Want to be a Peacemaker? Get ready for some pain.

When Jesus said that peacemakers are blessed, he didn’t mean their lives would be smooth sailing.

Far from it. Jesus got crucified as a peacemaker. He was slaughtered for his uncompromising call away from personal and political agendas, agendas that had and would continue to fail at peace. He was rejected for calling his own people away from violence and into the way of God’s flourishing shalom. People hated him and killed him for it.

Peacemakers live dangerously.

Rather than enjoying an idyllic life far from the fray, peacemakers witness at the very point of conflict, crushed between warring parties and often hated by both sides.

When Jesus called the peacemakers “blessed,” he linked their action with their identity–he said that they would be called “children of God.” (Matt. 5:9) And we find out that being a child of God means experiencing some of the family pain, the rejection, the violent crushing that the Father, Son and Spirit endured through the peace-making incarnation of Jesus Christ. It is when we pursue peace and wholeness–and suffering for it–that we look most like our Triune God. The Bible’s vision of peace is more fully captured in the Hebrew word “shalom,” which is a picture of full flourishing, wholeness and rightness, for all of God’s creation–humans, animals, and the very earth itself.  And when we pursue that vision, all the powers of the world opposed to God’s renewing and recreating vision rise up to fight.

What does this mean practically? When we speak truth in love to a spouse, we may experience anger for daring to raise our voice. When we identify an area of historic injustice and seek God’s righteousness, we will face opposition, sometimes from people we thought would support us. When we call estranged people together for reconciliation, we will be accused of meddling. When we pursue more earth-careful practices for the sake of local water, we can take heat from people who should know better. I could go on.

Being peacemakers invites the same response Jesus experienced. Could this be part of what Jesus meant when he said “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first”? (John 15:18 NIV) Applied more broadly, people operating through non-gospel lens will respond strongly to overtures of peace, because peace always indicates changes in heart and practice. Even professed Jesus-followers could end up hating those who make peace because their own gospel-contrary patterns of life are being confronted and urged to be transformed to God’s perfect will. 

To be children of God, we must seek the wholeness and flourishing of God’s creation, from our marriages to our businesses to God’s good earth. But making peace comes at a cost–it always has.

Is the cost worth it? Yes. Just take a look at the cross.

 

 

Reconciliation always comes at a cost

There is no such thing as free reconciliation.

Whether we’re talking about repairing estranged friendships, correcting systemic abuse or redeeming human beings to the Creator, reconciliation costs.

But sometimes we approach difficult situations believing we should be able to settle everything without giving anything up, without any cost to either party.  But if reconciliation were painless, then either someone did not really understand the nature of the problem and walked away still unaware of the actual need for reconciliation, or there never was much of a break in the first place.

jesus-christ-on-the-crossOur primary example is, of course, Jesus Christ himself. If we ever get to thinking reconciliation is painless, we need only to look to the cross. Reconciliation–confronting the evil, the sin, the hurt, the difficulty with the express intent of naming, forgiving and overcoming it in the name of Jesus and for the sake of restoration–we measure that cost out in blood.

So when we consider our own need for reconciliation, to make things right between individuals, families, churches, ethnicities, nations–we must accept the costs associated with that reconciliation. We follow Jesus, who hung on a cross bloodied with sin so that we (and by that I mean “all of us together”) can be restored relationally.  To be reconcilers in this world, we will suffer. It will cost. We will bleed.

But reconciliation is worth the cost. Just ask Jesus.

20/20: Lesson #5: The Local Church is God’s Plan

How is God going to pull everything together? What is God’s plan to make his grace and forgiveness known and experienced in the world? Through his people, the church.

The local church is God’s plan for making his reconciliation real in the world. And that’s why I’m passionate about growing a healthy, local church. That’s lesson #5 of my 20 lessons from 20 years of ministry.

What do we have so far? Here’s the first four lessons:

Basic truth: Jesus is committed to reconciling this world back to himself, making everything right again. He loves his creation that much.

And how is he implementing his plan for reconciliation? By one means, and one means only: through his body here on earth, his people, the local church.

cathedral-blueprint-300x274Here’s the deal: There isn’t some other plan afoot for the reconciliation of this world. God isn’t working out some alternative idea to make his good news about Jesus known–like it or lump it, his people are it. In the words of Paul, God has committed to us, his people, his message of reconciliation, as though he were making his appeal through us.

This is both incredibly encouraging and deeply daunting. We’ve been empowered as God’s people to be his kingdom agents, so that his kingdom might come and his will might be done, here on earth at it is in heaven. We do that through service, through prayer, through witness and through worship. We do this by letting Jesus lead in our lives and love his world through us. We do this in the most practical, neighbourly sort of ways, living as Jesus’ hands and feet.

Political programs, educational initiatives, policy changes and community efforts can all be very good. But real and lasting change, the kind of transformation Jesus is aiming at, will not happen outside of full reconciliation with God. And that won’t happen unless people come to know Jesus, join his family, and follow him in his mission.

There are Christians who feel the church is peripheral or optional, a bygone institution of dubious value. They say they can take or leave it. Which is kind of like telling God you’re happy to get his inheritance money, as long as you don’t have to be part of the family or bear any family responsibility. But following Jesus means, by definition, being part of his family–it’s just a question of whether or not we’ll live in relationship with the family or attempt to follow from a distance, estranged from God’s people and the mission God has given us.
Over my 20 years of ministry, the local church has become more central than ever to my theology and practice of ministry. In the words of Bill Hybels, there’s nothing like the local church when the local church is working well. And though she isn’t perfect, I’m more convinced than ever that the local church is God’s basic strategy for making Jesus’ love and grace real in the world his loves.

This truth motivates me and clarifies my work. It inspires my heart and fuels my soul. And it’s why I give my life to see the local church flourish.

What else is going on that is bringing God’s freedom, grace and forgiveness into his broken yet loved world? Nothing. The local church is God’s plan A-Z for making his love real in the world he loves.

The local church is God's plan