What’s at Stake Here? (Part 3 of 3, Peace | Conflict Series)
This is the last of a 3-part series on peace and conflict. I want to describe here why our obedience in this area is vital for our personal spiritual journeys and for the mission of the Church.
Pursuing peace changes things dramatically. We can’t just avoid conflict. In ministry (and in leadership in general), we can’t just be pragmatic and “get the job done.” We need to go out of our way to invest in relationships. Peace demands that we set aside our comfort (and at times our rights) in order to engage difficult conversations. It demands that we apologize and forgive more often. And it demands that we talk less and listen more in order to really understand one another (James 1.19).
I believe, as followers of Christ, we have a huge opportunity here. In fact, pursuing a culture of peace may be one of the most powerful things we can do to fulfill the mission of the Church. Why?
Pursuing peace makes us more like Christ.
Make no mistake, peacemaking is a discipleship issue. Jesus not only taught it; he also lived it especially when he gave his life on the cross. In that moment, he was the ultimate peacemaker, and he changed the world forever.
For us, pursuing peace is an opportunity to express the heart of Christ and to be like him. It’s not something extra that just makes our ministries “effective.” It’s core to what it means to be disciples of Jesus.
To put it another way, following Jesus demands that we pursue peace even when it’s costly (Luke 9.23-24). Disciples don’t sue each other (1 Corinthians 6.1-7), and they don’t politely live with subtle hostility either. Disciples pursue peace. We work hard to develop harmony and understanding and goodwill so that our relationships flourish—no matter what it takes.
If we want to be disciples of Jesus Christ we must pursue peace the way he did—humility, love, patience, and self-sacrifice.
The foundation of this, of course, is our peace with God (Romans 5.1). Because we have peace with our Creator, we can have peace with ourselves, with each other, and with the world in a way that is utterly unique.
From a place of fullness and satisfaction in Christ, we can turn to others and seek their peace as well. We can seek to make people around us and the rest of the world flourish. We no longer need to concern ourselves with our rights or our comfort. We’re complete in Christ.
Pursuing peace demonstrates the Gospel.
This is a huge opportunity. This is where the Body of Christ can be a community like no other. Just imagine if we consistently, day in and day out, week after week, pursue a culture of peace everywhere we can. Imagine if your relationships, at home and at work, genuinely flourished. We’d be completely unlike the outside culture. The rest of the world desperately needs another way to do relationships, and because of Christ we have something to offer.
That’s the second reason why pursuing peace is so powerful for our mission.
Pursuing peace is an opportunity to put flesh on our message, to live it out, and to demonstrate that Jesus is who he says he is. Peace is not only a discipleship issue; it’s also a witness issue. When we live in hostility toward each other, we give the world reason to doubt Jesus. We make it hard for them to believe. But when we work hard to make our relationships flourish, we make it easier for people to trust Christ and receive the life they so desperately need.
I think that’s what Jesus was getting at when he prayed for us in John 17.20-23:
“I pray…that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me…May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”
Jesus prayed that we would be unified, not just so that we would be like him, but that the world may know he is real and the Gospel is true. They should see this reality in our relationships.
Here’s the bottom line: Our ability to follow Christ and our witness to the outside world both depend on our pursuit of peace.
What will you do? Will you just resolve conflict, or will you pursue peace?