I’ve been quiet thus far about last week’s horrible events, not because I had nothing to say but because I didn’t know how to put into words what I felt. I’ve been scouring the internet and I have found that other people have done a far better job than I could ever do at unpacking my same thoughts on their blogs, quotes, and interviews.
It’s been said already that we cannot let this divide us. When things like this happen, we tend to take sides when we should not. There is no right or wrong when it comes to violence. It’s all wrong. It is wrong for white police officers to shoot unarmed black men and it’s wrong for a black man to shoot eleven white officers. It’s all the same side of the coin of racism and hate.
It’s also already been said that we can believe that #bluelivesmatter and that #alllivesmatter and still understand why #blacklivematters. They are not mutually exclusive. We can believe in our police officers’ honorable and commendable service and sacrifice and still expect them to be accountable for their actions. We can advocate for all life and still understand why there is a need to discuss specific groups at times when they need extra attention.
All of that can fit into our hearts without conflict. But anyway, all that has been well discussed already.
My thoughts turn to our responsibility as Christians in this messy world and the one call I keep hearing and reading about is the call to be peacemakers.“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God,” we are reminded by the Word we hold dear.
In response, many Christians, like me, do what we can to be peacemakers. Or at least we try. Because even Jesus-loving, good hearted people can often misunderstand what it means to be a peacemaker.
We think we are peacemakers when we merely tell the world to just stop hating each other and get along already. We say: “Come on, let’s just agree that all lives matter and that racism and hate wouldn’t exist if we all just loved one another, can we?” And we point to all the examples we can find that show that the situation is exaggerated or that it is not as bad as it seems.
But we are not peacemakers when we minimize the problem or try to pretend there isn’t one or that the solution is simple so we don’t have to deal with the reality of the magnitude of the situation. When we dismiss the problem or belittle its intensity we are dismissing the people whose pain and experience tell them otherwise.
And that is not what a peacemaker does.
We think we are peacemakers by not getting involved. We tell ourselves that if we don’t take sides, or post a facebook status, or we refuse to engage in conversation with people who disagree with us, we are keeping the peace.
But we are not peacemakers when we sit passively by in silence and indifference and refuse to discuss the problem or the solution with others who may have a different perspective from us. To quote Edward Burke: “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Making peace is not the sit back and watch kind of activity.
And that is not what a peacemaker does.
A peacemaker is a person of action.
A peacemaker walks into the middle of the situation just like the warmaker. But the warmaker brings stones and condemnation while the peacemaker brings grace and an open mind.
The warmaker says: “You’re wrong, I’m right. You lie, I know truth. You exaggerate, I have the facts. Your experience is invalid, my experience is the only one that counts. Your story is full of flaws, my story is reality. This is all your fault, I’m blameless.”
The peacemaker says, “Come, brother, come sister, tell me about it. What is your story? What is your side? Help me understand you. How can I help? What can I do? Let’s talk. Let me tell you my story and how I see the world. Walk in my shoes for a mile and let me try to walk in your shoes for two miles.”
The warmaker covers his ears with hands clenched in anger and dreams of revenge instead of listening. The warmaker invites more division and fuels the fire of disagreement. The peacemaker invites dialogue with an attitude of respect, humility, and willingness to be moved and educated by those with a different experience.
Peacemaking mandates the action of reaching out across racial, ethnic, religious, philosophical, ideological, and other barriers to become a living link between people who are too hurt or too angry to know how to come together.
A link of faith, hope, and love.
That’s what Christ invites us to do when He blesses the peacemakers and calls them Children of God.
I know you, my friends. Most of you reading would be grieved to be called warmakers.
But please don’t hide behind easy answers or be apathetic.