Sunday, October 23, 2011

Peacemaking and table-kicking: a guide to conflict resolution.

"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God."

 What does it mean to make peace?  Answering this question is essential for those who want to be called God's children.  How and with whom do we make peace?

This is not the sort of Peacemaker Jesus had in mind.

Clearly, the first place we must make peace is with God, and yet we cannot do that.  We are powerless to satisfy his just grievances against us -our idolatry, adultery, and rebellion are an insult to a Sovereign God.  Yet this very God chose to make peace with us, through the covenant of the blood of Jesus Christ, so that we are clothed in righteousness.  This peace is a gift of undeserved grace, that we must accept in humility.

We don't get to stop there, however.  We must also make peace with one another, and there is no generous gift of grace there for us to claim in most cases.  We end up being in the position of making peace with people that we really don't want to make peace with, and who really don't want to make peace with us.  Yet this is not an option, it a very serious matter:

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

We cannot be at peace with God if we are unwilling to make peace with his other children.  Any parent will understand this immediately.  I am not at peace with my children when they are hurting one another.

A typical day at my home.

Does making peace mean that we avoid conflict or confrontation?  No.  The scriptures clearly state that we are to confront error and actively work through conflict.

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”   His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

This is not gentle Jesus, meek and mild.  This is Jesus kicking over tables, battling against the injustice of those who would twist God's law for their own profit.  This was civil disobedience.

And don't come back, Yo.

If we want to understand peacemaking, we need to understand that Jesus did not avoid conflict, but rather he sought to resolve it.  Peacemaking is an active process, and Jesus gave his people a very simple formula to follow in personal relationships:
“If your brother sins against you,  go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.  But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector."

This is not a Cowboy vigilante system.  This is a system where believers act under authority.  That's much less fun than kicking over tables.  While the Quixotic Iconoclast endorses kicking over tables when the Gospel is perverted, Christians must also understand that Jesus spent a lifetime, and gave his life, to make peace by more, well,  peaceful means.  However, there are still those table-kicking moments:

Poster-children for "I never knew you."

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