Justin Hiebert

Catalyzing Change

Peacemaking as a way of life

Posted on 20 Oct 2014 in Christianity, Church, Culture | Comments Off on Peacemaking as a way of life

People often wonder what it is that Christians find appealing about Christianity.

“It’s a myth.”

“It’s a legend.”

“Jesus was a great teacher, but not a savior.”

The response has been to create a realm of public debate to defend the truth of Christianity. It’s called apologetics and you can go to any book store, any church library, or any Christian university and find resources on apologetics.

The thought, so it seems, is that we need to be able to defend our faith, as if somehow our words can prove more fruitful and successful than the words of God.

So we dedicate ourselves to the reading and writing of Scripture, to the arguments, and to the concepts of the Christian faith hoping to convince someone else why it is important for them to become a Christian.

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We’ve traded the call of Christ to live in a certain way and replaced it with an argument about proper belief.

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We’ve built up a whole Christian industry around the rallying cry defend the faith!

And yet nowhere do I see in the story of the Bible, such a rigors defense of the faith. Are we supposed to know Scripture? Absolutely. Are we supposed to know the reason for the hope within as 1 Peter 3 urges us? Definitely, but we tend to quickly forget the second part of that verse which states, “with all gentleness and respect.”

In fact, as important knowing about faith is in the Bible, what it makes even more abundantly clear is the need to actually live it out.

Interpretation is the art of being able to define what this text means.

Application forces us to answer the question: so what are we going to do differently?

And the great failure of apologetics is that we too often get caught up in interpretation and never in application.

Or as James cautioned us, we have become hearers of the word and not doers.

Because it’s easy.

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It’s easy to show up on Sunday, here something edifying, encouraging, or helpful, and then walk out until next week but never actually have that Scripture or word of encouragement make it from your head to your heart.

We’ve traded the call of Christ to live in a certain way and replaced it with an argument about proper belief.

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And this is one passage in particular that I don’t think that holds well the notion that thinking or arguing about faith is just as important as living it.

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.

Jesus makes clear that creation is an important facet of the Christian life. The peace makers those that are actively working their faith in the world to promote and establish God’s standard of peace, of shalom, of wholeness and wellness of being in and among all things. The blessed, those that experience joy with God, are those that actively work to make, create, and advance peace.

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It is this convincing action that will leave a watching world convinced to the validity of the claims that Jesus makes.

In fact, it is the piece of faith that I find so compelling.

So much so, that my working theory has become that the Christian way of life becomes defined by the opposite of my natural inclination or desire.

Think of it this way. It’s fairly easy for me, if I’m wrong to want to wrong somebody back. It’s fairly easy for me to think of myself more and others less. It’s easy for us to live as though we are the center of the universe, to exploit others and the planet to our hearts desire, and to think that we are above repercussions.

And my natural reaction, when punched in the face, is to punch back. So if the best Christianity can do is to punch people back, but in the name of God, we have missed something fundamental about the heart and desire of God.

And so my working theory is my Christian self should act close to the opposite of what my natural instinct is.

To bless when cursed.

To live generously when others are stingy.

To think of my self less while others are acting selfish.

To forgive when wronged.

And to extend and live peacefully in a world full of violence.

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Remember that the Sermon on the Mount is the initial training call for the disciples. Fresh of fishing boat, Jesus takes them up on a mountain to train them how to live as his followers. Part of their core identity is to be people of peace.

In the midst of a country, occupied by a foreign power that looked down on them and ridiculed the Jewish people, one of the first things that Jesus tells his followers to do is to be a peacemaker.

Later, in the same training period, Jesus will tell his followers this:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

In Jesus day, a Roman solider could stop anyone at any time and force them to carry their pack and gear up to one mile, even if they were going the opposite direction. This means that you, heading west towards home after a long days work, could be stopped by a solider, carry his gear east for a mile, and then return on your own journey home.

So what does peacemaking look like? Jesus says to take the pack two miles. Why? Because after one mile, the solider would go to take his pack back.

“No, no, I got this.” And you keep walking.

The soldier, by having you carry the pack more than a mile, is now breaking the law and in danger of going to jail. He will now be forced to begging you to stop. The powerful has become the powerless. The one exploiting others in now powerless and in fear.

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We’ve traded the necessity for a life shaped by Christ and turned it into “bumper sticker theology.”

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And so the Christian community became known as those, who without violence, could get Rome to beg for mercy.

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Later, Jesus would say:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

Interestingly, early Christian communities practiced that. There are records of Christians on trial for, in essence, being too nice. Customary Roman practice of the day was to celebrate the birth of boys, while shunning girls. Girls, it turns out, were expensive to take care of (who would’ve thought that, right?) and were often taken to rivers where flood waters or wild animals were used to dispose of them. Christians, hid in the bushes until the Romans left, swooped in, and adopted those children as their own. They saved hundreds, if not thousands of lives of young children, and when they faced trial it was for this act of compassion.

Early Christians were known and put on trial for being too nice, for showing compassion, and for seeking the peace of those around them….where have we gone wrong?

We’ve traded the necessity for a life shaped by Christ and turned it into “bumper sticker theology.” Instead of living like Good News, we spend our time arguing about how everyone else is wrong.

For the church to move forward in faithfulness, we must reclaim our calling as peacemakers, actors of will and desire that point others to the reign of God. A life shaped and committed to displaying Christ will be a life visible by those committed to living a life of peacemaking. For us to shine as lights for Christ, we must again become this peculiar people who live the way Jesus has asked, and not just a few words or arguments of passion.

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Justin Hiebert

Leadership Catalyst - Entrepreneur - Coach at JSHiebert Leadership Coaching
I am a Business and Life Coach in both non-profit and for profit settings. I coach leaders, executives, and pastors in areas of vision, clarity, and values. In relationship coaching I focus on healthy and sustainable relationships, and in leadership development roles I catalyze change for individuals and groups to thrive. I also consult churches and organizations on how to train new leaders and create a healthy culture. In addition to that, I am an Anabaptist pastor in the Denver metro area. I specialize on topics that include: missional theology, discipleship, culture and the church in today’s society. I am married to my wonderful wife Elise and we have three kids. I grew up and now work in the United States Mennonite Brethren Church (USMB) and love the people and history of the Mennonite Brethren faith. I am a graduate of Tabor College with a dual degree in Youth Ministry and Christian Leadership, a graduate of Fresno Pacific Biblical Seminary with a Masters of Divinity, and a Doctoral Student and Bethel Seminary. I also teach college classes in areas of Bible, Communication, and Business.

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