We live in an increasingly fractured world: Divided by politics, race, international conflicts, and personal slights and offenses that become the grounds for division. The sad thing is not that such fracturing is commonplace but that it has become commonplace among God’s people and in our families and congregations. We divide over theological and personal differences; over politics; over offenses that we experience and won’t give up. We are a divided people and relational conflict is commonplace.
And we have our principles, convictions and beliefs and these often cause us to double down, refuse to forgive or to look for ways of relational peace rather than division. Our world has always been divided. But: into that divided world came a Savior whose purpose was to bridge the gap between God and ourselves and between us and those around us.
To be like Jesus is to be a peacemaker. Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” To follow God is to join Him in bringing peace to our fractured world.
The world of Jesus’ day was a world of conflict and division as well. Jews and Gentiles didn’t get along. Slaves and free did not relate. Men and women were divided by how one treated the other. The differing ethnic groups that made up those ancient cities gave all kinds of reasons to live with division. And finally, the socio economic differences between rich and poor, entitled and those without power all contributed to a world of division and conflict. And into that brew comes Jesus, the One who consistently subverts the status quo and says to them all “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
I am sure that many who heard that statement were shocked because they had their convictions and their principles and they were sure they were right and therefore had no obligation to work toward relational peace. Yet, Jesus said, to be like God you must be a peacemaker. That is who He is.
Jesus was called the Prince of peace. Paul writes this about His death on the cross. “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one spirit.” Ephesians 2:14-18
The common word in these verses is “peace.” Peace with God and peace with one another based on Christ’s work on the cross. At the cross, says Paul, Jesus destroyed the hostility between us and God and the hostility between us and our neighbor. Jesus came to bring peace and calls us to join Him in seeking peace wherever possible.
How do we do that in a world that is so divided? Here are some of the principles Paul gives us.
- Be devoted to one another in love.
- Honor one another above yourselves.
- Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
- Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
- Live in harmony with one another.
- Do not be proud but be willing to associate with people of low position.
- Do not be conceited.
- Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
- Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
- Do not take revenge.
- Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
All of these instructions are found in Romans 12 and Paul sums it all up when he says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Jesus is calling us to a life of less conflict and more peace. To avoid division wherever possible and to contribute to peaceful relationships, especially among members of God’s family but also beyond.
As we let go of our egos and as we elevate Christ rather than ourselves, we are called here to do all we can to live in harmony, peace, and love with one another. So our question today is twofold: First, who am I divided from or have conflict with? Second, what can I do to seek to bridge that gap, just as Jesus gave His life to bridge the gap between God and us and between us together?
Peacemaking is not an easy task. It may mean that I have to forgive. It may mean that I have to humble myself to have a conversation I don’t really want to have. It may mean that I need to lay aside my pride and find ways to bless others who irritate us or who have offended us. It may mean that I need to be more tolerant of others' political choices and bless them in spite of those differences. It might mean that God is calling me to bury the hatchet of conflict and division and embrace others as Christ went to the cross to embrace me.
As we follow in the footsteps of Jesus on His way to the cross, let's also follow in His footsteps in making peace where we currently experience conflict. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.”
Father, help me to become a person who loves peace and who is committed to making peace where there is division. In the words of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi:
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; Where there is sadness, joy. O Divine Master, Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; To be understood, as to understand; To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.” Amen.
The question to consider today: Is there a relationship or situation where I can contribute to peace?