I wasn’t the easiest teenager to live with. Constantly pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable, pushing both my parents and sisters to the limit, I suppose I was no different to any other teenager. My parents had a constant battle trying to keep the volume down, to make sure everyone got their fair share of attention, TV time, or treats.
As I grew, the battles changed, as did my reasons for fighting them. Partly fuelled from a dry sense of humour, with more than a little sarcastic edge and partly because I like to challenge the ‘norm’ I clearly remember my mum warning me whenever we had company coming round (be that friends, or family) that I was to behave myself, and that there were certain topics that I simply wasn’t allowed to bring up.
Sometimes I found it just too difficult to keep to these rules and would have to go out instead.
I understand why my parents, mum especially, wanted me to behave. She wanted a peaceful time, with no arguments, no awkward silences and no bad feelings. She always wanted to ‘keep the peace’.
Governments are no different. They walk a fine line between doing what is right, and pleasing the greatest number of people. If they can find a way to ensure that everyone is happy, they will be elected. If not, the party who offers the most compromise in order to please the masses will be given an opportunity to please people. Governments try and ensure that there is at least an appearance of peace between the largest groups. Those at the edge, the marginalised or the quiet often feel disaffected, but governments will only try and include them if votes depend on it.
Many of our churches are built on a form of government which gives ‘power to the people’. Each member has a vote. In order to exercise that vote they must be given all the available information from the church leaders. If the leader makes a decision without the express approval of the membership they are questioned as to motives and reasoning. In an effort to ensure that there is a ‘happy congregation’ regular church meetings, setting out plans and reasonings are held. Peace reigns because everyone feels like they are a leader and involved.
The thing is, keeping the peace can only ever be a temporary solution to a more pressing problem. If we simply keep peace, there will always be someone who feels they have been aggrieved and needs to be helped to feel accepted. Compromise will always be needed to achieve this, and the message of the Gospel must never be watered down to fit societies whims, or to make people feel more comfortable. The Apostles refused to compromise the message to make it more palatable and neither should we.
In Matthew 5:9 Jesus tells us that if we want to be truly blessed we should be Peacemakers, not peace keepers.
What is the difference?
If we look at Jesus as our role model, I think there is an important difference in the way He approached things. He is the Prince of Peace, His peace passes human understanding and therefore it is wise to learn all we can from the way He operated.
Jesus had twelve disciples, all of whom at one point or another wanted to be, or thought they were the most important. He taught them all, but I imagine keeping the peace in the way my mum used to try would have been almost impossible, even for Him. All that going on around Him, it would have been easy to give each disciple a turn at being at the forefront of the difficult situations – just to make it fair. Yet this isn’t what we see in the Gospels. Whenever Jesus is heading off to pray, to ask God to take the cup of suffering away from Him, it is the same three disciples He takes, Peter, James and John. It doesn’t seem fair, it doesn’t seem to be the best way to keep the peace, yet this is what Jesus does.
It is important that we are not afraid to make difficult decisions just because we want to keep the peace. Of course, we all want an easy life, but the more you discover about following Jesus the more you realise that easy isn’t something He promised. Suffering and a daily picking up of our own cross seem to be the order of the day.
I suppose one would then have to ask if being a peacemaker rather than a peace keeper is worth it, if all we are assured is suffering.
Jesus goes on to say about Peacemakers that they will be called sons (and daughters) of God. What a blessing that is. To be part of God’s family. To have full access to the Father, unimpeded, open and unrestricted. To be loved by Him. To have the promise of eternity with Him.
The world longs for peace. Let us be a people who make that peace, by bringing the Presence of Jesus, through Holy Spirit into situations we encounter, rather than those who seek to fix a broken world with little more than a sticking plaster.