Summary: Peace is something the world needs to learn from the church. To be peacemakers we must teach all of God’s truth, we must model peaceful resolution, we must equip with real skills, and we must find peace with God through Christ.
We entered the conference room in stony silence. For several weeks I had noticed the two of them – mature women, well-established, well-grounded in the Lord – but at odds with one another. They had been planning a special event, but had disagreed over the menu. One of them wanted an item dear to her ethnic tradition; the other wanted only what everyone was used to. One of them wanted to try something different; the other wanted to keep things the way they had always been. And though it seemed just to be about food, it became obvious that it was about more than food. It was about power. It was about authority. It was about pride. Who would back down? Neither of them. And when name-calling began and other church members started to notice and to take sides, I knew that as pastor I must step in. So here we were, in the conference room, in stony silence.
We prayed and then we began. I asked each to describe not only her case but also what she was feeling about the other. Each protested that she had nothing against her sister, oh, no, everything was fine, except … But after “except” came from one a torrent of complaint and criticism; I had difficulty restraining the other one from pouring out her invective during all this. And, as you might expect, when the other’s turn came, she turned on the spigot as well. The room was awash with anger and accusation. For this I went to seminary? To judge between entrée items at the next church dinner? But of course it was about far more than that. I pleaded, I interpreted, I urged, I admonished. And finally, so I thought, I had a breakthrough. Angry woman number one turned to angry woman number two and said, “I was wrong. I should not have said what I said. Will you forgive me?” Ah, great moment, “Will you forgive me?”
To which number two replied, with words that pierced like knives, “Well, no”. She proceeded to repeat the old arguments one more time. “Will you forgive?” “Well, no.” I was beaten. I left that night, worn out, because there was no resolution and no peace. However, that is not the end of the story.
In the musical, “South Pacific”, Lieutenant Cable sings, “You’ve got to be taught to hate and fear, you’ve got to be taught from year to year, and it’s got to be drummed in your dear little ear. You’ve got to be carefully taught!” The idea is that we are naturally peaceful people, but we are taught hostility by others. Supposedly if you leave us alone we are sweet innocents whom others corrupt with hateful teachings. We might wish that were so, but both history and theology teach us that it is not true. Ever since Cain rose up against Abel we have known that hostility, self-justification, and pride, are what we do. Ever since Lot argued with Abraham, ever since Sarah sent Hagar into the wilderness, we have known that what is native to us is not harmony but hatred. And that means we have to be carefully taught, all right; but it is not that somebody has to teach us how to fight. Instead somebody has to teach us the way of peace. Somebody has to teach us how to reconcile. “Why can’t we all just get along?” That is not going to happen all by itself. But we can be carefully taught the ways of peace; we can be carefully taught how to love; we can be carefully taught what reconciliation is all about.
The prophet Micah had a vision about that. In his mind’s eye he saw a place to which all the nations might go and ask to be taught the arts of peace. “In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established … Peoples shall stream to it, and many nations shall come and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go forth instruction … He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more”
What a vision that is! That to the house of the Lord all peoples would come to learn not war, but the art of peace. That to the people of God the nations might come to find out how to move from unending hostility to eternal peace. What a vision! Let’s examine this more closely, this idea that the house of God is a house of peacemaking.