I loathe conflict.
Where there is disagreement, tension or an argument, you can find me sprinting in the opposite direction.
Maybe you’re like me and you wish everyone could get along, go with the flow, and keep conflict at bay. Wouldn’t that make life so much easier?
This desire to keep the peace is not bad in and of itself. Afterall, Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt 5:9) right?
But oftentimes we confuse a peacemaker with a peacekeeper.
A peacemaker is someone who is willing to resolve both outer and inner turmoil in order to establish peace with others and within themselves. Inevitably, peacemaking will require engaging in conflict and tension to help bring the situation to a solid place. A peacekeeper, on the other hand, desires to maintain peace by avoiding conflict. They typically give in to the tension or steer clear of disagreement to keep others happy. Peacekeepers hate rocking the boat; therefore, they will sacrifice their own inner peace to maintain the “facade” of peace with others.
Peacekeepers may look like peacemakers, but only one group is experiencing true peace.
Following the Example of the Prince of Peace
Jesus is the greatest example of a peacemaker– He was even given the name “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Jesus is the ultimate mediator who made peace between God and man and between people groups.
Yet, from the outside looking in, one might argue that Jesus’ life was anything but peaceful. Jesus was constantly engaging in conflict whether it was through challenging the religious leader’s beliefs, confronting sin, questioning the disciples, and preaching despite persecution. However, through this tension, Jesus was able to set people free, show them the true Way, and save their lives by being willing to rock the boat to give a lasting peace.
I’m not gonna lie–Jesus’ version of making peace looks drastically different from mine. And that needs to change. Maybe yours does too.
Though our conflicts may not look the same as his, this remains true:
We cannot be true “peacemakers” by avoiding conflict, honesty and tense situations.
Instead, we must refute the lies we’ve learned about conflict and learn how to MAKE peace instead of just KEEP it.
Here are 3 key truths peacekeepers must realize:
#1. Honesty Breeds Harmony
Let’s be real: honesty is hard for a peacekeeper. Not because they don’t have opinions or feelings, but because they don’t know how other people will receive them. Out of fear of someone disagreeing or getting offended, peacekeepers will disregard their own thoughts to go along with someone else’s.
The truth? There will always be a risk of disagreement when you share your thoughts, ideas, feelings, exc. However, there is also the chance that your honesty with someone else will be of great value to them. Being truly honest allows your words to encourage, challenge and give insight to another. It also creates space for us to learn through someone else’s differing thoughts.
Your honesty can also help others find harmony in their lives. Suppose a friend is in a rough situation. You can see the problem but you’re afraid they might get offended if you tell them. You can either pat them on the back and be about their feelings by not being honest with them, or you can be about their freedom by letting them know what you see and how it’s affecting them.
#2. Disagreement Doesn’t Have to Equal Disrespect
We all know those people who will argue about anything. Hop on Facebook for five minutes and you’ll be sure to find a degrading argument happening on someone’s page. Believe it or not, there IS a way to confront or disagree with someone without the conversation getting ugly.
There is a special tension to be held in the midst of disagreement: the tension of truth and love. This tension involves speaking honestly about what you believe to be true while still giving value to the other person AND to what they are saying.
In Ephesians 4:15, Paul says this to the believers in Ephesus:
“Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.”
Oftentimes, we want to operate from either true OR love, but the power is in the tension. (tweet) We must have the boldness to be honest about the truth and the maturity to be attentive instead of defensive.Oftentimes, we want to operate out of truth OR love, but the power is in the tension. Click To Tweet
#3. Peacekeeping is Passive–Peacemaking is Proactive
As mentioned before, keeping the peace tends to look like letting things slide and turning a blind eye for the sake of avoiding confrontation. While this may seem harmless, this type of passivity can eventually become a breeding ground for injustice, festering wounds of bitterness, and relational breakdown. There’s a time to let things go, but there is also a time to speak up and take action.
Making peace looks like actively reconciling, conversing and struggling with oneself or another to reach peace. It’s proactively working through conflict to come to TRUE resolve. While not every conflict results in both parties agreeing, most of the time, two parties can peacefully agree to disagree while still respecting and honoring the other.
A Peacemaking Lifestyle
In Romans 12:18 , Paul reminds believers:
“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Paul’s words confirm it IS a worthy desire to promote peace and strive to reach it in our relationships. The key is–we must remember to go about reaching peace the right way.
As recovering peacekeepers, let’s remember these three things:
- Your voice, opinions, convictions and beliefs matter.
- You are capable of speaking the truth and even disagreeing in love
- Listen to the Holy Spirit in those moments when it’s time to speak up
May we aim to live our lives actively making peace, instead of just trying to keep it.