It used to be that when someone started out talking about peace, I relaxed a little. I’d consider my efforts to try not to be a dramatic person, and how I value harmony and everyone getting along. So peace and I, we see eye-to-eye. “Blessed are those who keep the peace…”? Check! I’m all about that conflict-avoidance life.
You can imagine my surprise when I actually read Matthew 5:9, which says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” I had to hear someone clearly distinguish the difference between being peacemakers and being peacekeepers before I realized how far off I had been in my misplaced confidence.
It’s like Sarah Bessey says, “Oh, man, if only ‘going along with what is easy’ was a spiritual gift. I’d be the holiest woman in the room.”
Turns out, I tend to be good at keeping the peace, not stepping on toes, that kind of thing. Not so much the holy and glorious task that Jesus commends us into, which is being people who create and facilitate peace through telling the truth and making hard decisions.
Bob Goff says it this way, “What I’ve come to learn so far about my faith is Jesus never asked anyone to play it safe. We were born to be brave. There’s a difference between playing it safe and being safe…If our life and our identity are found in Jesus, I think we can redefine safe as staying close to Him.”
Making peace, this way, is a task that requires facing and navigating conflict, pursuing wisdom, and speaking the truth in love. All concepts that sound much prettier in words than they feel in action. It requires knowing the truth from God and internalizing it so much that it starts to pour out of us in word and deed. The ultimate result of this is reconciliation and redemption in us and the people around us.
This peace doesn’t remind others of conflict-avoidance and sweeping things under the rug. Instead, it looks like mature conversations, keeping your cool in emotional situations, and countless numbers of genuine apologies issued. It requires taking a time-out when needed, asking deep questions, and believing the best in others when it would be easier and less time-consuming to make reactive assumptions.
I have a note on my phone that I’ve paused to look at way too many times to count, and it’s titled “Offended? Freaking out?” It’s specifically for those moments when it would be easier to avoid or react without wisdom and without truly taking the time to try and create peace. Here’s what it says:
“A person’s insight gives her patience, and her virtue is to overlook an offense.” (Proverbs 19:11)
“I can either be easily offended or deeply loving but not both!” (Tom Hughes)
First, take some deep breaths. Then ask these questions:
- What’s really going on?
- What am I feeling?
- Is my reaction in proportion to what actually happened? If not, who do those emotional reactivity points actually belong to?
Then, take a moment to vent in myself, to God. alone. “I am not a victim to my emotions or to any person’s actions or feelings. I choose how to respond out of God’s power, strength, and unconditional love for me.” Only then can I respond appropriately, acknowledge disproportionate levels of emotion, apologize, and seek reconciliation.
“Since Jesus went through everything you’re going through and more, learn to think like him. Think of your sufferings as a weaning from that old sinful habit of always expecting to get your own way. Then you’ll be able to live out your days free to pursue what God wants instead of being tyrannized by what you want.” (1 Peter 4:1-2)
You’d think I’d have it memorized by now, but I need these reminders so often.
I need the reminder that I am called to be a peacemaker, and that means not idolizing conflict as being more powerful than the task of seeking peace.
I need the reminder that peace never happens by accident, because it is the result of connection, not simply a lack of conflict.
The reminder that my feelings are not the truth or reality of any situation, simply indicators of my commitment to and involvement in it, and that I have the choice to seek something more than just a feeling.
And the ultimate reminder that God is a God who brings peace through love and sacrifice, not cowardice or fear.
This is always worth seeking, I just needed the reminder.
ABOUT SARAH ROSE LOCHELT
Sarah Rose Lochelt is a Southern-California native who is passionate about the power of communication and the connection that happens through conversation, especially when there is coffee involved. She is a pastor in the LA area and loves to write and speak about the lies of shame, the truth of grace, and the freedom that comes from relating authentically to one another, especially for women in the church. She always has at least one book to read in her purse, is infamous for making silly faces at babies in public, and could live on pizza for every meal.Follow Sarah