By Dr. Jack R. Hodges, Jr.
During the Korean conflict, a chaplain crawled through enemy fire to care for a seriously wounded soldier. The chaplain dampened his handkerchief, wiped the man’s face, gave him water, held his hand, talked, prayed, and waited with him until the medics arrived. “Sir,” the soldier asked, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” “I try,” replied the chaplain, “but sometimes I fail.” After a few silent moments, the soldier said, “I’m not a Christian, but if following Jesus makes you do what you’ve done for me, then I want to follow Him too.”
There are a lot of problems in this world, wouldn’t you agree? Wars are raging and have been raging since the dawn of mankind. Fear, hatred, hostility, ill will, and ill feelings abound! Nations stand against nations and family members against one another. People bow up against anyone and everyone who disagrees with them or makes them feel threatened. And it really doesn’t matter who is in the White House or controls Congress—the political fighting never ceases. War, conflict, hatred, and hostilities continue over and over with never an end in sight. Even church members find themselves pitted one against another. And perhaps that is one of the greatest tragedies—for the Word of God insists that followers of Christ must “not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth” (1 John 3:18) and that the world will know us by our love.
In such a world of conflict, no one comes out unscathed. All experience the trauma and the wounds of conflict and war. Sin, selfishness, and pride produce such pain and devastation. Truly, all are left with gaping and serious wounds. And amid such horror and travesty—our world needs some peacemakers. Our world, our nation, our community, and God’s church needs some of Jesus’ kids who are willing to crawl through whatever threat or danger exists to wipe the face of a wounded stranger, give him/her water, talk with, pray with, and stay with them until help comes. “My help comes from the Lord,” David wrote in Psalm 121:2, “Who made the heaven and the earth.”
None of the world’s problems are new, of course! Our fallen world has been shattered under the weight of sin—and that has produced hatred, animosity, and contempt. The world’s solution to the conflict is usually to remove the source or the cause of the problem. But the world’s only real solution is God’s offer of Jesus! Jesus offered the only solution to mankind’s mortal threat of death. He came and died! He left His home in glory and took upon Himself the flesh of humanity. He lived as fully God and fully man—and then He gave His life as a sacrifice or ransom for our sins. He rose victoriously alive from a brutal, horrifying physical death. And when He did, He proved Almighty and Eternal God’s power over both sin and death. Having secured your forgiveness and redemption, Jesus offered you and me new life—new life in Christ.
Jesus declared (Matthew 5:9), “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Do you hear the Savior’s call? To a world broken and shattered by evil and hatred, Jesus calls forth His children to be peacemakers. Peacemaking can only truly be successful when we place our eyes on the Lord—for apart from God, peacemaking doesn’t work! Apart from God, nothing works! N.T. Write said, “When God wants to create peace, He doesn’t send tanks, He sends the meek.” Rick Love (Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in our Families, Organizations, and Communities) noted that unfortunately, “Well-meaning Christians sometimes push back on such a statement by quoting Jesus’ statement from Matthew 10:34-36. Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I came to turn a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a person’s enemies will be the members of his household.”
We must be careful not to misinterpret and then misuse Jesus’ words here! Jesus doesn’t bring evil and conflict into the earth! Mankind brought this upon themselves through sin. Christ, the sinless One, did not come to cause harm or create evil, pain, suffering, or wounds! He didn’t bring a sword to the battle—He brought Himself! He came to bring eternal life and salvation. So, what the Lord is actually declaring here was that His actual coming (incarnation) into this world would create the kind of an effect where “a man would turn against his father, a daughter against her mother,” etc. Amid that kind of carnage, the Lord came to bring peace to a world that was devoid of peace. He came to bring love to people who were empty of love, care, or compassion.
Please don’t miss the rest of Jesus’ message from Matthew 10:37-42, which holds the key to understanding His plan for bringing peace. To paraphrase: our Savior warned humanity, “Unless you take up your cross and follow Me, unless you lose your life for My sake, and unless you are willing to humble yourself and give a cup of cold water to the dregs of society or even to the littlest ones, you will not taste of the great rewards of heaven.” Herein is the command! Deny self, follow Me! Deny self, follow My way! Deny self and live out my love before all men. The Psalmist urged on behalf of God, “Seek peace and pursue it” (Psalms 34). Robert Kopp claims, “But seeking peace apart from God is absolute lunacy. And that’s what is happening in our homes, churches, communities, country, and world.” He continues, “We aren’t seeking peace through God. We’re pursuing peace but we’re not doing it the right way: through Him!”
Consider these two important spiritual truths about peacemaking: (1) peacemaking without God doesn’t work, and (2) Jesus calls all of us to the work of reconciliation and peacemaking. And when we do it His way, it works!
What does peacemaking look like? First, it is undergirded by the love of Christ. We celebrate the grace and mercy of God alive in us in Christ—and we live as new creatures.
Secondly, we dedicate ourselves to living out the character of Christ in our lives. Our perspective becomes the perspective of Christ Jesus. And His perspective was always driven by love and a desire for redemption, reconciliation, and peace.
Thirdly, we choose Christ’s way! We choose to live at peace with all men, as much as possible. That includes speaking the truth to brothers and sisters out of love. The motivation for peacemaking is always love. And the desired outcome of peacemaking is to bring another closer to Christ. It is never to tear down or cast someone aside. It has been suggested that the pillars of peacemaking include: taking responsibility, lovingly reproving, accepting reproof, asking for forgiveness, and forgiving others. You see, the love of Christ alive in you and me makes that seemingly impossible task possible in Jesus. Peacemakers are a rare breed! They are those who strive to keep the peace and make peace amid strife and division—all because they love the Lord Jesus. Today, choose to be a peacemaker and live as children of God.
Dr. Jack Hodges is the Senior Pastor at Pleasant Hill Baptist Church in Morganton, NC. He has served as a pastor, a biblical counselor, and an International Mission Board missionary.
Read more from Dr. Hodges here.