Peacemaking? Yes, But We Have Questions

Rich: “I am with you.  In heart and in being fixated on Jesus’ call for His followers to be peacemakers.  Many others are also, at least I would like to believe it is so. But, we have questions.  And the questions tend to be about the extreme cases we hear on the news.  We hear that Hamas will never recognize Israel’s right to exist.  If that’s true and they choose to launch rockets in Israel, What is Israel to do and what is the United States to do and what is the church/Christians to do?

We have questions about how to make peace with killers who enter a village and slaughter all the men and enslave the women and children, all in the name of their god and desired state.  I know how Jesus made peace – He died for them.  Is that how we make peace?  Go to them with the gospel of peace, asking them to lay down their arms and follow Jesus the Prince of Peace.  And when they kill us, we know that we have done the will of God and that He will draw them to His Son when sufficient Christians have been killed for the light of God and all that is good to dawn on them?  I am just radical enough about Jesus to say, “Yes, that’s the way,” but it’s terribly hard to find volunteers.

Andy, you are getting an earful because I have no one else to talk to about these things.  And I am not trying to put words in your mouth. Those are my words.  Jesus has often made Himself known through the persecution and even death of His followers.  That is one of His great methods.  The world gets a witness and Christ followers get to be like their Master.  What could be better?

My suspicion is that many Christians want peace.  They also have fears about allowing evil to overrun the innocent (or the more evil running over the less evil).  How do your peacemaking efforts address these questions?”

Andy: Rich, we just had a team meeting last week in Denver and had a very important presentation from a board member who has worked with the military and intelligence community on this. Here is a graphic presented and some of my thoughts re: where we are inserted in relationships and conversations. Did you know that over 100 American citizens are fighting with ISIS? My Sunday School answer to “how can we solve this problem” is this: We need to mobilize more loving Christians into loving, Christ centered relationships with Muslims. Parenthetically, our presenter, who is an authority in terrorism and radicalization stated that this problem is not the sole domain of Islam. There is a long and growing shopping list of white supremacist and other groups that are growing in our country. Btw, I wonder what Peter would have become after the encounter with the soldiers in the garden if Jesus had not rebuked him for wielding the sword?

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  1. Author

    Big questions. I can offer only two, or what feels more like 1.5 cents, on this.

    I think that peacemaking requires continuously listening to both sides rather than rallying for one side against the other, while at the same time helping others (e.g. those unsure of peacemaking) to realize that listening to both sides and helping both sides listen to each other is in no way, shape, or form an endorsement of what either side says or does.

    In the process of listening, one is likely to become aware of injustices on both sides (whatever the issue), and at times what seems like more injustice on onside than the other. But rather than respond by jumping over to one side in order to rally for that one side, I think that being a peacemaker requires remaining in the in between space and helping to make it possible for the two sides to hear, and eventually listen, to each other. In the process this also includes helping each side to listen to themselves.

    Consider the story (link below) of a young man who went to fight with ISIS but then left. An essential step in his leaving was his listening to ISIS talk about themselves, both through the words and actions of ISIS. How much more often could this happen if there were peacemakers engaged in ways which would help those in ISIS with a high opinion of themselves and their religious claims to consider introspectively what they are actually doing? Andy, I think this is one example of a way to be a peacemaker which absolutely rejects barbarism — a clear concern of the thoughtful person who wrote to you.

    And a related thought: when it comes to ISIS it is hard for some to imagine what peacemaking might look like. Well, one key role of being a peacemaker is making sure those who want out can get out, both for their own souls and safety and so that they can be voices of truth in the public sphere, to expose the barbarity inside ISIS and to help us understand why some feel an allure to join this movement.

  2. Author

    From Martin Brooks:

    On a church level conversation with friends, I have found the arsonist, firefighter and gardener analogy helpful. Thomas Friedman wrote a piece a few weeks ago, saying in most conflicts there are those who are motivated to perpetuate the conflict for various reasons. The firefighters in his piece were those trying to de-escalate the conflict. This could be military or diplomats or PCI but the climate in which the conflict occurs needs the care of a gardener who works with the soil and makes conditions right for thriving. According to what Jennifer said, the defense people see the need to fund gardening. It seems to me that we do not get to the point of war without someone poisoning the soil. As we look at the rise of ISIS and the desire to contain such things in the future, we must pay attention to the soil in which it thrives. I’m no pacifist. I welcome the firemen to stop ISIS, but only if it can improve the soil. It’s a long view of both/and instead of either/or. Some arsonists seem to be in the church, which makes me question the soil in which they are growing. I suspect it has more to do with fear than Jesus.

  3. Author

    From Nathan Elmore:

    This draft is quite good. It is sober, yet hopeful, without being naive. It also emphasizes a pro-active, multifaceted answer to violent extremism.

    In addition, it might be helpful to continue to clarify for American Christians that there are delineated roles for Church and State in this matter.

  4. I appreciate the graphic and insights in the comments. As a pastor, if I do not engage our members with God’s heart for Muslims (as for all peoples), then many will fall into the views represented in popular media. Yet, I have engage them on this topic very little, because I know that my original questions above will be asked and need an answer. There is more to hear and say, but for now I will camp on the idea that the presence ISIS and other extremists does not preclude building bridges for peace with Muslims who are not out for blood (the vast majority).

  5. Indeed there are distinctive goals and purposes for Christians, both individually and as the Church, and the state. They are both responsible to fulfill their respective purpose. Government is to maintain order and safety for its citizens. Christians are to seek to grow the kingdom of God on earth, as in the Lord’s Prayer. We are to follow Christ’s example as the suffering servant on a personal level and through the church. The state, however religious it’s officials may be, is a secular institution and should be. The state has the God-sanctioned responsibility to exercise the sword of justice when necessary. Even in war or in civil punishment, the Christian official or soldier should love the enemy or the condemned, even as God loves the sinner and hates to see him reap the fruits of his evil. We are not to return evil for evil in vengeance for personal offense, but the state that does not try to stop evil contributes to it. It is no evil to defend victims from murderers and rapers.

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