Tuesday Re-mix –
Peacemaking means a lot of things to a lot of people, even within the context of the church. There are gentle, non-anxious leaders who are often called peacemakers. There are true mediator-like people who help resolve conflict. I believe there are even those who have a Spiritual gift of peacemaking. In my ministry, I suppose I am a bit of a “collector” of peacemakers. That is, I have people from all walks of life who have joined me in peacemaking in churches all over the world. So I can say with some confidence that peacemakers come in all shapes and sizes, and how they do what they do comes in many forms as well.
But I have also come to see some commonalities among them. There are common experiences and common reactions to circumstances. There are things all peacemakers do, whether they know it or not. And that is what this series of posts will address. I am calling it Habits of Peacemakers.
The first observation is the clearest for me. Every true peacemaker I have ever known has been given an ability, a “gift”: peacemakers see broken relationships. Usually, peacemakers see them before most other people see them. Often, peacemakers see them before the parties themselves even realize the brokenness is there. I’m sorry for this connection, but I just couldn’t help drawing from a favorite movie of mine. Maybe you remember it. M. Night Shyamalan’s best effort yet, in my opinion.
“I see dead people.” Haley Joel Osment’s line will go down in movie history. And real peacemakers relate to his character’s problem. When a genuine peacemaker looks across the landscape of a congregation, even a relatively happy, healthy congregation, he/she sees broken relationships. Other people see wholeness and happiness and progress. But for peacemakers, there may be a room filled with healthy relationships, but he /she will only see the one that is horribly damaged. Peacemakers see them all around us, and it is almost haunting at times.
But seeing the brokenness is not the worst of it. Seeing the damaged relationships, peacemakers are intrinsically and inescapably drawn to them. It is the whole “moths to a flame” deal. We cannot help it. As peacemakers, it is how we are wired. It is certainly not a choice (at least not for me–my temperament is to run from conflict). But it compels us. I’m not talking about the kind of fascination school kids have for gathering and watching a fight. We all know that feeling. This is a different feeling. It is a growing sense that this relationship is terribly broken and that it can be fixed and that I need to help fix it.
In moving toward broken relationships while others are keeping their distance, peacemakers are sometimes accused of being “busybodies” and interfering in matters which are none of our business. Some of us have erected boundaries to deal with that perception and some have not. But the boundaries do not change who we are. They only serve as some well-placed social inhibitions to keep us from doing something silly. They do not change what the peacemaker sees and they do not change what the peacemaker feels drawn to do.
The church needs peacemakers. It has always needed them, but in this day of quickly changing paradigms and radically different generations from one to the next, and in this day of new “iterations” of Christianity (e.g., the “emergent church”, etc.), peacemakers have never been more in demand. And in response to that demand for peacemakers, I personally believe God is raising them up all across the church in many different persons: big ones, little ones, professional ones, lay ones, old ones, and young ones. You can’t tell who they are by looking at them. But you can “catch” them pretty easily. Just find the broken relationships in your church, and then look through the crowd of people moving away from that brokenness and see the one or two or few people actually moving toward it. You’ve snagged them. Those are your peacemakers. They are acting out one of their habits.
Once you “catch” them, be careful what you do with them. You’re going to need them. Then again, you’ve probably already figured that out.