When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:17-18
The Shepherds had a pretty simple, but critical role in the Christmas story, right? Go and observe, and then tell the truth about what you heard and observed. They did not elaborate…they did not speculate about anyone’s intentions or possible motives…they did not add their own opinions into the mix. They heard from the angels, observed the baby Jesus, and then they simply reported what they had heard and observed. They did their job well…God took care of the rest.
As a peacemaker, I could learn a thing or two from the shepherds in the Christmas story. I could learn to remind myself that my role in the peacemaking process is not complicated. More times than not, I am merely speaking the truth in love. The role is actually simple enough unless I find myself beginning to interject my own opinions and speculation about motives and behaviors. That is when I get myself into trouble.
Peacemakers must speak the truth about what we have heard from God’s Word. For this reason, faith-based peacemaking is different from the secular concepts of genuine mediation. It is slightly less conciliatory and slightly more directive, at least in the sense of being grounded in the Word of God as the source of all truth and of all solutions. Among Christ-followers, there is almost always a spiritual element to conflict. Spiritual problems demand spiritual solutions…and spiritual solutions come from God’s Word. For me to be an effective peacemaker in the church, I must be listening to the Word of God and I must be representing it accurately…just like the Shepherds “spread the word concerning what had been told them…”. This places a responsibility on us, as peacemakers, to be in the Word of God and to be listening carefully to it.
Do not misunderstand. I am not claiming we must become theologians. I certainly am not one. I am certain I have no desire to be one. In fact, I often feel like I am at an advantage because I am NOT one. While I have enormous respect for theologians, and I can see clearly our need for them and the value they add to the kingdom, I do not believe God’s Word was written to communicate solely to theologians…I believe it was written to communicate to all of us, with the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. As a peacemaker, I need not be an expert in the original Biblical languages, but I do need to be in God’s Word daily and I need ears to hear and understand. God’s Word, after all, is our source of truth among Christians. And truth often becomes a fairly central part of peacemaking.
Peacemakers must speak the truth about what we have observed in the relationships at hand. The Shepherds were told by the angels what they would find, and then they went and found it to be exactly as they were told. They were witnesses, simply telling what they had heard and observed. They did not argue, they did not have to “sell it” or polish it or spin it, they simply told what they had heard and seen. Hard to argue with that.
As peacemakers, we observe relationships, and then we report to the players what we observe. We do not slant the report and we do not spin it. We do not speculate about how or why and we neither opine about fault nor judge. “This relationship is broken…you have said that this is what hurt you…I noticed you did this…I heard you say this…This is what scripture teaches about forgiveness…This is what scripture teaches about confession…etc.” Observe and report. Very much like the shepherds.
I suddenly have a whole new respect for those shepherds. They understood their roles. They performed them beautifully!