We all want peace in our lives. In my busy, and sometimes crowded, life I often find myself longing for the quiet waters of Psalm 23; just to find some space for the peace of God to settle on me. Rarely do I have this space and when I do, I make the most of it. When i don't, I cling to Philippians 4:6-7 which says, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus".
When life is overwhelming 'peace which transcends understanding' is well worth pursuing. A couple of years ago a good friend unlocked this verse for me when he drew my attention to the part where it says 'with thanksgiving'. He said, "peace comes when we say thank you to God." It works. When you need to keep peace in your life, thank God for the things he has done.
Sometimes saying thank you is hard. If life is difficult or there are unanswered prayers or unresolved issues in your life it is understandable that we would say 'thank you God that you made the Heavens and the Earth but...(you haven't done what I hoped you would or I still want more or you just don't seem to be there).' When there is a 'but' our peace is threatened. When there is a 'but' there is distrust or even fear. If we are able to turn our 'but' into 'but God' we turn fear to hope. When our 'but this didn't work out' becomes 'but God can do all things' we are able to keep hold of peace because hope is restored. We are then able to say thank you with a grateful heart.
We all need peace in our lives. We all need to keep the peace of God at the centre of our lives but now I want to look at peace on another level. Peace that is pursued further, peace that is not always quiet and peace that enables us to find our place in the family of God.
In growing up my mum was always one for keeping the peace in our home. She did not like confrontation or arguments. She was and is a peacekeeper. Many of us feel uncomfortable with discord, but sometimes a peace keeper avoids facing these things whatever the cost. For example my gentle mum would often put aside her own feelings just so there wasn't an argument, even if she knew she was right. I have a different temperament to my mum. It may surprise you to know that I do, on most occasions, like to be right! I would argue my case until I was blue in the face! I have learnt (am learning!) to be more open to other people's opinions now but at the time I had to have the last word. The eldest of my brothers is very similar to my mum, a peacekeeper. He would let things go, be quick to apologise and this frustrated me! He would not argue back! He kept the peace.
As I have grown up I have seen the qualities of a peacekeeper but recently I have noticed that sometimes a peace keeper keeps the peace at their own expense. Sometimes, in order to keep the peace, we don't want to rock the boat or have that awkward conversation, so we don't. We think we have kept the peace but potentially at the expense of our own.
Of course a peacekeeper can restore peace that was lost or help prevent disharmony, but it is when their own peace is threatened, when 'peace keeping', that we must pursue peace on a different level.
Matthew 5:9 says, "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God". It says 'peacemakers' not 'peacekeepers'. The term 'peacemaker' suggests action. It means 'we make peace, we pursue it with perseverance'. Psalm 34:14 says 'Depart from evil; do good; seek peace and pursue it." In The Message Bible it translates "Turn your back on sin; do something good. Embrace peace-don't let it get away!" A peacemaker HAS to pursue peace. If there is an issue with a brother or a sister in the family of God a peacemaker has to pursue peace because within them there is a deep desire to chase after the kingdom of God which, as Romans 14:17 tells us, is "righteousness and peace and joy".
If we look to Romans 14:19 the Bible tells us to 'make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification it means that in doing what leads to peace we spiritually uplift each other; we benefit each other; we make each others success our honour.
It is very difficult to be of benefit to someone if there is not peace in the relationship. On occasions it is also difficult to be of benefit to someone if we simply keep the peace. How does your soul rest with something that causes you concern or heartache? If your peace is threatened because of concern, will remaining quiet benefit the other person? We must pursue peace, as The Message puts it we must "embrace peace-don't let it get away!"
If you are by nature a peacekeeper be careful not to let peace 'get away' in order to 'keep the peace'. If you consider yourself a peace maker you must keep your motives in check. Don't assume that all confrontation is peace making. Difficult conversations should only be pursued if love and peace are your true motives. We must assess each situation individually. Sometimes in order to be a peacemaker we must 'keep the peace' and take an issue no further with a person. Then we look to God, we work on ourselves until we are at peace in our heart. Other times we must pursue that difficult conversation, get to the root of the problem and with love, find peace. This doesn't mean we will always agree with each other but peace will teach us to value each other. It allows us to edify each other and find our place in God's family.
If we look back to Matthew 5:9, but this time in The Message Bible, it says, "You are blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are and your place in God's family."
So let's be people who cooperate with each other, who don't fight with each other but pursue peace because of love, who go further because of unity in the body of Christ, who will not let peace 'get away'. After all, we are family.