Our usual understanding of peace is a bit different. We think we’re making peace when we avoid conflict whenever possible, but that’s not actual peace—that’s false peace. Take James, for example. He’s a guy who is continually upset with his wife, who gets off work late, goes out with coworkers, and comes home late. He and his wife don't even see each other. She does this over and over again, but James decides—in the name of keeping peace—not to say anything. But James is not actually a peacemaker; he's maintaining a false peace.
Lydia is a woman who eats lunch with her coworkers, and the conversation almost always turns to trash-talking their boss and coworkers, talking about how terrible their jobs are, and how horrible the culture is at their workplace. Instead of saying anything, Lydia goes along with it because she doesn't want to offend or upset anybody. Lydia’s not a peacemaker. She's actually working hard at maintaining a false peace.
We also see this problem in the church. In church we're supposed to be nice, so if I have a problem with you I'm not going to say anything to you, I'm just going to fume inside. But we’re not actually supposed to be nice—we’re supposed to be kind. Being kind means I have your best interest at heart, and that means I'll come to you with issues. This is the difference between peace loving and peacemaking. I can love the idea of peace, but until I take action and actually do something to change the situation, I’m not a peacemaker. We have to make the decision to be peacemakers—which actually comes at a cost. It doesn’t feel as nice at first, but it’s the only way to experience real peace.
The Work of Peacemaking
When Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers," He was inviting us to an incredibly difficult and challenging process that starts in our hearts. William Barkley said, "Jesus demands not the passive acceptance of things because we are afraid of the trouble of doing anything about them, but the active facing of things in the making of peace even though it's through struggle." Peacemaking is a struggle, but we have to embrace it if we want to have healthy relationships, healthy small groups, and healthy churches. But there are healthy and unhealthy ways to engage conflict. Here are some tips to for peacemaking:
Check Your Motivation
Some of us have no problem engaging conflict. The problem is that we can sometimes jump in too quickly. Rather than process our feelings and reactions, we jump in while we’re still reacting. And that's not right or good—that's destructive. Most of the time, when we jump in too quickly, our motivation is to punish the other person, to prove we’re right. We’re often reacting out of fear, anger, and pride. Consider: What is my goal? Sometimes we just want to unload on the person, to prove we’re right, and to show them how badly they messed up. But that’s not very healthy. Instead, your goal should be to make things right. You may have to make clear to the other person what needs to be done to make things right, but you also need to know your part in the solution. So if you’re someone who tends to love conflict, slow down a bit and check your motivations before you proceed. We’re also called to mutual growth, though, so there is a time to speak hard truth to each other. If your motivation is truly helping the other person grow, if you have his or her best interest at heart, then approach the person with vulnerability, openness, and empathy.