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Archive for March, 2013

Last weekend I went to a workshop in Atlanta called “ElderLink.” It’s designed for elders and other leaders in churches. One of the speakers was a man named Randy Harris. He’s a professor of theology, but you would never know it; he didn’t sound at all like a theology professor. One of the freebies participants received was a copy of his book, Living Jesus: Doing What Jesus Says in the Sermon on the Mount. A number of things he said, as well as what he writes in his book, spoke to me. I wish to mention only two.

The first startling revelation is that what we have come to call the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) are not commands; rather they are blessings that were pronounced to a crowd of mostly poverty-stricken peasants, who must have felt anything but blessed. It reminds me of a message I heard from another speaker named Lynn Anderson in the 1970s in which he describes a worn down single mother who came to him after he had preached what he thought at the time was the gospel. Her response spoke volumes. “I’m glad I ain’t a Christian. It’s tough enough just bein’ a sinner.” You see, the beatitudes are not commands (“You had better live like this or else.”). Rather they are the pronouncement of blessings that are available to us from a loving Father.

We could focus on any of the Beatitudes, but one in particular has haunted me this week. It’s verse 9—“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Although Randy Harris is not the first to make the point, what he says is certainly true. “Have you ever noticed that nobody really appreciates a peacemaker? You know, those people who refuse to get drawn into the violence and confusion and hostility of their age, but simply by their presence create peace.” It’s true. Peacemakers are often seen as weak, compromising people with no principles they are willing to stand up for. We really don’t like them.

The advent of social media (including blogs) has made it so easy to put our ideas out to the world. Too often it has taken the form of venom that I am convinced we would never say to a person face-to-face. People forward links to others who spout the venom for them on Facebook or Twitter, without bothering to check the facts at snopes.com or in some other way. In most instances these postings are not true, and so it makes us look gullible and mean-spirited.

I received a second reminder just last night. During a Wednesday night service we read from Psalm 37. I was struck forcefully by verses 7 and 8. “Be still in the presence of the LORD, and wait patiently for Him to act. Don’t worry about evil people who prosper or fret about their wicked schemes. Stop being angry! Turn from your rage! Do not lose your temper—it only leads to harm.” (NLT).

I must admit (before someone who knows me reminds me) that being a peacemaker doesn’t always come natural to me. There are so many things going on in this world that I believe are wrong and, left unchecked may bring us to ruin. And it is so easy to respond in anger. But I have decided that I would rather be remembered as a peacemaker than a crusader. And I do want to see it as a blessing, rather than a command. There is so much hatred in this world. Do we really need to add more to it? And if we cannot advance our “causes” without anger, perhaps we should consider whether we are the ones to advance them.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

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