Tired of it yet?
The fighting. Blaming. Name-calling.
Are you tired of it yet?
I trust most of us answer quickly, emphatically: Yes, we’re tired of this national war over ideology, the ugliness of it all, the way it dominates our newsfeeds, Facebook pages and even family relationships.
In the wake of our presidential election, this has become clear: The fighting doesn’t stop just because the polls close, the ballots are all counted, one side wins and the other loses.
I’m sure you’ve noticed: The fighting continues.
And it will continue until many, many more of us, in aggregate, consider a much more local battle, the one in our own hearts. The battle for peace with others, in no small part, is a struggle within ourselves.
“Blessed are the peacemakers,” says Jesus in the Beatitudes, “for they shall be called sons of God.”
Jesus’ words are startling in their context: His first listeners were people oppressed by others, living without freedom, daily reminded of the painful unfairness of it all. This is what it meant to be a Jew under Roman rule of first century Palestine.
Yet, Jesus spoke of happiness: You’ll be happy as you work for peace with others. And you’ll be known to others as the people of God.
Did you catch that last part?
God’s people – Christians – are known to be true friends of God through their peaceable attitude toward others, even their enemies.
A peaceable demeanor does not just happen. It takes hard, humbling, restraining work.
In his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul describes this labor toward peace as nothing less than the death of self-assertion.
“Repay no one evil for evil,” says Romans 12:17. “Have regard for good things in the sight of all men.”
Peaceable people stifle the strong desire to retaliate. Peaceable people value honoring others over getting into the pit with opponents, slinging mud until both sides are covered with it.
Paul’s petition to peacemakers continues: “If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men.”
I used to love this verse, because I misread it to be a hall pass for my accepting – far too easily – contention with others. Here is an acknowledgment that I cannot be at peace with everyone, I reasoned, so why not relish battle?
Such an attitude seems far from God’s heart for his people. He’s insisting that to be at peace with others demands much from us. Much depends on you – and me – if we’re to live peaceably with others.
Peace at times will cost us our pride, our craving to be perceived as right, the need to get the last word, the tendency toward tearing down others so that we might stand taller.
God’s Word continues: “… do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath … ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.’ ”
Here is the heart of peace – trusting God to do what God alone can do: rightly judge the human heart. We cannot do so; and the condemning words and actions of this election cycle bear sorry evidence to what happens when we play the role of judge. Division, not peace, is ensured.
To be clear, we cannot always be at peace with others. Blind acquiescence to evil is a fraudulent peace.
But even in conflict, the caution of Scripture is that we can always be peaceable people. The call of Scripture to be peacemakers is a call to mirror the Gospel itself.
Christians enjoy peace with God because Jesus humbled himself, made himself of no reputation and worked for our good by going to the cross. To be a peacemaker is to live with the same mindset of selflessness, forgiveness and humility.
May God give us grace to do so.
Steve Massey is pastor of Hayden Bible Church (www.haydenbible.org). He can be reached at (208) 772-2511 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.