Give Peace a Fighting Chance
The Enneagram is popular right now. Many are using this “personality assessment” tool to discover their truest selves as God created them and to overcome their greatest barriers to fully living out God’s image. I recently discovered that I am a Nine on the scale. The descriptive name for a Nine is “the peacemaker.” Nines desire peace above all else and will avoid conflict at all costs. The desire for peace is a great thing, but Nines will often settle for a cheap replacement for actual peace in order to avoid the conflict involved with finding true peace in a situation. When I look over my life, I can see how this tendency has played out again and again. When I read about my “type,” I (like many who read the downfalls of their type) wanted to scream at the book, “You don’t know my life!” But it totally did. That stinking book knew me.
Recently I heard someone differentiate between peacemaking and peacekeeping. Peacekeeping is doing whatever you have to do to avoid rocking the boat. It is stuffing down your thoughts, feelings or convictions about what you believe to be right to appease those around you. Peacekeeping does not actually bring peace to the world. It brings a phony alternative that prevents genuine peace. Peacemaking, by contrast, seeks to do whatever possible to bring about true peace in the world, your church, your home. What I’m learning is that peacemaking is really, really hard work. Peacemaking takes an enormous amount of grit. Peacekeeping will eat away at you gradually, but peacemaking will often require an intense path of difficulty before peace can be established.
Jesus has much to teach us about peace. After all, he is called the Prince of Peace. Now, we all know well that, as the disciples traveled around with the Prince of Peace, their circumstances were anything but our definition of peaceful. They endured grief and pain and exhaustion. They were ridiculed and threatened and said to be in cahoots with Satan. But their circumstances did not define their peace. Their peace traveled with them in the form of Jesus. In a strange twist, Jesus (who embodied peace) said in Matt 10, “Don’t think that I’ve come to bring peace to the earth. I haven’t come to bring peace, but a sword.” This passage always troubled me. What? Jesus said that? It doesn’t make sense. He was supposed to bring peace. He talked a lot about the peace he offered. Why would he say this? Was he just angry in the moment? No, he was God. He didn’t say things loosely or accidentally. So, what did he mean? I have come to believe that he said these words because peace is not cheap. Genuine peace sometimes can only be brought about by confronting the overwhelming things that are preventing it. And sometimes the path to peace feels a lot like a battle.
There are so many wrongs in our world that need to be addressed, and the path to healing may not feel peaceful. It is hard to speak out against injustice. It will often get you into trouble. It is hard to take action against that injustice. It might require more of you than you thought you could give. And you might find that you not only have to contend with that specific injustice but with an entire power system that supports the perpetuation of that injustice.
But Jesus gave us his example that true peace was found in truth and justice. He did not mince words or try to avoid rocking the boat when it came to the kingdom of God. He did not tiptoe around the Pharisee’s feelings when he addressed their hypocrisy of trying to keep the outside of the cup clean while the inside was filthy. He didn’t gently tell people that they should care for the poor or that the Sabbath was made for humans and not humans for the Sabbath. He didn’t tell people to maintain status quo and do what would make them happy. He told them to give up the things that were most precious to them to follow him. He communicated clearly and effectively, even when it seemed harsh. He even turned over tables if he had to. He sought true peace—the peace that comes from the healing and restoration of what God intended for our world.
While he embodied peace, Jesus also exhibited great strength and courage. He knew who he was. He knew his mission. He never stopped loving those he was addressing for a second. But he wasn’t afraid to face a conflict head-on if it meant bringing God’s kingdom to earth. He didn’t surround himself with people who would make life easy for him and then enjoy his “peaceful” existence. He walked toward the hard things, the forsaken ones, the most difficult circumstances. And he brought peace. He calmed the seas. He wiped the tears. He healed the diseases. But most of all he healed the souls of those he encountered. He knew that true peace comes from connection with the Father. He knew that people would not experience true peace until they reconciled with him and lived out his kingdom. And he brought forth that kingdom in full force.
May we all find the strength to crusade for true peace instead of settling for a phony alternative. May we walk with Jesus through whatever kingdom work he has placed before us. The path to peace may be paved with pain. But true peace will always be worth it, for without it we will always ache.