Peace Catalyst International gets asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. The wording may be different, but the concerns remain the same. Because of this, we are writing a number of blogs addressing some of our Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Frequently asked Question #2:
Aren’t we supposed to evangelize Muslims? How does peacemaking relate to evangelism?

 

What does it mean to be an evangelical peacemaker? For many, this is an oxymoron. How can you be a true peacemaker and at the same time be a faithful evangelical? We get criticisms from both Muslims and Christians about this. Some Muslims accuse us of doing peacemaking only as a means to evangelize. Some Christians believe that peacemaking without evangelizing is meaningless.

As followers of Jesus, we must love our neighbor (the great commandment) and share our faith (the great commission). So how do we do this practically? We believe the great commandment governs the great commission. In other words, we need to love our neighbor with no strings attached – whether they want to hear the gospel or not.

When someone wants to join Peace Catalyst, we question them thoroughly about their motives. We make it clear that too many evangelicals love their neighbor or do peacemaking only in order to bear witness (or try to convert people). We call this ‘bait-and-switch.’ In this case we recommend that people find another organization that better suits them. God commands us to love our neighbor without an ulterior motive or another agenda. We like and live by the slogan of the Duluth Vineyard: “Love God. Love people. Period.”

As a Jesus-centered organization, we speak about Jesus as the Prince of Peace. We pursue peace and share the “gospel of peace.” In fact, the gospel is described as “the gospel of peace” five times in the New Testament (Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:13-17; 6:15; Colossians 1:20 and Romans 5:1). We believe that sharing the gospel is part of the work of peacemaking. So we joyfully share our faith.

But we are a peacemaking community, not a missionary organization. Our unique calling and focus is on peacemaking, not evangelizing.

When Peace Catalyst was just starting, Pastor Tyler Johnson of Redemption Church encouraged us with these wise words: “Evangelical peacemaking is like evangelical relief and development. Groups like World Vision commit themselves to quality relief and development in the name of Christ. Of course they want to bear witness to Christ. But they want to do their work with excellence, unto to the Lord, whether someone comes to Christ or not. Evangelical peacemaking is like evangelical relief and development.”

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). In other words, God’s children make peace. Jesus also commanded us to let our lights shine before others, so that they would see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So peacemaking without evangelizing is not meaningless. The good deed of peacemaking glorifies God!

 

Peace Catalyst International gets asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. The wording may be different, but the concerns remain the same. Because of this, we are writing a number of blogs addressing some of our Frequently Asked Questions.

 

Frequently asked Question #1:
Is It Really Possible to Have Peace Between Christians and Muslims?

 

Many Christian s believe it is impossible to have peace with Muslims. After all, they say, Jesus is the Prince of Peace and came to bring peace on earth. So everyone who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior cannot experience peace.

It’s like the bumper sticker that says, “Know Christ. Know Peace. No Christ. No Peace.”

But is it really that simple? Is this slogan true? Are we at Peace Catalyst making assertions that don’t jibe with reality? We don’t think so.

Yes, to know Christ is to know peace. Peace with God. Peace with others. Peace with creation. That’s the biblical mandate and the comprehensive nature of reconciliation in Scripture. However, we really only experience a measure of this peace if we are honest with ourselves. Many Christians are sincere believers but have broken relationships all around them. All you have to do is look at the divorce rate among Christians and conflicts between believers.

So let’s show some humility here. We don’t think the church itself even models the kind of peace that Scripture affirms and that this bumper sticker declares. So let’s rid ourselves of this adversarial perspective that our Christian club has peace but you don’t.

To know Christ is to experience a measure of peace. A foretaste of heaven. Through Christ, peace has burst into this broken world. In fact, Christ has waged decisive peace through his life, teaching, death, and resurrection. But it is not automatic. We have disciplines to learn, commandments to obey, and healing to experience if we want peace.

And even then, is it really true to say that there is no peace outside of Christ? That people created in God’s image don’t experience a measure of peace in this world? Martin Luther King Jr. believed that peace was possible with the white majority because they were created in God’s image.

Or what about Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, or as my Muslim friends would mention, Abd el-Kader of Algeria, honored for his remarkable courage in preventing thousands of Maronite Christians from being massacred in 1860 in Damascus, Syria? Didn’t they demonstrate peace in the world? We think so.

It is possible to live in peace with those outside of the Christian community, because everyone is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Even though sin has tarnished and corrupted the image of God, everyone still has a sense of right and wrong and the potential to do what is right (Romans 2:14-15; Luke 6:32-34).

But there is even more biblical evidence for this. The commands to “pursue peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14) and to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) indicate that there can be peace with those outside of the Christian community. And it’s our duty to help make it happen.

So yes, we believe it really is possible for Christians to live in peace with Muslims!

 

by Martin Brooks

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I have been “evangelized” both by well-meaning Muslims doing da’wah and Christians who made assumptions about my relationship with Jesus. One Muslim wanted to “share his testimony” with me. I could not wait for that conversation to end. It did not feel so good to have my faith insulted as “inferior.” The phrase, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” came to mind and made me question the way many “evangelize” others.

I’ve heard that, “the one thing missing from ‘friendship evangelism’ is friendship.” Perhaps that is what prompted a recent conversation I had with a young Muslim woman who was a leader in the Muslim Student Association.

“We are not really interested in interfaith dialogue. We can’t even get the students to come to mosque for special teaching. It would be hard to get them to come out for more talk.”

I had mentioned that we were trying to organize a Quick to Listen event on campus at which an imam and a pastor would answer questions about the respective faith traditions.

“We don’t want to just talk about things; we want to do things together, make a difference.”

I had heard this before from one of my imam friends – ironically, the same imam I had invited to the Quick to Listen event.

“Let’s get together and build friendships, not by meeting and discussing our differences, but by doing things together.” He went on. “I remember when the tornado came through Henryville. We took busloads of our people up there and worked side by side with the community.”

What would happen if we worked side by side to bless our community? As the imam said, “You might not even know that the guy beside you is a Muslim; he’s just a guy swinging a hammer.”

I imagined two guys stringing electrical wire together all morning or finishing drywall. In my mind, I saw them sitting down for lunch. In time it comes out that one of them is Christian and the other Muslim.

Contrast that scenario with inviting Muslims and Christians to gather in a room and discuss our similarities and differences. Who might show up at a house refurbishing, and who might show up at the dialogue? Apparently the younger people here would rather sand drywall.

I asked the Muslim student what we might do together. Volunteering for house builds, soup kitchens, and helping refugees were among the proposals, but then she floated a really bold idea.

“What if we bought one of these closed steakhouses around town and turned it into a training kitchen for the refugees? We could teach them how to run a restaurant and cook. We could even feed the homeless.”

It’s a great idea. I had seen a model similar to what she described in New Orleans, but realistically, what church would be willing to partner with a mosque for a project like that? Or what mosque would be willing to invest their money in the project? I don’t know the answer to either of those questions. Honestly, I don’t know enough to pull off a project like that, but it gives me hope that a young Muslim woman would have such a vision. She can see us working together. She can see the homeless fed and the refugees equipped and employed as an expression of faith. It reminded me of the passage in James declaring that “faith without works is really no faith at all.”

It’s fine to talk about what we believe, but it is better to see people’s faith put into action. As we work alongside people and hear each other’s stories of life and faith and family, it makes it a lot harder to believe the stereotypes. The stereotypes go both ways. We all have blind spots about the “other,” but isolation from each other only enables the myths to grow and love to wane.

A Turkish Muslim friend of mine told me he could get some Muslims to join a church service project. What would happen at your church if Muslims started showing up to help paint the walls or mow the grass? Can you think of a good project we could do together? The Muslims in Louisville are asking.

 

Martinbrooks bio squareMartin Brooks is Peace Catalyst’s Midwest Regional Director and is based in Louisville, KY where he lives and makes peace with his wife Susan. More from Martin at seguesintl.com.

 

 

“The world changes when people have to deal with a very risky issue and either do it poorly or do it well.”

– authors of Crucial Conversations

by Nicole Gibson

71-JoCQKbHL2Peacemaking happens in big ways and in very small ways. It happens between conflicting people groups in the world and between individuals in the smallest of conversations. It happens between those of different religious or political backgrounds and between a domestic couple trying to make a decision.

Peacemaking is about relating to those who differ from us, and we deal with people every day who differ from us in one way or another. For example, a boss who’s made a decision we strongly disagree with or a coworker we feel has been stepping on our toes. Or a loved one making destructive relationship choices. Or a significant other we don’t see eye-to-eye with about a touchy financial issue.

These are all situations where peace is either nurtured or broken down. In every one of these situations, and countless others like them, we must ask ourselves, “Can I dialogue with this person and address our differences while still maintaining relationship?”

In peacemaking, we often talk about this kind of thing on a large scale, but it actually applies to everyday relationships and conversations, and that’s what makes this book such a gem. The principles in Crucial Conversations empower us to both talk about the hard things AND maintain relationship. They give us the tools to “talk openly about high-stakes, emotional, and controversial topics.”

Though not written from a Jesus-centered perspective, the authors start with the principle of “working on me first, us second,” which calls to mind Jesus’s teaching about not trying to take a speck out of someone else’s eye until we’ve gotten the plank out of our own.

The authors then go into detail about something essential to crucial conversations: maintaining safety. That is, making sure that both parties feel safe enough to express themselves openly in the conversation. This is, the authors say, the only way for dialogue to continue. “If you make it safe enough, you can talk about almost anything and people will listen.” Conversely, “If you don’t fear that you’re being attacked or humiliated, you yourself can hear almost anything and not become defensive” (p 55).

This is a book about how to foster healthy conversations about tough issues and maintain open communication in potentially explosive situations. Imagine how different our lives and relationships, not to mention our ability to affect positive change in the world, can be if we put a little effort into improving our skills in this area. It seems to me that if we can do that, we will become powerful peacemakers in all our spheres of life.

I know that, personally, this book has drastically changed the way I communicate. As you read this book and start practicing your own crucial conversations (or if you’ve read it before), share your stories, and let’s learn from one another.

refugee

 

by Susan Brooks

She was a refugee from Syria, a beautiful young woman dressed in black from head to toe. A patterned scarf was tied around her head and tucked into a lightweight double-breasted suit coat that skirted the floor. She spoke passionately in a language I couldn’t understand, and her young interpreter had to stop a time or two to choke back tears.

The refugee was a young mother, and she told of her struggles during her recent pregnancy in Syria. Her country was falling apart. As her time drew near, she scheduled a c-section two weeks before her baby was due—she needed to make sure the baby would not be born in the middle of the night. A nighttime trip to the hospital would have been too risky. When the time came for the c-section, the soldiers stopped her family on their way to the hospital. They detained her husband for no apparent reason, leaving her to deliver the baby without him.

Upon her arrival at the hospital, the warring factions were bombing the area and her heart was racing. Because of her condition, they couldn’t give her the medicine she needed to relax, so she had to find a way to calm down without medication.

“I can do this, I can do this,” she repeated, realizing she had to be strong for the baby.

In spite of the horrific conditions, she delivered a healthy baby, and some time later the husband was released. The family returned to their home, but the situation in the area only worsened. Soldiers harassed the husband when he would venture out, until one day they beat him with sticks so severely he feared for his life. By the time the baby was four months old, the family decided it was safer to flee the violence than to stay in their home. They had no passports and no birth certificate for the baby, so they would have to escape across the border illegally. Their best chance to survive the journey was to race through the forest under the cover of night. It was extremely difficult to see their way through, and at certain places they had to run or the spotlights would expose them. If caught in the spotlights, border guards would shoot them on sight. The young father carried his two-year-old son and the nursing mother carried her four-month-old baby. It was nearly impossible to keep the children quiet during their flight, but somehow, by the grace of God, they made it. This young Syrian family is now living in the States, building a new life.

I heard this story at our most recent Peace Feast, and I had the privilege of hugging the young mother who had been through such trauma. She wants everyone to know about the suffering of her people. Her story reminded me of another flight by a family of refugees. They, too fled under the cover of night to a neighboring country. They fled to Egypt to save the life of their child from a murderous ruler. The child’s name was Jesus. I wonder who helped that refugee family. Who took little Jesus in and provided diapers for him and food and shelter for his mother and father until Joseph could find some carpentry work and an apartment? Mary, Joseph, and Jesus stayed in Egypt until Herod died. I wonder if the Egyptians resented Joseph coming into their country and taking their jobs? I wonder if the holy family feared being put in jail for illegal entry? Einstein once said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” I’m finding that to be true.

 

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Susan is a peacemaker and artist from Louisville, where she works with her husband Martin, Peace Catalyst’s Midwest Regional Director. Read more from Susan at susanebrooks.com.