Making Peace in Times of Crisis | Jesus’ Creed
“Making peace in times of crisis”
“Oh Peace Train, take this country, come and take me home.
Oh Peace Train sounds louder, soar on the Peace Train.
Come on, Peace Train, yes, sacred Peace Train scroll.
Everyone is jumping on the Peace Train.
Go, go, go, yes, go, peace train.
Yes, this is the peace train!
“Peace Train” is a song written and performed by Cat Stevens. The song reached number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the week of November 6, 1971. It was the first of four Top Ten hits for Stevens, and arguably his fan favorite. After all, who wouldn’t want to take the peace train?
Unfortunately, this train has been difficult to get on board in recent months. Peace has been disrupted in our country in recent times by a variety of issues – social injustice, racial unrest, politics, economics and, of course, a pandemic. And unfortunately, churches have also been affected. The peace has been disrupted by disagreements over masks, vaccines, reopening doors, using social media, to broadcast live or not, which may or may not be used on video and the role of women.
Peace has been difficult to maintain. Unity has been difficult to preserve. And yet pastors, as well as their faithful, are called to “do all they can to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4: 3, NIV). How does peacemaking work in times of crisis?
Caught in the middle
The turmoil has broken out! A crisis has occurred! The new deacon responsible for “worship leadership” planned to implement innovations in the assembly that would improve our worship service, making it more attractive to seekers. The elders nervously accused this deacon of not being honest and “frank” with them. I advised this deacon to proceed with caution. He didn’t listen. I advised a second time. He still hasn’t listened and initiated the changes. Relations have been damaged. A lack of confidence has arisen. What should a pastor do? Be a peacemaker!
Be like jesus
The word “peacemaker” (εἰρηνοποιός) appears only once in the New Testament. Jesus declares in Matthew 5: 9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” Those who “make peace” receive favor from God. Being a peacemaker does not simply mean being “peaceful” nor being a “pacifist”. Peace is more than the absence of violence, just as goodness is more than the absence of evil. It means actively seeking peace. A peacemaker is a participant in reconciliation. When Jesus spoke of peace he was referring to shalom, a general state of health, harmony and justice which extends even to enemies. The blessing emphasizes that peacemakers enjoy a unique relationship with God. To be a peacemaker is to be a child of God. We are like Jesus when we seek peace.
An Old Testament case study
In Joshua 22, the peace in Israel is threatened by a misunderstanding between the tribes who settled on the west bank of the Jordan and the tribes on the east bank. The misunderstanding almost sparked a war. Fortunately, peace prevailed, war was avoided, and Israel remained united. Before suggesting some lessons to be learned in order to better equip peacemakers, a summary of this meeting is in order.
The conquest of the promised land is complete (Joshua 21: 43-45). Nine and a half of the tribes obtained their inheritance on the west bank of the Jordan. The remaining tribes, Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, are returned by Joshua to possess their inheritance on the eastern bank of the Jordan. Joshua commends these tribes for fulfilling their obligation to help their brethren take their possession (22: 1-4), he challenges them to remain faithful (22: 5-7) and he calls attention to the maintenance of a sense of oneness with their brethren (22: 8). Upon dismissal, the two and a half tribes erected a visible altar that could be seen from miles away. Their intention in building this replica was not for worship purposes, but was to be a testimony of unity to future generations (22: 21-29, 34). Western tribes assume infidelity and they mobilize troops for war (22: 11-12). As the troops prepare to go into battle, Phinehas, the priest, leads a delegation to express their concern to the eastern tribes. Confrontation takes place (22: 12-20), an explanation is given by the eastern tribes (22: 21-29), Phinehas accepts the clarification (22: 30-31), and peace and unity prevail (22 : 32-33).
This story from ancient Israel suggests several “rules of engagement” for peacemakers:
1. Lessons from the accusers
a. It is commendable for believers to be zealous for the purity of the faith. (Western tribes feared that loyalty to God was at stake.)
b. It is wrong to judge motives on the basis of circumstantial evidence. (Western tribes have assumed infidelity.)
vs. They acted before they established the facts.
D. An act of diplomacy preceded an act of decision. (Dialogue before the war)
e. Involve your most qualified people to resolve conflicts.
F. A confrontation should be approached in a spirit of gentleness, not arrogance.
2. Lessons learned from the accused
a. The lack of communication created a misunderstanding. (The eastern tribes might have anticipated a misunderstanding.)
b. A wrongly accused person should remember Proverbs 15: 1: “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up anger. “
vs. Don’t be defensive or offensive, but defuse the situation by establishing common ground and clarifying factual issues. (There is an emphasis on the theme of God’s faithfulness and an emphasis on God’s people to respond in faithfulness.)
3. Lessons learned from both
a. Listening is an important ingredient in conflict resolution.
b. It’s important to trust others, rather than believing the worst about them without investigation.
vs. Things are not always what they appear to be.
D. Don’t let the misunderstandings divide.
e. Watch out for the Jordan! (The Jordan River symbolically represents potential boundaries that threaten peace in churches – generational, political, educational, theological, etc.)
The “big takeaway” is this: frank and open dialogue will often lead to understanding, the promotion of peace and the preservation of unity. Thus, whether in times of crisis or in times of harmony, peacemakers must be active. James may have been thinking of Jesus’ blessing when he wrote: “But the wisdom which comes from heaven is above all pure; then peaceful, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. The peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness ”(3: 17-18).
The rest of the story
After several days of anxiety, tension, and turmoil, a meeting was held between the deacon and his wife, two elders, and myself to discuss the difficulty. The two elders who participated know this couple well and there was mutual respect. The elders began by affirming this couple, expressing their concerns, and then patiently listened to the deacon explain himself. Everyone was honest, transparent and vulnerable. Confidence has returned. Understanding has happened. Commitments have been made. Unity has been preserved. Peace reigned!
Now, I’ve been smiling lately, thinking of the good things to come.
And I believe it could be, something good has started.
Oh louder peace train!
Slide on the Peace Train, now go to the Peace Train.
Yes, sacred Peace Train scroll.
Dr Randy Johns is the minister of preaching at the Lamar Avenue Church of Christ in Paris, Texas, the second largest Paris in the world. When not in ministry, he bass fishes on his lake or watches the Saint-Louis Cardinals.
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