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Making Peace

The title of this presentation is Making Peace. It’s the last in a series about Applying the Beatitudes To Everyday Life.

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The title of this presentation is Making Peace. It’s the last in a series about Applying the Beatitudes To Everyday Life.

Good afternoon to all of you – especially those online. Good that you’re with us. We have a dreary day going here in Albuquerque – the day after snow – the day before yesterday.

Well, we’re finishing our series today on the beatitudes – how to apply them. Today is about the last one – being a peacemaker. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” Jesus said, “for they shall be called the children of God.” Today we’re going to see how we might put this beatitude into practice in our everyday life.

By way of review, the words mean – we always cover that…. Blessed are: so this is an attitude that, if you have it, you will be blessed. It’s interesting to note that God is concerned with our attitude, as well as just the things that we do. The word peacemakers, from Word Studies in the New Testament: “peacemakers should be held to its literal meaning, which is literally peacemakers. The founders and promoters of peace are meant, who not only keep the peace, but seek to bring men into harmony with each other.” So this has the connotation of not only being a peaceful person, but also somebody that tries to build bridges between people. Children of God: that just means God’s children in an eternal relationship with God. That’s the reward God offers us as members of His family – heirs of the entire creation. We said more about these things on the presentation on Peacemakers that we had in the first series, but this will serve as a review for us today.

So the attitude. What is it? It’s one of God’s attitudes. God is a peacemaker. Since we’re going to be His children, we have to take on that family characteristic. So He wants us to start working on that in this life. So that’s somebody who pursues peace with others. Right?

Let’s read some scriptures about that. 1 Peter 3:10. Peter said:

1 Pt. 3:10 – He must turn from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it. So that’s supposed to be something that we, in all of our interactions with people, are after – that that’s a part of our thinking about how we’re going to go through the day, or the week, or the month.

If you have ever been, in a time in your life, where you were lacking in peace, I think it helps us understand how important this is. I know, in my life, there have been several periods of time, mainly centered around job security and pressures being put on me in my work, where I was not as peaceful as I should have been, or could have been. But it is not a good feeling when we’re stressed by the thought of the lack of peace. So this is a very important thing. God is not going to go through eternity with a group of people – a bunch of children – who aren’t willing to live at peace with one another.

Philippians 1, and verse 3. Paul said:

Philp. 1:3 – I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ. So the point I wanted to make from this is that God does not give up on us. He’s fired up about His relationship with us. And He’s not willing to let anything that we do prevent Him from having a relationship with us. He goes after us. He pursues us.

In Colossians 1:21, it says:

Col. 1:21 – Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds, because of your evil behavior, but now He has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation. So, it’s so important to God to have a relationship with us that he was willing to allow Christ to sacrifice Himself on the cross, so that we could be reconciled back to Him.

When you think about some of the people that you are at odds with, how are we going to fix those problems? Well, we were alienated from God at one point. And God’s solution to that was to make a sacrifice that we could not refuse.

2 Cor. 5:18 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone. The new has come. All of this is from God, who reconciled us to Himself, through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation. I’ve heard people say, “I don’t know what my calling is.” Oh? Our calling is to reconcile people back to Jesus Christ. We’re to seek peace with all people as best we can and exemplify a life that looks like one that has been reconciled to God. So that’s what we’re to do. And we’re to draw people into that relationship. So, really, “being a peacemaker” is about how to have peaceful relationships.

So far, in this series, when we get to this part, where we talk about how to be a peacemaker, we’ve always said things like pray, and study, and be mindful. We’ve heard that six times so far – because this is seventh beatitude. I’m going to change that a little bit today. I’m going to look at some specific strategies that are born out of mindfulness and prayer and study.

The first one is just to be friendly. When Jesus talked to people, He often addressed them as friends. He wanted to present Himself as friendly. Even though He didn’t know these people, quite often, He still called them, “Friend.” He wanted to send them a message that He was willing to be friends. He wanted to convey a sense of good will.

I think about that. You know, if you watch the news, you’d think that our society is completely gone – that we’re all on the way out and down. All they focus on is the bad stuff. But everyday I come here to work and I have to make a left turn across two lanes of traffic from the median out there on the highway. And it’s a very busy road. There’s no way to get across that two lanes, except when the light behind me changes, and people start slowing down to stop for the light. Most people will stop and leave me room to cross in front of them, while they’re waiting for the light. Usually, they wave me on – sometimes with a smile, even. It’s really interesting who does that. After doing it for two years, you kind of have some ideas about who might be willing to let you in. Young guys and girls in pickup trucks…always. I don’t know what it is about people that drive pickups, but they seem to be fairly polite. Middle-aged women in luxury cars…not so good. Company work trucks and cars…sometimes. I think, if they’re in a hurry, they don’t. If they aren’t, they do. What about cholos and gangsters? We have some of those around. Surprisingly, they almost always let me in. I think they pride themselves in knowing the rules of the road. It’s interesting about that. But I always think about how polite people are and how that affects me. It makes me feel good. And it makes me want to be social back. And that’s the beginning of a good relationship.

I was walking in the mall awhile back and I was looking for a sports apparel store that somebody told me about. And I don’t go into those things very often, but I wanted to buy a 49er’s hat. Now, I know, I know, I know, but I did. So I couldn’t find the store. And the mall was kind of empty and there was nobody to ask. Finally, I saw two guys coming my way – two kids. They were tattooed, pierced, shaved, sagged. They were big boys and they were wearing wife-beater T-shirts. So I asked them. I mean, they were both, at least, 6’2”. When I told them what I wanted, they both smiled at me and got really animated about the difference between the two sports shops at the mall. I didn’t know there were two. They were probably amused that a guy my age was interested in even finding a sports shop. But they were polite. They were respectful and they were friendly. You can’t always go with your prejudices. I had a really good conversation with them and I felt good about talking with those guys when it was all over.

I have this young woman client that comes to see me sometimes. She has some very discouraging problems, none of which are of her own making. I remember the first time I met her. She walked across the waiting room from the front door and I noticed that she had one of the friendliest faces I’ve ever seen. She smiles a lot. She’s not flirty. She’s just genuinely friendly. I was thinking about my reaction to that and how much that helps me want to help her. It just kind of builds a connection. It’s very easy to be positive around her, because she’s so engaging.

And I think about my friend, Bob. We go to breakfast periodically. Bob is always talking to people in the restaurant. He talks to elderly people. He talks to little kids. He talks to people at the coffee bar. He talks to the wait staff. He engages everybody that he can. One of the things I’ve noticed is how many people will respond to him, because he’s just so friendly. I mean those are all good examples of people who want to reach out to others and make a connection and be bridge-builders between themselves and the other person. And that’s a simple thing that we can do, isn’t it? Just a simple thing.

Let’s go a step deeper. Let’s talk about the idea that to be a peacemaker we should control ourselves rather than others. Nobody likes to be controlled. I’ve seen a lot of angry kids in my time. When they come to my office, they’re usually angry because their parents are trying to control them more than their age calls for. I think back, when I look at these kids and listen to them talk, about how my father was with me. He was pretty smart about those kind of things. He always told me what he thought I should do. There was never any doubt about his expectations. But, when it actually got down to doing it, he let me decide – like, for example, grades. He would always say, “Do your best, Bill,” but then he let me make the decisions about how to go about doing that – about how much time to spend on homework, and studying for tests, and that sort of thing. I just never felt like he was controlling me too much. I felt a lot of freedom. Sometimes I made choices that weren’t so good and that’s when I learned. It seemed like I learned more from the mistakes than from the good choices. He mostly kept silent. He didn’t rub it in. Every now and then, he’d ask me, “Well, how’s that going for you?” after I’d make a decision, but mostly, not. Mostly he just let me learn on my own. I did want to please my father and so I tried to make decisions that I thought he would like, but I think that happened because he let me make the choices. I didn’t feel a sense of resentment toward him.

But let’s talk about non-familial relationship. It’s interesting that we tend to do better in non-familial relationships when it comes to controlling ourselves and not others. We know it’s a sign of respect to let others make their own decisions and live their own lives. And it’s rude to try to meddle with other people’s lives.

The other day, when Bob and I came out of our restaurant, we were standing right by the door and this lady pulled into a parking spot. I think she was in a big luxury car – that would happen, after having said that earlier. And she pulled up so close to the car on her right that there was no way the guy was going to get into his car without door-dinging her. I said, “Do you think we should tell her?” He said, “No, I’m trying to learn to stay out of other people’s lives.” So we didn’t, but….

We all know it’s respectful to leave people alone, pretty much, and let them do what they’re going to do, unless they’re doing something that it is going to hurt us. But the big three exceptions that I can think of to this – that are outside the family – are work, religion and – I guess marriage is a part of family – but that’s another one that’s a big problem for us. It seems like the closer the relationships get, the more trouble we have maintaining peace. That’s where the control in us kind of takes over.

I think about situations in my life in the past. When I was first in the ministry, I was blessed to have a boss that took me with him and showed me how he did things. But then, when he thought I had the hang of it, he kind of gradually turned loose of me and let me do things on my own. He wasn’t always standing over my shoulder, making sure I did it just the way he would. He had a sense of letting me learn to do it my own way. I flourished under that. The reason that I was so appreciative of that was that the next boss I had wasn’t so much that way. I kind of got a wake-up call on how good the first boss was. But my first boss didn’t really care how I did it, as long as the work was getting done and it was done in a satisfactory manner – kind of a non-controlling kind of guy.

I had the same experience a few years ago when I went to work for a mental health clinic. I got to set my own schedule, use my own approaches. They wanted to know what kind of clients I wanted to work with – always open to suggestion. I really appreciate that. But some bosses aren’t like that, are they? Some are just very controlling and have to have everything done their way.

Let’s go to Acts 15, and verse 37, and read an example out of the Bible. It says:

Acts 15:37 – Now Barnabas wanted to take with them – he and Paul were going to go on a tour – John, called Mark, but Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia, and not gone with them to the work. So, you know, the old hard-liner Paul kind of disrespected this guy, because he didn’t appear to be as committed as the way he thought about it. Barnabas, on the other hand, wasn’t so dictatorial about it. And there arose a sharp disagreement. Okay, so what do you do when you have a disagreement with somebody – in the family or in work? They separated from each other. And Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, and Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of God.

So, this sounds bad, but, if you think about it, neither one of them tried to control the other. They just separated. They had a disagreement about it, but their solution was to each go their own way, so they could each do as they saw fit. And wasn’t that a really good thing? They had peace, even though they disagreed about this issue. If you can’t work together, better to work separately. I think that’s a scripture, isn’t it? Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Sure enough. Paul had reservations about this young man. Barnabas didn’t. Paul didn’t want to take him. Barnabas did. So they just had to figure out what to do. Rather than have a knock-down drag-out, they just decided to split ways for awhile. They got back together later. After it was all cooled off, things worked out better. We’ll talk more about that later.

I was telling a friend of mine recently – still talking about control here – about a woman who offered to help us at our Feast one year – at our festival site. We’re one of the independent churches of God groups. She’s in one of the organized groups. Her pastor in her organization told her that, if she helped us, then she would never do anything in her congregation again. So there’s the control thing going. It’s kind of embarrassing, really, to think about that. So my friend asked me if I knew the difference between genius and stupidity. I said, “Probably not.” He said, “Well, there’s a limit to genius.” The urge to control others eventually makes us all look foolish in the end, because we can’t do it. It doesn’t work.

What else can we do? Besides letting go of control and trying to be friendly to people, what else can we do? Well, a really important thing is to know it’s possible to go toward relationships, even when they aren’t working. The attachment theory people tell us that, when we don’t have a healthy attachment in early life, we tend to dismiss relationships as adults. That’s because we never had satisfactory relationships with early caregivers, so we tend to think that all our relationships will fail and the people will give up on us, and so we give up on them.

I was working with a young guy once, who had this outlook, and he would come into the session, most of the time, upset because he argued a lot with his parents. It seemed like it always happened in the car on the way to my office. So he would come in all upset and he would tell me that his mother was angry with him, even though his face was red. He was the one that was angry. She might have been, too. I don’t know. And he would say that she was so upset that she wasn’t going to come back and pick him up from his session, and he wouldn’t know how he would get home. He was assuming the worst. But she would always be there to pick him up. I would text him later in the evening to see how he was doing, and he would say, “Well, we talked and it’s all right now.” That must have happened three, four, five times during the time I was seeing him. His mother, I think, was going toward the relationship. She was trying to reach out to him – trying to build a bridge to her son.

Can we find that in the Bible? I think we can. Let’s go to Luke 15, verse 11. It says:

Lk. 15:11 – There was a man who had two sons. The younger of them said to his father, “Father, give me my share of the property that’s coming to me.” Well, what would that be? Would that be half? I don’t know, but probably a lot. So he divided his property between his two sons. Not many days later, the young son gathered all that he had and took a journey into a far country. And there he – just like his father was afraid he would do – squandered his property in reckless living – blew his inheritance!

I remember years ago, there was a family in one of my congregations. They had a couple of teenage girls. They were in an automobile accident and each of these girls got a settlement of several thousand dollars. I was thinking that would be a really nice start on a college education, or a down payment on a house, or whatever. So they both went out and bought TransAms. And in three years they were trash. I give their father credit for not complaining anymore than he did about what they were doing. Hopefully, they learned a lesson from that. Anyway, it says, in verse 14:

V-14 – And when he spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. Who cares about saving up for a rainy day, right? So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his field to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate and no one gave him anything. He was so hungry he was looking at pigs’ slop and it looked good to him. But then, when he came to himself, he said, “How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger? I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. For I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.’” And he arose and came to his father. Now, notice what it says next. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him. Why do you think that happened? Why do you think he saw him a long way off? Well, he was probably looking for him – probably hoping he would come back, probably longing for him. Even though his son had gone off and done a really stupid thing, he still loved his son. And it says: He felt compassion, and ran, and embraced and kissed him. And the son said to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.” But the father said to his servants, “Bring quickly the best robe and put it on him. And put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. And bring the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this, my son, was dead and is alive again. He was lost and is found.” And they began to celebrate. So he didn’t go looking for his son. He knew that his son had to go and do what he had to do. He didn’t try to control him. He didn’t withhold his inheritance from him. But, when he blew it all and he came back, the father knew that the time was right, and so he made every effort to show his son that he loved him. By the way, we have a whole series based on this proverb, or this story, called Rupture and Repair. We also have one on Reclaiming Lost Children, which is along the same line.

The term rupture and repair comes out of attachment literature, and specifically from a book called Parenting from the Inside Out, where the writers talk about how to repair ruptured relationships in the family. One of the things that was very powerful to me was that they point out that people who are emotionally healthy, who have strong attachment, go toward repairing relationships. They don’t blow people off. They try to recover. Sometimes you have to be like Paul and Silas, and just separate for awhile, if everybody is upset. Or like the father, who let his son go off and do what he was going to do, but then knowing there is going to be a later time when things are going to cool off and things might work better. You look forward to that. You don’t blow people off, but you hope for the best.

If we look in on Paul and Barnabas later, we see that Paul accepts John Mark. So the flap ended well. John Mark proved himself by going with Barnabas. And I think Paul probably cooled off and rethought his position.

That’s the next point I wanted to make about this relationship thing. It’s that sometimes it’s very important to let things simmer down. When all the blood leaves the outer part of your brain, you stop thinking. And when it all does that, it goes to the inner part that has to do with the emotions. And when we’re in that state, we usually don’t care what we say or who we hurt. So it’s not good to be around people when we’re in that state. It’s better to let everybody get their equilibrium back and get integrated to where all parts of the brain are working together again. Sometimes that can take as much as thirty-six hours for people to recover themselves after completely losing it.

So, the thing, though, is the people who are not healthy, they don’t want to talk these problems out. They just want to sweep it under the carpet. When somebody, who is healthy, comes to them, and they say, “Let’s talk about what happened,” they say, “No, no, no. It’s okay. Just forget about it.” They don’t make any effort to try to really see eye- to-eye on things. So the healthy ones want to clear the decks by communication, and those that aren’t tend to just kind of ignore that there was ever a problem. But it’s necessary, if apologies need to be made, to make them. If new boundaries need to be established, then they need to be established. But it’s very difficult sometimes to do that without a determined effort and a very great deal of patience. And yet, peacemakers do that. That’s what it means to be a peacemaker.

So we’re talking about equilibrium of emotions. Let’s talk about relational equilibrium now for a minute. In marriage counseling, one of the things we see is a struggle for control between husbands and wives – turf battle. “What can I do? What will you do? What will we do? Do you get to do more than I do? Do you force me to do stuff I don’t want to?” So it goes back to controlling self again. When people are in a war, in a relationship, over how things are going to be done, there is no peace. People try to compromise, but if one partner always wins the compromise, then there still isn’t going to be any peace. There has to be a win-win situation. If compromise is lop-sided, eventually the one on the down side, always becomes resentful and then everybody loses.

So it’s just like God said to married people in Ephesians 5:28. It says:

Eph. 5:28 – In the same way, husbands should love their wives as their own body. He who loves his wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes it and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of His body.

And then he says, in verse 33:

V-33 – However, let each one of you love his wife as himself. And let the wife see that she respects her husband. So wives need to respect their husbands, and husbands need to think their wife’s needs are as important as their own. So a man should be invested in her needs as much as he is in his own. He should be just as happy when she gets what she wants as he is when he gets what he wants. So when a couple has that, then they can find those win-win situations. If they don’t, then there is never going to be any solution – no resolution.

So that’s something very important to think about. One of the things I notice is when people quit picking on each other, and quit insulting one another, so they don’t have to be defensive in their communication, then they have the energy to think about what works in their relationship. They can usually think of things that are better.

Communication. How about that? That’s what we’ve come to now. One of the things that I tell my clients when I first meet them is that it’s okay to talk about anything, including our relationship. I try to keep the doors open and the lines open for communication.

One time, one of my little clients – a little girl – asked me for a hug. And that was the first time she’d ever done that. Up until that point, she’d been like a little, prickly porcupine – you know, a little touch-me-not. This particular day she was upset because she was afraid her mother was going to be angry with her. She’s one of these kids that has attachment problems, so they always struggle with how to do relationship stuff. So she was leaving and she asked me if I’d give her a hug. So I gave her a hug and I asked her if she always wanted a hug or just sometimes. And the hope of that question was to learn more about her feelings about me and our relationship, because her job is to practice on me. That’s what therapy, for kids like that, is about. She said, “I didn’t at first, but now I wish we could. And sometimes I really wish we could – like today.” And I said, “I’m glad we talked, and I’m feeling closer to you, and I want to hug you, too, especially if it would help you. But, you know, I don’t like to hug people when they don’t want to be hugged. It’s not respectful.” She said, “Me neither.” I said, “Okay, it sounds like we want to be respectful of each other and also like we might want to hug each other at the end of the session.” She said, “Well, I would like that.” So that was a huge step for her. Since the air was cleared, we both knew what to do then, and that was so good for her to learn how to do that. So she practiced her relationship on me. Just putting the feelings and hopes into words were so helpful for her. And that’s true, not just of children, but for all of us – not just about hugging, but the major issues of life. So she felt more at peace about our relationship and that opened up communication without defensiveness. And that tends to create peace and confidence that people can have.

So what happens when we’re so upset that we don’t want to make peace? Well, when that happens, we need to go back to the basics. We need to backtrack, like we’ve said six times before, through the beatitudes.

Peacemaking, the Bible tells us, comes from purity of heart – no waffling back and forth between what we want and what God wants – what’s right and what’s wrong. We want what God wants. God tells us to value the needs of our mates as much as we value our own. Then, what are we going to do about that? Are we going to do it or not? Are we going to go toward the relationship or not? Are we going to reach out and make peace or not? Purity of heart – which is what we’re talking about there – which is the foundation for peacemaking – comes from a deep thirst to be like God. We compare that to the attitude of holding to the true beliefs. It’s possible to get all self-righteous about that and go to war with others over it, but it’s not possible to go to war if people are pursuing peace first.

So purity of heart comes out of a sense of mercy. And that comes out of a sense of realization that we’re not perfect ourselves. And that helps us have an unwavering commitment to extend mercy, because we, also, need it. And that helps us to be peacemakers.

So how important is this? How important is this in everyday life? Let’s go to Isaiah 9, and verse 7. Let’s take a look down the road. Isaiah said of Jesus Christ:

Isa. 9:7 – Of the increase of His government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over His Kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice, and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this.

So that’s what we’re looking at down the road – a time when the earth is going to break out in peace. And it’s never going to end. So we’re headed toward a time when that is going to happen for us. And that is good news. That is very good news. But the thing that that means for us now is that it’s our task to practice how we can play a part in that peacemaking effort. And we can do that everyday.