Monday, March 23, 2015

Being a Peace-Maker verses a Peace-Keeper

Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called children of God. - Matthew 5:9

I was listening to a Christian talk radio show 10 days ago, on a long drive to deliver Ella to her grandparents.  They were featuring a lady whose family was living in major conflict.  I remember her saying, "I've tried to keep the peace.  We all have, but it just isn't working." In that moment, I thought, "There is a big difference between being a peace-keeper and a peace-maker."

Keeping the peace means the situation is not resolved, only status-quo.  Nothing changes and everyone walks on eggshells.  The undercurrent of an imminent blow up is just under the surface.  The elephant is in the room, taking up most of it, but everyone is content to leave it alone.  Indeed, no one wants to go near it.  JThe mindset is keeping your head down and not rocking the boat.

Peace-making is a whole other business, with a totally different mindset.  "Making Peace" is about seeking a resolve, not continuing to swim, thinking the riptide of conflict won't get you.  It isn't arrogance, but rather a humble confidence and a peace-maker keeps their head up.  A person that wants peace is willing to be the one to point out the elephant and show it the door.  Peace making seeks change and change for the better because ultimately, a peace-maker knows peace isn't dependent on what we can or will do, but rather what God will do when we invite Him into the conversation.

To that end, peace is a lot like forgiveness because it is impossible without God.  Real true lasting peace is a pipe dream without the work of the Holy Spirit; to give us a holy compassion for those in the middle of the conflict.  And like forgiveness, peace isn't just for the other person, it is for us.  You could say peace and forgiveness are close, personal friends.  Like goodness and mercy, they are siblings of the same parents; and most certainly fruit from the same vine.

In the New Testament, the word peace-maker is the word eirenopoios, a combination of two Greek words, eirene and poleo.  Interestingly enough, in that combination, it is an adjective instead of a noun or verb.  I have elementary school kids learning grammar fundamentals (good for me, I need to re-learn them), so it stands out to me.  That transition into a descriptive setting tells you something.  It communicates a message about something...or better yet, someone  It tells you about who we are as the Children of God.

In Matthew 5:9, being a peace-maker describes what happens when God's sons and daughters do what Daddy asks.  Obedience is part of our new-nature and as a result, it is required.  But we don't just obey like robots, obedience comes from seeing Who God really is and responding to Him, out of love.  And real, lasting peace is a product of love.  It is something created from nothing - light from darkness.  That's why it is a work of God and that is why we are called blessed when we desire to make peace.  We are seeking the will, the way of God over our own.

Confession time: when my natural self encounters offense, the best idea seems to stay hacked off.  I don't want to forgive, forget and make peace.  I want to sit in my "rightness" and let them suffer in their "wrongness," even taking it as far as I can to make sure they know how right I am (and, of course, how wrong they are.)

Taking the idea beyond normal, every day offenses, when you are talking like this lady on the radio was, about grievous sins, such as physical and emotional abuse and molestation, well....people should pay.  That is fair, especially when it is children bearing their offense.  Justice needs to be done; and who better than I to inflict it on those who need to be judged? 

But wait, did Jesus mean to be peace-makers in only the ordinary stuff?  That seems doable, but the bigger stuff, let's just string them all up!  Get a rope!

No, the Lord never stopped there.  In all things, we are not to try and keep peace or to take matters into our own hands.  We are to make peace, through His power and for His glory.

The Lord knows if He gave us the opportunity to avenge wrongs, we would scorch the earth.  The Almighty is the only one capable of vengeance because He knows the entire back-story.  Only He has the perspective required to deal justly with all of us because we've incurred just as many debts as our debtors, even if ours might are less obvious to the naked eye.

So - what's to be done?  How do we make peace?  Peace-making, stripped down to the bare bones, is an attitude of the heart.  Back again to forgiveness (that's always the beginning.)  Forgiveness ushers in a change of atmosphere like nothing else.  I've experienced this first hand.  Let me take you back about 8 years and walk you through a true story...

I was in the midst of a heavy learning curve on how to walk with Jesus on top of the shark-infested waters of corporate America (no easy task and I sank more often than not).  There was an incident I was involved in with a man on my sales team.  We were at an off-site conference when he confronted me, beginning with the words, "Let me finally tell you what I think about you."  I did not respond well.  Lots of people saw (and heard) the whole ugly business, which led to HR telling our bosses to get it resolved or they would.  I was (more or less) in the right and he in the wrong.  Did I mention we were on the same sales team?

For two weeks following "The Incident with Amy and John," management put in a sub to work with me so I could keep my sales pipeline going.  It was sublime.  But this was only temporary. The resolve came at a scheduled "sit down," so we could air our grievances and hopefully get on with the business of selling software together.  I will be totally transparent, I had no intention of forgiving this man.  He'd embarrassed me on a number of occasions, including in front of customers and he was flat out not doing his job.

With "The Incident," I would have been justified in pursuing an HR complaint that lead to his reassignment at the very least, or worse, his firing.

But this verse from Matthew 5:9, haunted me for for 2 long, uncomfortable weeks.  The Word kept working its way in, separating bone from marrow.  As the time for the meeting got closer, my heart got softer.  It dawned on me there was another way to go about this.  I had no idea what that was (I repeat NO IDEA) till one day when the thought took hold:

Forgive him, Amy,

WHAT?? NO WAY!! That's nuts.

Still, if you've ever encountered "The Hound of Heaven," you will know what I mean when I say He chased me down till I gave up.  Or I gave in.  Either way, held my hands up and said, "Ok, God, I surrender.  I'm going to look like an idiot, but ok, I'll forgive him."

(By the way, that's the risk of being a peace-maker.  You might come off as an idiot.)

The day of the meeting came and we sat down on opposite sides of a conference room, each with our bosses flanking us.  The tension in the room was ridiculous.  I have never been more uncomfortable and able to almost touch the discomfort of others.  No one volunteered to go first, so my boss (thanks Jim) flipped a coin.  Heads I would go first, tails it would be John.

You know what happened.  It landed undoubtedly heads up.  You go, Amy. Don't be afraid and just speak it. I opened my mouth and simply said, "John, I forgive you.  Please forgive me."

You could have heard a pin drop, until our bosses' jaws hit the floor.  The air in the room literally shifted, I felt it happen, like someone opened a window.  I know now that was God's peace flooding in, from the window I opened into heaven.  John, my salty, rough-edged co-worker who regularly railed against anything and everything, started to cry. He bawled for a good 30 minutes as he unloaded all of his struggles (which explained a lot of his antagonism).

I discovered, in real time, the truth of Proverbs 16:7: When a man's ways please the Lord, he causes their enemies to make peace with them.

John and I didn't part best of friends, but we were able to work together till the end of the quarter (and not make life miserable for everyone, especially our bosses.)  He was moved to another team and then I had the two best quarters of my career, right before I left to stay home with our (then) 2 girls.  Two months after I resigned, we moved to Trinidad and I got my calling to write.  I left my corporate career like the Israelites left Egypt, gold being thrown at me.

Yes, I worked my tail off, but I believe the Lord blessed my work because of my willingness to forgive and make peace.  He blessed us even more so since then; in many ways much more significant than in the financial realm (although we are grateful for that!).

The moral of the story is this: when you obey Your Heavenly Father, He is able to bless you beyond anything you can ask or think.  When we seek to make peace - through forgiveness - He won't hesitate to help us, deliver us and form us into the image of His Son.  And add the cherry of character and gifts on top.

Peace-keeping is about staying where you are but peace-making is daring to move forward.  Peace-making is allowing God to do things His way by surrendering our own.  It is a significant step into really having the character of Christ.  It is truly, as the Apostle Paul said in 1 Corinthians 12:31 - the best way of all.

It is not the easy way, but it is the best.  I hope you have the chance to practice a little more best in your life this week.

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