I can’t believe Christmas is almost here. As we look forward to ushering advent in, and 2020 out, we’re seeing signs of Christmas spring up all over town. I don’t know about you, but I’m ready for some peace, joy, and goodwill toward men. This year has felt anything but that. Coming into the Christmas season we’re of course reminded of the birth of Christ, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). Peace is a hallmark descriptor of Jesus. Later in his life, when he was giving the Sermon on the Mount about the Beatitudes (“blessed are the…, Matthew 5), he was describing his own character and how those who follow him will share in his blessings. Verse 9 says “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God”. What better blessing is that? It comes with an expectation though. As God’s children, we are called to have a spirit of reconciliation so that we are able to intercede as peacemakers in a world that is ripe with conflict (2 Corinthians 5:18-20).
Peace is a big deal, whether in the world or in our home. Almost everyone I see in counseling asks for help finding it. I need it too; after all, the opposite of conflict is peace. It is also listed in the Bible as one of the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Also on this list are love, joy, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. This is a great list. If you notice, each of these builds on one another starting with self-control. If we aren’t self-controlled, then it’s really hard to demonstrate the other gifts because we’re too prone to flying off the handle or letting our anger and other vices take over. How can we forbear (i.e., put up with one another), if we aren’t gentle, kind, good, patient, and faithful to the teaching and character of Christ? If we discipline ourselves in these areas, then peace, joy, and love become natural companions. So why does it matter to be a peacemaker? It matters because if we really want peace in our lives, we have to help create it.
Jesus would not call us ‘peacemakers’ if we weren’t somehow able to influence peacefulness. There are several ways to do this:
As much as I hope to be, I’m not always right; and thankfully I’m not supposed to be. Being right all the time would make me perfect, which just isn’t possible. Recognizing the value of others’ opinions and their right to have them requires humility. God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Proverbs 3:34). Jesus was never haughty in any of the lessons he shared with others, even though he was right all of the time! Jesus gave space for others to think through what he said, which is much more effective than trying to force our will on others.
Engaging in Empathy
There are few better ways to develop peace-giving patience than by engaging empathy. Empathy puts us in the other person’s shoes, which can provide a different perspective than the one we’re holding on to. When we pause to consider where the other person is coming from, and the context in which they feel the way they do, anger can often turn to compassion. Empathy starts with simply seeking understanding and listening to what the other person has to say.
Establishing Healthy Boundaries
If you have had trouble with empathy in the past, it could be because there was confusion between being empathic with being in agreement with the other person. Some people struggle with compassion because they don’t want to come off as accepting the other person’s position. That’s fair. Being a peacemaker does not equal being a doormat. Peacemakers still need healthy boundaries in relationships for their own well being, in addition to creating fairness and accountability. After all, we model to others how we want to be treated, so holding firm to boundaries based on mutual respect is a necessary ingredient for keeping the peace.
Looking for Common Ground
Peacemakers can also be seen as arbitrators, as the overall goal for both is conflict resolution and harmony. This typically requires looking past our own will to seek the greater good. Peacemakers search for common ground, which can usually be found with the proper effort. Even the most desperate conflict can boil down to a few common truths that both sides can agree on. By forfeiting the craving to be ‘right’, peacemakers instead look for God’s righteousness.
This year has caused so much tension that it’s not uncommon to take it out on each other. When the carnal side of us is tempted to fight back against perceived injustices, the Holy Spirit in us can build bridges of peace instead. Those seeking peace don’t look to change people but strive to bring out the best in others and build on those strengths. Blessed are these peacemakers, who are needed to shine light into a very hurting world, and in return are able to enfold peace into their lives.
If you are struggling to find peace in your life, Crossroads is here to help. You can call (225) 314-4748 to speak with Cheryl or another Crossroads counselor.