I have been giving quite a bit of thought to the topic of peacemaking this summer. It started with my summer group on the “Dictionary of a Loving God.” We discussed the word “conviction,” which means to “prefect certitude” and being undivided mentally (not condemning yourself with dual-minded self-judgment). It turns out that most people in the group had seen “conviction” in a negative light, and were surprised to find it has positive connotations in the New Testament.
It turns out “peace” builds upon this positive meaning of conviction, describing a mind and spirit at rest, not tormented by doubt, distrust, or despair. Still, that’s a negative description of peace: I can tell you what peace isn’t, but exactly what is peace? So I did more research in the New Testament, and dug deeply to find the roots of peace.
What I learned from my research is that peace begins inside, in the heart and mind, and is nurtured by a personal faith. As we experience peace internally, we can share it with others, and adopt the practices of peace taught by Jesus and the apostles. My hope is we can nurture a conversation of instilling and nurturing peace, rather than merely reducing violence.
We live in a world where two major ethics, two major narratives, are vying to capture the hearts and minds of people. One is the Conquest Ethic, where might makes right and success is measured in terms of what the strong can take from the weak. When it comes to Conquest, you only need to turn on the news and see what is happening in the Middle East and Africa.
The other is the Love Ethic, which is based in the conviction that God wants all people to prosper, all people to live in peace. The Love Ethic finds its roots in the teachings of Jesus and the Gospel, and provides a distinct alternative to violence. Love can be practiced only by people who been changed from the inside-out by God. History has plenty of dark chapters, but our generation gets to write the next one. My prayer is for a heart that is centered in God’s peace and love, so I can learn to practice peace and love in my relationships. Could it be that peace will reach a tipping point of critical mass as Christ’s followers grow into mature discipleship?
If the topic of peacemaking speaks to you, BUMC’s Curbing Violence Team is devoting the month of September to an emphasis upon peacemaking. This church-wide focus will culminate with Sunday messages on September 21 and 28, and a special Saturday afternoon seminar on September 27. The seminar, “Creating a Peaceable Kingdom,” will feature a keynote speaker and breakout sessions. You’ll be hearing more about this event in the weeks to come.
Thomas also volunteered to write a curriculum to give all of you the opportunity to explore and discuss what he discovered about peace in the Bible. It is a four-session series entitled, “Becoming a Peacemaker in a Violent World,” and he is making it available to all of our BUMC groups to use in September. We will have several groups doing the series and you can participate by signing up for a group next month. Here are the themes of the four sessions: What Is Peace, Faith as the Fuel for Peace, The Fruit of Faith – A Life of Peacemaking, and Ways to Grow as a Peacemaker.