From Peacemaker Ministries newsletter Peace on Earth

A HABIT OF BEING: THE PEACEMAKING CHARACTER OF GOD AND HIS PEOPLE

by Molly Routson, Assistant to the Director of International Ministries

As many of you recognize, peacemaking is a very practical subject to teach and to practice. We face conflicts in our lives and our ministries on a regular basis, and peacemaking provides a tool for us to resolve these conflicts constructively.

However, if we only see peacemaking as a tool for fixing problems, we miss two important concerns in God’s call for us to be peacemakers. Rev. Dr. Alfred Poirier, Chairman of the Board of Peacemaker Ministries, recently taught about these issues to a gathering of seminary leaders in India. He showed, first, that our role as peacemakers is deeply rooted in what the Bible says about God and, second, that God calls us to reflect his character as a peacemaker in everything that we do; peacemaking is not just a tool but a way of life–a “habit of being”–for God’s people.

Peacemaking is part of the very nature of God and of how he works in this world. Beginning in Genesis 3, conflict and reconciliation comprise the dramatic plotline of Scripture. This drama culminates in the death and resurrection of Christ, whose work accomplished the reconciliation of all things to himself (see Col. 1:19-20).

Exodus 32-34 gives a “snapshot” of how God works as a peacemaker in human history. In this passage, Moses mediates for the people of Israel, whose idolatry has deeply offended God. They are in danger of losing the security of God’s presence or of being consumed by his wrath, but Moses eventually receives assurance that God will continue to dwell graciously with his people.

In Exodus 33:18, Moses also asks of God, “Now show me your glory,” so that he will know how God wants him to lead the “stiff-necked” Israelites. The Lord’s response to Moses is so significant for Israel’s relationship with God that it is repeated throughout Scripture (see, for example, Neh. 9:17; Ps. 86:15; Joel 2:13). God tells Moses that he is “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin” (Ex. 34:6-7a).

Although God could have revealed any of his attributes to Moses–his justice, his immutability, his power–he chose to emphasize his mercy. God shows Moses that his glory is the glory of a reconciling God.

The Gospel of John picks up on these Exodus themes of God’s glory, his grace, and his presence among his people. They are climactically demonstrated in Christ, who “made his dwelling among us … [and] came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). In Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, God ultimately reveals himself as a peacemaking God. Furthermore, Christ tells his followers that we will be recognized as God’s children when we imitate God’s character in reconciliation (Matt. 5:9; John 13:35; 17:23).

Throughout Scripture, God calls his people to be peacemakers in their very being, and not to regard peacemaking as just a tool for occasional use. This way of understanding Scripture has important implications for peacemaking around the world.

First of all, we realize that the ministry of peacemaking touches the very heart of God’s work in this world. Peacemaker Ministries was founded to facilitate the reconciliation of legal conflicts in the United States, but now we see peacemakers around the world applying God’s Word to difficult conflicts in families, in churches, and even in nations. It is often challenging to apply Scripture when cultural traditions resist God’s peacemaking process, but knowing that God delights to show his glory in reconciliation encourages us to persevere in difficult situations.

We have also seen that conflict and resolution are the very story of Scripture. Many cultures will appreciate this way of reading the Bible because they communicate primarily through storytelling, rather than lecture. While an audience in the United States might enjoy learning about God’s peacemaking character through Paul’s teaching in Romans 5:1-11 or 2 Corinthians 5:18-20, an audience in another culture might learn this lesson more effectively by emphasizing the story of how God reveals his peacemaking character to Moses in Exodus 32-34. These are two perspectives on the same Word of God, and together they provide us with complementary ways to teach peacemaking around the world.

What all this means is that the essential identity of the Christian–whatever the capacity in which he or she is serving–is “ambassador of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-20). God calls us to be his ambassadors of peace wherever he has placed us, including our work, our families and our communities. Seminaries are training grounds not just for “pastors,” “teachers,” and “evangelists,” but also for peacemakers. Christian lawyers, businessmen, and other professionals are also peacemakers, with an important role in God’s work of reconciliation.

Wherever you are and however you serve God, we encourage you to begin reading your Bible with an eye for God’s peacemaking character and to imitate his character as the divine Peacemaker. Remember, peacemaking is not simply a tool for fixing problems, but it is a “habit of being,” a way of reflecting who we are in Christ in all of our relationships.

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