Today, I want to talk about peacemaking. "Confrontation" has been another word people have used too. Or maybe even "conflict resolution." But I think these words fall short of expressing how deeply important the art of reconciliation is.
Growing up as an Asian-American, I was surrounded by passive aggressiveness everywhere. With my parents. With my church. With my friends. It determined what kind of problems I had. It determined the dynamic of my relationships. More importantly, it shaped how my life was lived out as I followed Jesus.
When I came to Rutgers, I began to serve in InterVarsity. God used this season to reshape how I lived my life as a leader. I didn't realize how conflict-avoidant I had become until I ran into people who weren't. My staff members weren't afraid to call me out when I prioritized the wrong things. They weren't afraid to talk about things they had problems with, and encouraged me to do the same. I realized at that point that this was peacemaking. Not hiding in the corner and pretending everything was alright, but acknowledging the problems that exist and trusting God to bring healing and reconciliation.
In the past few weeks, we've been praying for God to work in our class. In all our time at Rutgers, we've gotten along well. There's rarely been a conflict. But despite our faith, our friendships were no different than anyone else's in college. Between us and spiritual conversation and edifying truths often stood a wall of fun and distractions not built on Christ. Yet we felt God was calling us to go deeper.
But when God answers, it's rarely how you expect it. And when He did, He brought peacemaking into the spotlight. A number of relational issues were brought up between friends. Passive aggressiveness. Silently moving on. Bitterness took root between friends. Nasty things came to light.
And so things reached their tipping point, but I believe God is working through all of this. Numerous conversations were had where people have said "enough is enough" and seek for resolution. Despite the emotional toll, brothers and sisters stepped up to the plate to be the peacemakers God commanded us to be. And at the end of the day, many of us began to realize that we can't do this on our own, so we're led back to praying for God to bring the peace we're so desperately searching for.
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God." - Matthew 5:9
We struggle in our communities to make amends, yet that is exactly what God calls us to do. This is what God was calling the church to be. Not a nice well-kept place with skeletons in the closet. But people who may be in shambles, but loving and praying to God together for healing.
I hated anything to do with reconciliation and peacemaking. Well, that's not true. I loved the idea of them, but hated to do it. I preferred to keep things hidden so the group dynamic is kept intact. I believed it was a good thing that I could be silent and bottle things up. I avoided making waves. Forgave and forgot so I didn't upset anyone.
But what we often do is not forgive and forget. We try our hardest to forget, and never forgive. We make things pretty on the surface so they look okay.
God reminded me this week that He calls us to be the peacemakers. It's painful and scary at times, but that's why it's so important. When we're willing to talk and work through our conflicts, it's an act of faith. It's a profession of trust that God is able to bring reconciliation. It's an act of worship where we choose to let go of our assumptions, bitterness, and anger for the sake of peace and joy. So reconciliation is not just for our sake. God uses these moments so that we may draw closer to Him.
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." - John 13:35
A lot of us are going to Urbana because we want to understand how God is moving on the big scale. We want to see what He's doing, and we want to be a part of that. But God is not a God of ministries or organizations. He is a personal God. A God who is there for us no matter what we go through.
When we struggle with reconciliation and peacemaking, we look to God. The pain He endured when He allowed His Son to die on the cross for people who did not even want to know Him. Yet by that sacrifice, we are able to come before Him today. How much more, when we live out that sacrifice love and choose to be the peacemakers, will God use that to lead others to Him?
Before we go to Urbana, remember that God's calling is not "out there" at "some future time". It is right here. It is right now. Our ultimate ministry is to our family, friends, and personal community. It will demand of us to get personal, dirty, and raw with the ones we care about.
This is the invitation. How is God calling you to the art of reconciliation this week? Where in your life is a peacemaker needed? God invites us to be the peacemakers here, because no one else will be.
"In Christ, God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." - 2 Corinthians 5:19