“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
Those are our Lord’s words as recorded in Matthew 5:9. Oh, how we need we those words now! Amidst widespread fears of social unrest and even violence in our nation’s streets, it’s important to be reminded of our unique role – as followers of Christ – here and now. The storm clouds are perfect for disaster: highly-contested election results in key swing states, police departments under intense scrutiny, suspicions of voter fraud, the rise of paramilitary organizations, and even surging COVID-19 numbers. Angst lurks on every corner. Resolution doesn’t feel close at hand when the election news updates feel more like “hurry up and wait.”
Here are just a few things that you can do to be a peacemaker …
1. Make much of our higher kingdom.
In Christ, you and I are already citizens of heaven! We can’t lose sight of that right now. When it comes to the affairs of our earthly government, you and I are meant to be the soul of the state – not its surrogate. We’re to respond positively when people in the public square honor the precepts of Scripture, and we’re to speak the truth in love when they do not – regardless of political ideology or affiliation. The more that our neighbors can view us as kingdom citizens first and foremost – the more that they can see that our loyalty to Christ is our highest loyalty – the more that they will trust us to help them in this hour of great tension and turmoil. In a recent survey, many respondents were asked to describe their emotional take on the 2020 election season. Not a single respondent used the word “hope” or anything like it – and that pervasive sense of national despair should be on our radar screen in early November. If it’s not, we can’t love very effectively right now.
2. Avoid sweeping generalizations.
If we’ve learned anything at all this year, it’s that we ought to stop looking at people exclusively through the lens of race or gender or ethnicity (or whatever). People are individuals. We’re not a bunch of monolithic voting blocs, and we ought to avoid speaking of each other along such divisive lines. We’re all created in the image of God, and each one of us possesses inherent dignity and worth. Our wrong assumptions about others certainly aren’t charitable, and in fact, they can be dangerous. The better we really get to know people, the better we will understand them. And that’s part of our high calling along the route of our pilgrimage here. Our words can bring life to others, but they can also inflict harm. We have to be careful regarding not only what we say, but what we tweet. Used wrongly or carelessly, social media can be a deterrent to our calling as peacemakers.
3. Don’t help misinformation spread.
Everybody likes a juicy secret, but you and I must be careful that we’re not – in the hearing of one, or in the telling of one – bearing false witness against our neighbor. Here’s the deal: hate and false allegations are like two peas in a pod. And we’re going to have to check our hearts on a regular basis just to make sure that we’re not caught up in either. The 16th-century Reformer John Calvin issued a warning that still fits today: “Slander is often praised under the pretext of zeal and conscientiousness. Hence … this vice creeps in under the name of virtue.” When we vehemently disagree with someone, particularly in the arena of politics, it’s easy to justify sinful behavior against that person (movement, group, political party, etc.) because our eyes are on the prize of setting the record straight! Passion for the right cause can be a good thing, of course, but we’ve got to keep our motives and our actions in check – particularly in a season dominated by sound bites, hyper-emotional rancor, and political spin.
4. Recognize that everybody is afraid.
This we also forget: the “other side” is just as afraid as we are! Fear is everywhere, and in everything, these days. One of the ways we can love people right now is to acknowledge the uncertainties of our present cultural landscape – and the resulting sense of unsettledness that those uncertainties create in each one of us. In terms of predictability, 2020 has been a veritable nightmare for most people, and so they’re looking for some sense of control in any area of life where they can find it. Unfortunately, this election season is managing to make everybody feel even more powerless than we already did. Once you establish trust with your neighbor, that reality of powerlessness might be some fertile soil for a gospel presentation. After all, everybody likes the sound of “good news” these days!
5. Tell the truth to those you love.
On many of these points, we’re going to have to help each other self-correct. That will mean that some hard, but needed and good, conversations must happen along the way. God can use this season to strengthen the body of Christ. God can use this season to grow us in Christlike character and perseverance. God can use this season to renew our hope in our risen Savior – where our only hope should have been anchored all along! In our lives, grace and truth are not to be balanced with each other – but we’re to be all about grace, and all about truth. The Lord rarely matures any one of us without using other believers in our lives to help us get where we need to be. Hard as it may be to believe, we may look back one day and see this moment as that kind of fruitful season.
6. Remember that we’re not in it to win.
Our purposes are higher: we’re in it to serve! Jesus said, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). And that heart-set can make all the difference. It would be unwise for you and me to get caught up in hyper-partisanship, and we are clearly not afforded the luxury of a “safe” withdrawal from the conflict of this season. We are not called to win. We are not called to withdraw. We are called to love.
Peace. Jesus made it our business.