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What in the World is a Peacemaker?

I took part in a public forum today that turned out to be a little more public than what is normally (or even comfortable) for me.

I joined Governor Haslam, Senator Corker, former mayor Bill Purcell, CNN’s David Brody and a few other key business and political leaders for lunch. Then, along with several hundred other people, I listened as Senator Corker made a foreign policy speech.

In his speech, Senator Corker referred several times to our church, and to the way we have been addressing the realities of globalization in the American heartland. That took me by surprise. So I thought I should explain to my church family why I attended this meeting, why I am affiliated with the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and what all that means.

It is fair question to ask why a pastor would ever involved himself so openly with the people who form the nation’s foreign policy.  What realistic contribution can spiritual leaders make to that process? How can a spiritual leader, however well intentioned, avoid getting pulled into the political rankling and horse trading we often assume goes along with this kind of political territory?

Because I have often asked myself such questions, I nearly declined the invitation to open today’s meeting. Nonetheless, I went. I offered a few remarks about the importance of our country’s continual global involvement in things like poverty, disease, and eduction. I prayed for God’s blessing on our conversation. Then, over lunch, I enjoyed pleasant conversation with some of our national leaders about issues facing our nation and the world.

Like many of you, I am inclined to dismiss the importance of gatherings like these. I can easily think to myself, “what difference will my opinion make anyway?”

As it turns out though, that is an immature notion. Our opinions can matter a lot.

One of the leaders of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition remarked, “several of us have been watching how your church addresses the serious issues of our times. You offer clear and solid principles. Nonetheless, you do it in a way that invites further discussion from those who disagree. There are such few examples of that approach now in our country and we think you provide an example for how real conversations among people of differing positions can occur and be productive.”

Well, thank God for that.

To the extent to which this is true — that we really have been addressing serious issues with a clear voice that nonetheless invites conversation — is the extent to which we have heeded our Lord’s words, “blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”

“Peace maker,” Jesus says.

He didn’t say “peace keeper.”

A peace keeper tries not to open his mouth; he tries to avoid taking a stand. A peace keeper puts his finger in his mouth, holds it up in the air to see which way the wind is blowing to find out what he is going to say. A peace keeper’s only objective is to avoid conflict and will do whatever is required to achieve it.

A peacemaker does not avoid conflict at any cost. He will fight. He will even die defending his values. However, he does not seek to harm, diminish, or belittle others. Even when the struggle for justice and truth becomes intense, he remembers that all human beings, including his opponents, are made in the image and likeness of God. He is fighting on the behalf of ideas. He is not fighting people.

Isn’t that what St. Paul says, that “our war is not with human beings but with spiritual forces in high places?”

A peacemaker keeps this spiritual reality in mind. He seeks to show genuine respect to those who hold different opinions than he.

The U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, of which I have been a participant, includes among its members every single previous American Secretary of State. It brings ranking members of both parties together for real conversation. Sometimes sparks fly. Huge gaps can open up between their very different opinions. However, sometimes, these brilliant people solve problems precisely because they hold different opinions. Remaining engaged in conversation with those who hold different opinions, forces one to to look at a topic from another viewpoint than the one he normally holds. For this reason, real conversation with one’s ideological opponents opens up the mind and heart in ways that conversation with one’s ideological allies does not.

That’s why I agreed to open up the meeting today.

It is always an honor to discuss our local, state, and international issues with these governmental, business, and academic leaders. I have learned to look compassionately at their very challenging responsibilities. And, I believe, they try to open their heart to consider the ways in which their actions — and their lack of action — may affect those who have little voice in the way the world is run.

That’s my role — to keep great leaders mindful of the human cost of political and business decisions. It is also my role to understand that these decisions are much more complex and challenging than what it appears in front of the television. When one is sitting on his couch eating pizza, blowing off steam to his brother-in-law, it may seem that global problems would be solved if only our leaders had enough common sense. But when we sit with them face to face and see the affects of the great responsibility they shoulder, you realize that they need prayer and a little bit of understanding, just like everyone else. Sometimes, they also need a different perspective from someone in a very different line of work, who gives them that different perspective with grace.

I want to be a peacemaker, but most of the time I don’t think I am making much of a difference in the world. Then, on a day like today, I realize that some of our nation’s leaders really do pay attention.

So, like the Bible says, don’t forget to pray for those in authority. Don’t rail against them. Don’t participate in slander. And, when you have the opportunity, graciously offer your opinion.

You never know.

It might make a real difference.

2 Comments (Add Yours)

  1. “Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:…….14

    Pastor this post blew me away as I just completed a class at Williamson College, in Biblical Ethics.

    I am printing off your post and will be lifting you up in prayer.

    May The Lord bless you and keep you Dan, may His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you, may The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

  2. Fabulous post! The conversations and at times respectful, yet passionate, debates with those that may differ in idealogical starting points is ultimately what leads to better decisions that best serve our community, our state, our country and even the world.

    As someone that must make decisions that impact not only their lives, their family, their future, but the livelihood of many others as well, I covet the prayers of fellow believers.