflict with one another. Don’t let pride keep you from working to make peace with your brother or sister.
- Do not wait. Even if you are angry, do not wait too long. Paul tells us, Do not let the sun go down on your anger (Ephesians 4:26). If you let your anger stew, assuming it is a righteous anger, it will soon cease to be so, and then you will be sinning too. Generally, the longer you wait, the more difficult the conflict becomes. Another reason we should not wait to resolve conflict is that it can impede our worship. Jesus tells us, Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. (Matthew 5:23-24).
- Do all that you can. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you (Romans 12:18). We’ve already covered that.
Pray. Don’t just pray for the other person or people to get a “wake up slap” by the Holy Spirit. Pray for these four things.
- Pray that God will show you how You can respond to this conflict in a way that brings glory to God.
- Second, pray that God will show you your part in the conflict so that you can repent for your part in it. That means getting the log out of your own eye before you start thinking about getting the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.
- Third, pray that God would give you the wisdom and grace to gentry restore them.
- And fourth, ask God to help you get reconciled to your neighbor (these points under prayer were taken from the 4 G’s of peacemaking from Ken Sande’s, The Peacemaker).
Love them regardless. Sometimes, we aren’t able to make peace. Sometimes this process takes a long time. We need to take to heart the advice of an old French Bishop named Fenelon (it is Fenelon Friday after all!).
Don’t allow yourself to be upset by what people are saying about you. Let the world talk. All you need to be concerned about is doing the will of God. As for what people want, you can’t please everybody, and it isn’t worth the effort. One quiet moment in the presence of God will more than repay you for every bit of slander that will ever be leveled against you. You must learn to love other people without expecting any friendship from them at all. People tend to be quite fickle. They love us and leave us, they go and come. They shift from one position to another like a kite in the wind, or like a feather in the breeze. Let them do as they will. Just be sure that you only see God in them. They could do nothing to you without His permission. So, in the end, it is He that tests or blesses us, using them as we have need. (Let Go, Fenelon, pp. 33-34).
If we are going to love one another as Jesus loves us, we will be peacemakers. Being peacemakers shows us to be sons of God. That means we need to look at conflict as an opportunity for us to grow and for us to show the love and grace of God to one another. We can do that by overlooking as much as possible, being willing to yield, not letting a lot of time go by before we deal with conflict, in doing all that we can, by praying for resolution, and loving people regardless of how they love us.