One Year Bible Reading Plan and Devotional
Today’s Bible Reading: January 5
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Being a peacemaker in a vindictive world
Our World Needs Peacemakers
In the movie, Miss Congeniality, starring Sandra Bullock, Sandra plays an uncover cop in a beauty pageant as one of the contestants while trying to keep the young ladies safe from someone that wants to blow them up. It sounds like an action/thriller plot, but if you’ve seen the movie, you know it’s more of a comedy. While the movie does make light of beauty pageants in general, over and over again, the ladies wish for world peace and that’s not a joking matter. Our world needs peace and God calls us to be peacemakers.
Desperately Seeking Peacemakers
Our world today is full of violence and in desperate need of peace. Being a peacemaker does not mean that there is no conflict or that we avoid conflict in our lives. It doesn’t mean that we appease, accommodate, or give in. We don’t look the other way, pretending everything is okay when it isn’t. When Jesus said blessed are the peacemakers, He was identifying those who diligently work to bring people to God and to each other. The truth about peace is it can only be found in Christ.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom and it is often used as a greeting or departing word that expresses a desire for the other person to experience the full presence, peace, prosperity and blessings of God. It’s a word that implies harmony, wholeness, prosperity, and welfare.
What if we went through life with the true desire for others to experience exactly that? Would the headline news have nothing to report? Would there be less road rage? Less mass murders? Less rapes? Would there be less domestic violence? Less children in foster care? Would there be less division and racial hatred? Would there be anyone hungry or homeless?
Conflict is a Part of Living in a Broken World
Conflict has been a part of this world ever since Cain killed his brother, Able. Since then, there has been conflict between tribes and nations, and in our own time between unions and management, students and school administrations, or even within families. Even Christians don’t always agree and as a result churches split, denominations draw lines in the sand, and Christian couples end up divorced. As long as we are broken sinners, there will be conflict. Satan wants nothing more than to ruin the testimony of Christians so he stirs up strife and contentions. Conflict is simply a part of living in a broken and sinful world.
The Root Cause of Conflict
To understand this Beatitude, we need to go to the root cause of conflict among ourselves. The Bible has much to say about conflict. In Galatians 5:15 Paul warns, “But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.” When he writes about the works of the flesh, along with flagrant sins such as immorality he mentions such sins as enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, and the like (Galatians 5:19-21).
When James asks, “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you?” (James 4:1), he is writing in the overall context of a discussion of the razor-sharp tongue (James 3:6–4:2).
In the Old Testament, Solomon addresses the misuse of the tongue when he writes, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).
It is often the sinful use of our tongues that causes conflict. But the tongue is only a weapon in the battle of conflict. The real problem is our heart. Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34). It is because of our own pride, anger, and jealousy in our hearts that we speak cutting and hurtful words to someone. And it is because we nurse hurts from other people and harbor bitterness and resentment in our hearts that we engage in verbal conflict.
Blessed are the Peacemakers
But Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Jesus didn’t need to command us to avoid conflict or to protect our own tranquility. That’s what we do naturally. He didn’t need to command us to stick up for ourselves and our opinions and make sure everyone knows that we are right. We do that naturally too. Naturally, we are self-centered sinners and when you get two or more self-centered sinners together, eventually there will be conflict. Jesus, instead, blesses the one doesn’t do what’s natural. He blesses the person who brings true peace to others.
Taking the initiative to be a peacemaker
Can you think of a person you know who is a peacemaker? My younger sister has always been one. And I have always been the opinionated sister – the one who spoke – then thought. Thankfully, as I’ve matured, I’ve learned to mostly think first but when I’m really upset, the words fly out faster than the brain works. But as I think about Kathy, I’d so much would rather be like her. Always ready to build the bridge to peace.
But the reality is when conflict arises its hard to consider the full presence, peace, prosperity and blessings of God much less have a heart-felt desire for the other person to experience the same. We get caught up in how we were offended, hurt, taken advantage of, laughed at, or gossiped about and thoughts of harmony, wholeness, prosperity, and welfare are no where to be found.
To be a peacemaker, then, means we hear the hurtful words or witness the hateful actions of others without becoming resentful, or retaliating. I do want to note that when a person if physically abusive to you or threatens your life and safety, you need to take every action to ensure your own safety. Outside of life-threatening abuse, we have the responsibility to be a peacemaker and take the initiative to restore broken or damaged relationships, even when the major cause of the rupture lies with the other person. And it especially requires taking the initiative when you are the one who has caused the damaged relationship. So how can we be peacemakers that God blesses?
Before we can be a peacemaker, we must deal with the sinfulness of our own hearts
Because the root cause of conflict is found within ourselves, to become peacemakers, we must begin with ourselves. We must ask ourselves, “Why do I make cutting remarks to another person? Why do I make demeaning remarks about them?” We must also ask ourselves, “What causes my resentment toward that person?” or “Why do I continue to nurse hurts by that person instead of forgiving them? What is it that causes me to be envious or jealous of that person?”
In order to even ask those questions, we have to admit we have those attitudes. But because we know they are sinful, we tend to live in denial that we even have them. It is easier to blame the other person to admit our own sins. So, before we can be a peacemaker in our world, we need to deal with the sinful passions of our own hearts before we can deal with conflict of any kind with others.
Take time alone with the Holy Spirit and look back over each of the The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), and prayerfully and carefully ask the Holy Spirit to show you how you compare with each of the traits. Am I poor in spirit? Do I mourn over my sin? Am I truly meek before God and with respect to other people? Do I truly hunger and thirst after righteousness, not only in my conduct, but also in my heart? Am I merciful toward others who sin against me because I am aware of how merciful God has been to me? Do I seek a singleness of heart toward God based on the fact that I am no longer my own, but rather am Christ’s possession?
If we ask the Holy Spirit these questions with with a sincere desire to know where we stand, He will reveal to us the areas of sin in our won hearts. Confess the areas of sin that He reveals and ask for His forgiveness. Only then can we have a deep sense of humility that will enable us to be peacemakers.
Being a peacemaker is not an option, it is a commandment
Being a peacemaker when there is conflict with someone else is not an option for God’s people. It is God’s commandment. We are to strive for peace with everyone (Hebrews 12:14). The word strive is a translation of the Greek word diōkō. It is a very intense word and is most often used for the word persecute. Paul uses it in Philippians 3:12, 14 to say, “I press on” to portray perseverance even in the face of a discouraging response from the other person, or persons. In 2 Timothy 2:22, he encourages Timothy to “pursue [diōkō] . . . peace.” Peter, quoting from Psalm 34:14 writes, “let him seek peace and pursue [diōkō] it” (1 Peter 3:11). All these expressions convey an attitude of seeking after something eagerly, earnestly, and endeavoring to acquire peace where there is conflict with another person.
Paul says in Romans 12:14-21. “Bless those who persecute you” (verse 14). This statement is such a contradicting one from the world’s point of view. Instead of retaliating, we are to bless. It is easy to read this teaching from Paul and think it does not apply to us, because we do not suffer actual persecution. But we should not ignore the principle of the teaching: We are to bless anyone who mistreats us in any way. Their mistreatment may be hurtful words or hurtful actions, but whatever they are, we are to bless the other person.
In other words, God does not ever want us to repay evil for evil (verse 17); nor are we to avenge ourselves in any way (verse 19). Instead, we are to leave vengeance to God. This does not mean that we pray for God’s judgment on the person, but rather we entrust our situation to Him who judges with perfect justice. We can only do this when we trust that God has perfect plan for us and that He will work all things out for out good.
Peacemakers listen to the other side of the story
Sometimes is seems of if quality listening skills are a rare commodity. Yet, if we are going to be peacemakers, we must remember there is always another side to the story and ask them. Any conversation that revolves around conflict is difficult, but don’t wait and let bitterness and anger fester inside. Go to the other person as soon as possible (after spending time with the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart before Him) – with an open mind that truly wants to hear their side. Listen with a spirit of prayer and a desire for resolution and peace as they share.
Peacemakers are willing to say, “I’m sorry.”
Another thing to being a peacemaker is to be willing to say, “I’m sorry.” If you recognize a part of the conflict that is your fault, own up to it and ask for their forgiveness. It is very hard to admit to others our faults but we need to remember that we are no more perfect that they other person is. Sometimes conflict is nothing more than a simple misunderstanding. Other times it goes much deeper. Rarely is conflict a one-sided issue where only one person is in the wrong. A peacemaker is willing to humble themselves and admit to their part and work toward restoring peace.
Anyone can say, “I’m sorry.” But how do you know when a person truly is sorry? I person that is truly sorry, will have a change in behaviors and actions. They will want to change the behavior that caused the conflict. If that behavior is an established pattern of behavior, it might not change immediately, but you should see the effort of them changing and over time, successfully overcome it.
Being a peacemaker requires love, humility and honesty
Lastly, there are times when a peacemaker needs to humbly step in help the other person acknowledge sin in their life that has caused the conflict and point them back to God so they can find peace with Him. It isn’t done with pride or accusation but with a Christ-like love and a desire to see the other person have a restored relationship with God.
When the conflict was the result of something you did or said, it takes humility and honesty to be a peacemaker and admit you were wrong. Before trying to make it right with another person, spend time with God, confessing and repenting and seeking His forgiveness. Then, in humility and love, you can seek out the other person and ask for their forgiveness.
Peace has to be made and Peacemakers take the initiative
Its impossible to go through life without conflict. So the next time conflict comes remember that Jesus is softly saying, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” Peace doesn’t just happen because we wish it were so…peace has to be made and peacemakers take the initiative, as the obediently follow God’s commands to seek peace. Be the person that works to restore peace – not the one that stirs up tensions and strife. Bring harmony, wholeness, and welfare to others. Be the person who desires for others to experience the full presence, peace, prosperity, and blessings of God.
And yes…we really do want world peace.
#ReadYourBible #Genesis #Matthew
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