Peacemakers encourage others, give hope Voices of Religion

Posted: Friday, October 22, 2004

Does it seem to you that election campaigns keep getting longer and more expensive?

You're not alone.

And the longer these wars of words continue, the more divisive they can become.

"Harmless politicking," you say?

Maybe not.

When animosity grows between two groups of people, there is always the danger of this hostility spilling over into other areas of life.

Resentment of a politician, with whom we've had no personal contact, can show itself in how we react to people close to us.

Constant criticism is contagious, spreading its venom beyond political boundaries to homes, schools and churches; even entire communities.

We need an army of peacemakers to bind up the wounds of those who've become the casualties of caustic comments and focus our thoughts on our blessings instead of on what's wrong with everybody.

"Blessed are the peacemakers," said Jesus, Matthew 5:9.

But who are the peacemakers and what do they do?

A peacemaker disregards criticism and refuses to forward harmful gossip. When the faults of others become the topic of conversation, a peacemaker maneuvers the conversation to another subject.

When a peacemaker is approached by one of two who are at odds, he refuses to listen to the criticism of the absent one. And when a peacemaker hears a complimentary comment, she is quick to pass it on.

A peacemaker understands the weaknesses of all people but doesn't belabor them.

A peacemaker obeys the biblical command to be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger, James 1:19. When under attack a peacemaker refuses to answer in kind.

Peacemaking isn't easy; it goes against our nature. Most of us are easily offended and respond to criticism in anger instead of love. In doing so, we are unlike our Lord.

Those who have found peace are obligated to become peacemakers. They've been forgiven so must share this blessing with others, even those who refuse to forgive them.

Peacemakers cultivate hope and contentment.

Returning from Africa a few years ago, former missionary Tim Stafford found himself questioning why hope seems so absent from American life today.

In his Christianity Today article, "Finding Hope In Africa," he wrote: "It was disorienting to leave Africa and return to America where people seem relentlessly bitter and complaining about a government that would be the dream of any African, about an economy that would be the dream of any African, about a justice system that would be the dream of any African, about a medical system that would be the dream of any African."

Peacemakers turn our minds from anger and complaining to contentment and forgiveness. They help break down barriers in homes, churches and communities, often even working to reconcile former enemies.

No wonder the Lord commended them for their peacemaking and said they would be called the children of God.

Roger Campbell is an author, radio broadcaster and newspaper columnist from Waterford, Mich. He has written more than 20 books and has had articles published in most major Christian magazines.

He was a pastor for 22 years and has been a guest speaker in Alaska churches from Anchorage to Homer.

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