A couple drove down a country road for several miles, not saying a word. An earlier discussion had led to an argument and neither of them wanted to concede their position. As they passed a barnyard of mules, goats, and pigs, the husband asked sarcastically, “Relatives of yours?” “Yep,” the wife replied, “in-laws.”
We’re not always very good at keeping the peace. So many big arguments begin with small comments. How many times have you started a conversation on friendly terms, then wound up in a dispute you didn’t anticipate? Or we may have wanted to give someone what we thought was helpful advice only to inadvertently offend.
Sometimes we don’t mean to get as out of joint as we suddenly do. We may take offense at something that ten seconds later we realize was overblown on our part.
We’re not perfect when it comes to being at peace but we’re not willing to give up on peace or our part in growing it. It’s important, and not impossible to get better at bringing peace wherever we are. As Psalm 37:37 says, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace.”
There’s no doubt that seeing someone adept at creating peace where others would create division is a powerful help to becoming more peaceful ourselves. But perhaps nobody around us is very good at being a peacemaker. This doesn’t mean we’re off the hook.
Jesus told us peacemakers will be called God’s children but too few people around you have been interested in claiming that honor and mantle. That doesn’t give us a free pass to being someone who builds up walls and causes separation between people who belong together.
Extremely rare is the time when choosing peace is the wrong answer. It’s a good time for peace, and it’s always the right time to become more peaceable.
We can learn to make our lives and our world more peaceful. As scripture says, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit…. Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace….”
It’s so easy to look at what’s wrong with someone. We’re good at judging another and telling ourselves they don’t quite deserve a full
treatment, real or complete acceptance or honor or empathy. When we do this, we’re on our way to separating ourselves from them and building a wall.
When they’re on the other side, they don’t get first class treatment. We hold out emotionally from them. We remain skeptical of intentions, easily combative and defensive toward their words or actions. Battle lines are drawn. This can happen because of the smallest of infractions. Don’t let it.
This is true even at home. Someone makes a mess but doesn’t clean it up. Go ahead. Clean it up. Be a first responder in love. Set the example. Let someone follow your lead.
It’s true also on the road, like when we’re running late and someone isn’t driving well. They’re too slow for our needs or not turning right when it’s red but the lane is clear. Those types of things. I like to tell myself and whoever else is in the car, such as the kids, that this isn’t the other driver’s fault. If we had left when we needed to then we wouldn’t have to worry about whether this person was going to make the right turn when space was there or how slow that person was going for this little stretch of time.
We do much better when we stop fighting the situation and see it from another perspective. Find a way to get yourself out of that first reactive, negative, and blaming thinking. Take someone else’s view into consideration. Let go of being defensive or having to be right. If we breathe several times, we may find out we’re simply not that invested in something turning out our way every time. They may not be wrong, after all.
We ought to find what is right with someone and hold on to what we can agree with in what they say or want. Labor to journey with someone rather than hasten to judge them.
We are right to disagree but let’s not do it so trouble begins. It’s easier to keep something bad from happening than it is to stop it once it gets rolling. Seek a more peaceful outcome from the start.
Our scripture passage is the start of a new section and a new theme. The theme is dealing with division and walls and barriers between people. Overcoming barriers between people, specifically Jews and Gentiles, becomes possible because of Jesus Christ and the Church.
The animosity that arose from fierce national identity and cultural differences was mutual. Gentiles looked upon Jews as oddballs, addicted to strange customs such as circumcision, Sabbath observance, and food laws that, for instance, forbade eating pork. Jewish worship of one God and
veneration of Moses’ law as unique didn’t endear them to the Greco-Roman world of religious pluralism and tolerance.
Jewish reverence for Torah had grown over a couple of hundred years into the main cause of Jewish pride, causing them to see all others as darkened and without true morals.
They were not the same. They were different. Battle lines were drawn, and the wall separating Jews from Gentiles was built.
It’s easy to draw such lines, and to build walls, to continue mistrust, and value only people who are the same and disvalue those who are different. Walls are built too often; sometimes even cages; rarely ever however are they made for children after being separated from parents. It’s a practice at the border of Mexico and the U.S. that mustn’t continue, and the children need to be returned to their parents with great speed and accuracy.
The author sees Christ as the mediator between Jews and Gentiles. They could agree on him, if nothing else. Whether they had been near or far from God, that is, Jew with Torah or Greek with polytheism, they could settle their differences and bring greater stability to humanity by coming to Christ.
It was a hope that never ultimately materialized in the form the author hoped.
This search for greater humanity and unity was seen elsewhere in scripture, by one who was wronged first but grew to a stature of spiritual maturity that isn’t recognized often enough.
Esau had spent some twenty years since his brother, Jacob, had left home, twenty years since Jacob had stolen their father’s blessing, a blessing Esau knew was rightfully his. His thoughts then had been of terrible revenge, but with the passing of time Esau’s anger and burning resentment had subsided. These feelings had been replaced by a deep awareness that God had not forgotten him and that he, in turn, could not forget the love he had held for his brother.
When Jacob returned to Canaan, Esau heard about it and set out to find his brother. Upon seeing Jacob, Esau “ran to meet him, and embraced him, and fell on his neck, and kissed him; and they wept.” Esau’s willingness to tear down the wall between them evoked a powerful response in Jacob, who said to his brother that to see his face and be accepted by him was “as though (he) had seen the face of God.” Where there had been two brothers far apart, now there was one family.
Reconciliation causes us to find our way again. It’s life flowing in its best direction. It’s God’s will.
Find walls to tear down within your family. Reduce to rubble what separates you from someone else you love. We don’t have to be successful. By simply trying we let the other person know the door is open.
A man recently described a bitter divorce, resulting in him losing all contact with his young daughter, now 26-years-old. He expressed the pain and powerlessness of not being able to reconcile with her and of his daughter’s refusal to connect with him in any way since those days years before. When he tells his story to others, they find it difficult to comprehend. It’s almost always suggested he try again to reconcile with her.
Sometimes reconciliation is not possible, at least not on our time schedule.
We may come to a point with someone with whom we simply can’t reconcile—a best friend, a sibling, a parent, or an ex-partner or spouse. If we can’t make things better, then we can accept the situation for what it is and realize what we are unable to change. Then we can start to reconcile the relationship within ourselves. We need to make peace within ourselves.
Inner reconciliation requires we change how we think and talk about the other person. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts and memories. Avoid speaking negatively when they’re talked about. Instead recognize and appreciate the other persons’ positive qualities, even if there aren’t that many. Focus on them. We can be free of the other.
Along with thinking and speaking well of other person, we can put them in our prayers. Asking God to be with the person can prove healing to oneself and perhaps even give way to a miracle in the future. A brief prayer for their happiness, lets us return to a peaceful position toward her or him.
Our scripture passage is very clear that peace is a condition of God’s life within us. Four times it uses the word peace, saying Christ is our peace, the one who breaks down dividing walls. Christ’s work was to speak peace and proclaim it to anyone who would hear, to those who were already near to God and to those who were still far away.
For all his effort, peace still seems a long way off. We mustn’t let differences divide us. We need to hear Christ’s call to peace and reconciliation.
Maintaining animosity toward others, either individually or a group of people, denies the Lord’s will. Hatred has no place in God’s kingdom. It’s
not a tool the Lord has need of. Rage toward someone or toward others doesn’t serve God’s heart toward us.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.” Christians aren’t supposed to be like everyone else. Stay tuned to transforming a situation. Recognize where reconciliations can occur.
God’s blessings bear fruit in a peaceful heart. Let us be God’s peacemakers.
Can the church say Amen?