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“No Blood But Our Own”: A Sacrificial Approach to Peacemaking


Introduction

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God” (Matt 5:9). In light of this amazing promise of blessing for peacemakers, why is it that many of Jesus' followers avoid engaging conflict? True disciples will answer the call to follow in the steps of Jesus and conquer the evils of violence with sacrificial love. The number of Christians putting God’s word into action through peacemaking and enemy love is not practiced enough in a world full of violence and broken relationships.

In this blog essay, the Sattler College “Peacemaking” Class, taught by Prof. Zack Johnson, has collaborated to define Christian peacemaking, explore the essential characteristics of peacemakers, and share important components of effective conflict analysis and action.

 

What is peacemaking?

Both Christians and non-Christians make valiant efforts to bring peace to our world of war. The United Nations’ peacekeeping efforts engage large-scale conflict zones by deploying military troops to “provide security and political support.”1 Unlike Jesus and his disciples, they use force to disarm/demobilize combatants and facilitate political processes in their efforts to bring peace. On the other hand, peacebuilding attempts go beyond crisis management and focus on “long-term development of governing structures and institutions.”2 NGOs (Non- Governmental Organizations) that focus on human rights and socio-economic transformation are an integral part of many peacebuilding efforts. Although much good has been accomplished, the world still waits for a true and lasting solution. We must ask the question: “Are these efforts done in harmony with the way of Jesus?” Jesus’s way of peacemaking is the solution our world lacks.

Biblical peacemaking is Jesus-following, and it looks much different than most modern endeavors at peacekeeping or peacebuilding. While disarming combatants and societal transformation is certainly on Jesus’s agenda, he did not seek to hijack or develop the political institutions of his day. Neither did he use force or coercion. Rather, he preached the good news of the Kingdom of God. He instituted the Church, calling them to obey his teachings in the Sermon on the Mount to bring his peaceable kingdom to earth through loving service. Principled nonviolence is at the core of peacemaking. This can be defined as “a way of life modeled after Jesus, one that completely rejects violence, actively confronts evil, and unconditionally loves others by practicing gracious hospitality, radical forgiveness, and deep compassion… love in action.”3 To imitate Jesus, peacemakers confront the evil of conflict with self-sacrificial love. We, the Peacemaking class of 2021-22, believe that sacrificial love will transform any conflict zone, large scale or personal, into a peaceful situation. We proclaim, “NO BLOOD BUT OUR OWN!”

One student interviewed Pablo Yoder, a pastor in Nicaragua, who shared a recent story about a time robbers broke into his son's house. The robbers grabbed his son's wife and forced her to the floor, demanding that his son show them where their money was. His son calmly complied with whatever the robbers asked, exemplifying Jesus' teaching not to resist evil. His son's wife, sitting on the floor, began praying out loud for the robbers, overcoming evil with good. This couple's response to the violence and force of the robbers completely disarmed them. Before they left, the robbers were on friendly terms with the couple and left them unharmed.

Sacrificial love must include active engagement in conflict situations; it is not a passive version of peace-faking. The desire to avoid conflict is contrary to Jesus’ words when he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt 5:9). Peacemakers take hold of the blessing by taking action in difficult situations where many would be paralyzed with fear or indecision. Different scenarios call for different responses, such as overlooking a wrong, negotiating, mediating, or holding people accountable in love. In every case, peacemakers give a tangible demonstration of the reconciling love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ. Serving in conflict situations is ultimately about witnessing for Christ. We believe that taking decisive action in conflict zones, with love and humility, points others to the Prince of Peace.

As our professor Zack Johnson says, “peacemakers are poets.” They artfully take conflicts and find peaceable solutions. When two parties are at odds, much wisdom is needed to present new alternatives that appeal to the needs and interests of both parties. Peacemaking restores relationships, rather than simply mitigating conflict. This happens at different levels—interpersonal conflicts, conflicts in communities, and even among nations.

The goal of peacemaking must be to reconcile the four relationships that have been broken by sin. Here, we believe that the principles of poverty alleviation relate to peacemaking. Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert, authors of When Helping Hurts, write that people from every nation and culture need healing in 1) their relationship with God, 2) their relationship with self, 3) their relationship with others, and 4) their relationship with the rest of creation.5 All of these must be addressed holistically to accomplish true shalom (wholeness). Peacemaking could be seen as teaching people to live the way they were designed to live by their Creator. When people live outside God’s order there is chaos and conflict; when people live within God’s design there is order and peace. As another author put it, “God’s peace reconciles people to God; it restores relationships between humans; it brings enemies together into a new social reality.” 6 Thus, church planting could be seen as the final goal of peacemaking. In Christ, former enemies gather together around the communion table as one unified body. We long to see God’s kingdom come into our world—a new social reality that brings a foretaste of the new creation.

Thus, Christian peacemaking could be defined as a Spirit-empowered way of life modeled after Jesus that actively confronts evil and resolves conflict by 1) reconciling people to God through the gospel of his kingdom, 2) restoring relationships between humans through sacrificial love and creative mediation, and 3) bringing enemies together into a new social reality—all done while completely rejecting violence and coercion.

 

Essential character traits of a peacemaker 

How does one become a peacemaker? The true key lies in developing our character. Take a step back and consider. Are you cultivating a character in which grace, love, and peace naturally flow from your life? Would your closest friends and family consider you a peacemaker? Often people think of peacemaking as bringing reconciliation and restoration to war zones, humanitarian crises, or large-scale conflict zones. However, peacemaking begins in our immediate context. It is ultimately a way of life that flows from personal character. 

During our research, our class noticed some “essential characteristics” that Christian peacemakers must cultivate. By a large margin, the top characteristic mentioned was humility. A peacemaker must be someone who has a learner’s mentality, never thinking they know all the answers or are the experts in every situation. Humility is recognizing that you are not better than anyone else. True peacemakers recognize their weaknesses and inadequacies as they depend on God’s power. As one student articulated, “a true peacemaker is open to the fact that he is not really the one making peace, he is just the tool God is using in the middle.” Another student said that “only with genuine humility and goodwill are we in a place to enter conflicts and interpret our motives and others’ in creative ways that build peace.” Cultivating humility gives you the ability to leave your own interests and ego out of situations. As C.S. Lewis explains in Mere Christianity, the “great sin” in the world is pride.7  Thus, the first step in acquiring humility is to recognize the pride in yourself. By God’s grace, pride will be crushed, humility practiced, and peace brought about.

The other essential characteristic of peacemakers is sacrifice, which involves risk. A peacemaker is someone willing to put his life on the line for the sake of others. As Stanley Hauerwas has said, “When did Christians become Christians to be safe? I mean, that’s not our game. Our game is danger.”8 At the core, being a Christian peacemaker is following the example of Jesus—that is, serving others even if it means giving up your life. And these characteristics can be cultivated right now. One student explained that an “attitude of sacrificialism is developed one day at a time, by giving up ourselves in the small things for the sake of others and ultimately the gospel.”

With the transforming power of the Holy Spirit, prayer, and life experience, these characteristics—humility and sacrificialism—can manifest in anyone’s life. And remember, these essential character traits can be developed in whatever stage a person finds himself in life. Character development is so crucial because peacemaking is a way of life.

 

From analysis to action

Peacemaking is an action word. Since we have defined peacemaking and described the essential characteristics a peacemaker must develop, one question still remains:  how do we apply these principles to real-life situations? It is futile to talk of peacemaking and its characteristics without turning this knowledge into action. 

The first step of action is obeying all the commands of Jesus, particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. Zack Johnson believes that peacemakers demonstrate “an obsession with the teachings of Jesus and putting them into action.” Ask yourself, am I obeying all of Jesus’ commands? Do I love God with all my heart, soul, and mind? Am I doing unto others as I would have them do unto me? Jesus promised the Helper to those who follow his commands.9 Victor John, a church planter from India said, “You have the Spirit. When you are present in a conflict, the peace of God flows through you to those around you. The Spirit of Jesus (the DNA of Jesus) flows through you.”10 Victor John reminds us that when we walk by the Spirit and follow Jesus’s teaching, we are instruments of peace in the world. 

Careful analysis is another important step in peacemaking. Our class learned how to analyze conflict by reading Conflict Analysis by Matthew Levinger. One important lesson is the need to listen well to people involved in conflicts. Tom Peters rightly points out that the “most significant strategic strength that an organization can have is not a good strategic plan, but a commitment to strategic listening on the part of every member of the organization.”11 Rather than entering into a conflict with all the answers, we must step back and listen carefully to those involved in the conflict. This means “paying attention to stories people tell about their conflict.”12 People have different views and diverse ways of understanding problems. When we actively listen to everyone’s story in a given situation, we can better construct a creative solution. Analyzing conflict can be boiled down to “one essential commandment: ‘Look and listen!’”13 

After analyzing conflict, what is the most effective way to restore relationships? Our class believes that the local church is the arbiter of peace. The authors of When Helping Hurts write the following: “As a group of people who are being transformed by the gospel and who are called to be ministers of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-20), the local church [is] the ideal community for relational nurturing of hurt individuals and families.”14 The presence of Jesus in the body of Christ makes the local church the ideal community for restoration.15 Thus, one of the best ways to be a peacemaker is to be part of the local church and draw others in. The gospel of the kingdom brings enemies into this new social reality where their relationships with God, self, and others are restored. 

On January 8, 1956, five missionaries (Jim Elliot, Nate Saint, Ed McCully, Peter Fleming, and Roger Youderian) were killed in an attempt to bring the gospel of the kingdom to Huaorani people in Ecuador. Although these men knew they may be met with violence, they chose to reject retaliation and self-defense. Several years later, Elisabeth, the widow of Jim Elliot, and Rachel, the sister of Nate Saint, returned to the place their husbands were martyred to live among the people who killed their loved ones. Their sacrificial love resulted in many Huaoranis becoming Jesus' followers (including some of the men involved in the original killing). Tribal violence was diminished as the local Huaorani church grew and influenced their society. 

 

Conclusion

To summarize, peacemaking is imitating Jesus and obeying his teachings. Jesus-followers confront evil and restore relationships with sacrificial love and creative mediation. Because peacemaking is a way of life, one must cultivate the essential characteristics of humility and sacrificialism. By doing so, Christians can strategically analyze conflict and bring peace by drawing people into a new social reality, the kingdom of God.

 

Our class designed a variety of shirts that proclaim the mantra of sacrificialism. Grab one here today and join our peacemaking revolution! 

     

 
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1 “What is Peacekeeping?” United National Peacekeeping (n.d.). https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/what-is-
peacekeeping.

2 Catherine Morris, “What is Peacebuilding? One Definition,” Peacemakers Trust (2000),
https://www.peacemakers.ca/publications/peacebuildingdefinition.html.

3 Eric A. Seibert, Disarming the Church: Why Christians Must Forsake Violence to Follow Jesus and Change the
World (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2018).

4 Credit to Sattler College’s first Peacemaking class in 2019 for designing this slogan.

5 Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. When Helping Hurts: How to Alleviate Poverty without Hurting the Poor... and
Yourself (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2012), 54.

6 Alan Kreider, Culture of Peace: God&#39;s Vision For The Church (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2005), 30.

7 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), Ch. 8.

8 Stanley Hauerwas, Interview on “The Tokens Shows,” Mar. 28, 2017, Nashville, TN, video, 7:13. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AZtjiwCi0u0.

9 John 14:15–16.

10 Victor John, Interview by Tim Kuepfer ’23 (Fall 2021).

11 Matthew Bernard Levinger, Conflict Analysis: Understanding Causes, Unlocking Solutions (Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace, 2013), 113.

12 Ibid., 14.

13 Ibid., 5.

14 Corbett and Fikkert, When Helping Hurts, 210.

15 Ibid.. 40.