waging peace shareable 3

 

by Rick Love

Are you fed up with hate speech, inflammatory rhetoric, and uncivil discourse in politics and social media? We in Peace Catalyst International are… so we are beginning the Waging Peace Campaign!

We wage peace because peacemaking is a battle. Overcoming evil with good or seeking to end a conflict non-violently demands strength and fortitude. We choose to:

  • Wage peace with wisdom
  • Wage peace in love and
  • Wage peace beyond security

Will you join the Campaign? Help change the angry, polarizing climate by becoming a powerful force for peace!

(PCI staff provide formal trainings and teachings on peacemaking – an average of 9 a month! Contact us if you want to know more about this).

Today I’d like to get you started on some practical ways to wage peace with wisdom. One of the keys to this is to explain, promote, and model the four R’s of civil discourse:

 

1. Respectful

If we take the Scriptures seriously, we will “show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17 NIV).

When we get an angry email, an outlandish facebook post, or have an intense debate face to face … let’s resist the temptation to “fight fire with fire.” Even if the other person’s words are hateful and evil, we can still show respect.

Let’s remember that all people are created in God’s image (Genesis 1:26-28). We should see the face of God in everyone and treat them with dignity, whether Muslims, Mexicans, African Americans, Caucasians, Democrats or Republicans (and the list goes on…).

 

2. Relational

Relational communication is loving communication. “Let all that you do be done in love,” says Paul (1 Corinthians 16:14 NAU). We speak and write in such a way as to manifest love and strengthen the relationship.

So when we face controversy or conflict, we remember to attack the problem, not the person. We are commanded to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Speaking the truth means we can debate issues and expose problems. In fact we must do so! But speaking the truth “in love” means we seek to be winsome. There should be no angry edge to our communication.

Like many of you, I receive criticism on facebook and I am tempted to respond in kind. (Yes, I get angry at some of the outlandish statements I read!) But I have made it a personal rule to never respond quickly. I take time to ponder and pray.

I often thank people for sharing their views. Then I like to ask questions to make sure I understand their concerns. Questions also help people think more deeply about their statements. Sometimes these questions expose the error of my critics. Sometimes they open the door to deeper, meaningful dialogue. Either way, questions are good and help keep us focused on the problem rather than the person.

By the way, asking questions was central to how Jesus taught and communicated!

 

3. Reasonable

The God of truth commands us to love Him with our minds, so civil discourse should be reasonable. This means that we engage in dialogue and debates by presenting facts and giving arguments for what we believe.

Reasonable people weigh the evidence for a position and change their mind if persuaded – which leads to the last R of civil discourse…

 

4. Receptive

When we engage in civil discourse we should be receptive to other viewpoints. Proverbs repeatedly says that the wise person receives reproof – which means wise people are eager to learn and grow (Proverbs 12:1, 15; 15:31; 19:20).

 

The four R’s of civil discourse can be summed up in one word: WISDOM. The book of Proverbs and the letter of James teach that wisdom is about both our wording and our being, about a discerning mind and a gentle heart.

Let’s use these 4 R’s of civil discourse to wage peace with wisdom!

 

snow mountain cross webby Neal Foster

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you.”
-Matthew 5:43-44

Who’s “your enemy”? Well, the worst people I can think of are those who harm innocents – that is, people who don’t “deserve it.” This includes terrorists and military forces that target civilians or, even worse, women and children. This also includes persecutors, or those who harm others solely because of differing religious beliefs.

Surely the worst persecutors were those who tortured and executed Jesus. And of course we know Jesus’ attitude toward his enemies, the ultimate “badguys.”

Jesus forgave and loved because he was faithful to the principles of the kingdom of God. He did this not just to accomplish our salvation but to show us what it looks like to walk the path in this world that ultimately leads to eternal life. He shows us that the means to the peace of God are the ends. In other words, there is no way to attain the peace of Jesus other than by having his attitude and following his example, loving all people and practicing non-aggression and non-retaliation.

Of course, this turns out to be impossible, because the urge to self-justify and retaliate is too strong – at least without the Holy Spirit in us. But the spirit of Jesus is available to us, because we are the ones Jesus forgives on the cross. Jesus identifies with all victims, both us and those we hurt.

The power of the Gospel is love, poured out on the cross. Jesus shows the miracle-working power of God’s posture toward enemies: rather than kill them, God gives His life in order to save them, even allowing badguys to kill him. And biblically speaking, because we all have sinned, “them” is us.

God’s response to our sin is to die in order to erase it. The response of God’s kingdom is to love and bless the enemy unto his salvation, though it may (temporarily) cost all we have. I say “temporarily” because we as Christians know that God wins. Resurrection will undo all evil and wrong, ultimately validating the power of love. Because of the work of Jesus, we are eternally optimistic.

Please join me in reflecting:

What’s one thing I can do this week to imitate Jesus’ attitude toward me, proactively and creatively loving and blessing all kinds of people – even my enemies?

 

Rick Sami.JPG

by Rick Love

read part 1 of this blog

Sami Awad, a good friend and well-known Palestinian Christian peacemaker, met with Tim and me for breakfast at the Orient Palace hotel in Bethlehem. Near the end of our time together he asked if we wanted to participate in a non-violent demonstration. He said, “Don’t worry. You won’t be shot by any rubber bullets, and there won’t be any tear gas. And both Israelis and Palestinians march together.”

We said, “Yes!” So off we went to participate in on our first non-violent demonstration in Palestine organized by Combatants for Peace. Combatants for Peace are former violent Palestinians and Israelis who have banded together to end the occupation and work for peace. One of the other groups marching was Bereaved Families for Peace. Members of this group have had their children killed by snipers or as unintended consequences of the violence. The grief over their loss has knit them together and given them a peace mission.

Cadres of Israeli soldiers lined the streets at various places where we marched. There were news outlets and TV cameras covering the march as well. It wasn’t a big demonstration, but it was a big deal for Tim and me!

12814108_1105340639508502_4416922060481261812_n

 

Next on our agenda: The Christ at the Checkpoint Conference

The theme of the conference was ‘The Gospel in the Face of Religious Extremism.’ So I spoke about Jesus, Muslims, Violent Extremism, and Five Commands for the Road to Peace.

740121_10153974450913537_8649592120731490396_o

Over 400 people attend this dynamic gathering. The speakers were great, but the Palestinian Christians stole the show. There were four highlights for me.

  1. Palestinian Christians freely shared their pain about the occupation but also repeatedly and forcefully spoke about the need to love Israelis. They also spoke highly of their Muslim neighbors. Jesus was at the center of the conference, and there was little sense of victimhood.
  2. Bethlehem Bible College (BBC), who sponsored the event, is doing a great job of training Christian pastors and leaders. Bishara Awad the founder and Jack Sara the President deserve special recogniztion. BBC has just started an MA program in Peace Studies (yes I would like to teach there in the future).
  3. I was profoundly encouraged by the Palestinian youth. The graduates of BBC were impressive. They gave me much hope for the future
  4. Sami Awad and his organization, Holy Land Trust, provides leadership and training in non-violent resistance. They can also help organize trips for you or your group.

So don’t believe all the negative press about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Seeds of peace are being sown by both Israelis and Palestinians in this entrenched conflict. Pray for the Holy Land. And consider visiting for yourself.

There are rays of light in the dark divide!

by Rick Love

I was invited to speak at the Christ at the Checkpoint Conference in Bethlehem this year. So I invited my good friend Tim McDonell to join me. We went early to see some sites and meet with Israelis and Palestinians before the conference.

Full disclosure: our natural tendency is to focus on the plight of the Palestinians. So we determined to fight this prejudice by listening to and empathizing with both Israelis and Palestinians (listening and empathizing are two crucial practices for resolving all kinds of conflict).

We went to the Dome of the Rock and the Al Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in the world for Muslims. Because we have many Muslim friends, we thought it was important to see it. Some of the Muslims there tried to evangelize us with a canned pitch. Others were more friendly, sharing their regret that we were not allowed to enter the Mosque because of political tensions.

12802902_1104568829585683_8507228035295152190_n

Next we went to the famous Jewish “wailing wall” to watch the faithful pray. Gentiles are allowed to pray there if they cover their heads – which we did. The wailing wall is an intense place. Israelis sway back and forth in zealous prayer (it reminds me of praying with Korean Christians!).

12814220_1104569189585647_9043344055947105502_nHearing the laughter of the Israeli children in the background touched me deeply. In the midst of violence and political tension it reminded me of the important things in life. So I put my hand on the wailing wall and prayed that I would leave the world a better place for my children and grandchildren – a place where they could laugh and love and live without fear.

Next stop: Hebron in the West Bank (Palestine). This is the home of the Al Ibrahami Mosque, where Abraham, the Old Testament Patriarch, was buried. After walking through the mosque and seeing Abraham’s memorial, we sat down for coffee with street vendors.

“So Mohammad,” I asked, “If you could speak to the world about your situation here, what would you like them to know?” He smiled and said, “Imagine if someone took your house away. Then they said you could stay in one room of the house. But you can’t go in other rooms without permission.” A simple but apt picture of the Palestinian situation.

12376311_1105818766127356_3511565005915957937_n

Near the end of our time, Mohammad laughed and said the Israeli perspective could be summarized as follows: “What is mine is mine, what is yours is negotiable.” Then he said, “Please tell people that we are an educated people and we are not terrorists.” This reflects my own experience of them exactly.

We then went to an Israeli settlement. A settlement is an Israeli community built in the middle of Palestinian land. So there is great animosity between Israeli settlers and Palestinians. But we were told we needed to meet Rabbi Hanan. So off we went to listen and learn. We were blown away when we heard his story.

12717967_1106594106049822_4163922561645733232_n

He shared about the first time he talked with a Palestinian. They both confessed that they had never talked to the “other.” And they admitted that they were both afraid of the “other.” During this encounter, Rabbi Hanan said, “I felt like I had what you Christians call a conversion. I lived so close to Palestinians, but I never knew one.”

Rabbi Hanan is part of a dynamic peacemaking work called Roots. He took us to a neutral meeting place where young Israeli soldiers got to meet and actually talk with Palestinians, including a Palestinian Sheikh (teacher). In Palestine the only time Israeli soldiers meet a Palestinian is at checkpoints or conflicts. So this Roots gathering provided a safe space to meet and humanize the other.

More about our trip tomorrow in a second post!

snow mountain cross web

 

by Julie Clark

Forgiveness is a vital part of our relationship with God and a vital part of peacemaking.

We know this because Jesus included the following words in what we call The Lord’s Prayer.

 

Read Matthew 6:12, 14-15

These are strong words. How do we do this? Before we can truly forgive and be forgiven we need to push past our shame. Shame keeps our sins buried and locked away in the murky recesses of our hearts. The Holy Spirit’s conviction says, “I have done wrong” while shame says, “I am a bad person.” But Jesus took our shame – all of it – when he went to his death. He took it, and he wants us to let go of it.

The word sin has to do with missing the mark. What if we thought of sin as missing the mark of God’s perfect love and of faith? I think that may help us to throw off some of our shame. I have missed the mark many times, and until I am face to face with Jesus I will miss it many more times. I don’t want to, but I’m still growing. Every time I miss the mark I have another opportunity to grow and be transformed by God’s love and power.

What if our confessions to God and one another sounded more like this?:

“Yes, I missed the mark of love and of faith when I didn’t trust you, God, and gave in to fear and anxiety. Please forgive me.”

“Yes (friend, sister or brother), I missed the mark of love and faith when I judged you. Please forgive me.”

Though Jesus took our shame, dealing with the sin in our lives like this is imperative, because when we have unconfessed sin it blocks our access to the abundant life Jesus offers us (John 10:10, 1 John 1:9, 10).

 

Now read Luke 7:36-50 (especially 47)

Who loves the most? The one who has been forgiven the most!

Spend a few moments in prayer confessing anything you need to regarding areas where you have missed the mark of His perfect love and of faith.

Now, when we have been forgiven and covered in God’s grace, we are able to love and forgive those who have missed the mark of God’s perfect love and of faith in their dealings with us. We can have empathy towards them because we know we have also missed the mark with others many times. God has forgiven us; now we can forgive others.

Spend a few moments forgiving those who have missed the mark with you.

Now let’s thank God for the riches of His gift of forgiveness!

Dear Father, thank you for this gift of forgiveness. Thank you that you forgive all my sin when I miss the mark of perfect love and of faith. Thank you that I in turn can forgive those who have hurt me by missing the mark. May forgiveness and peace abound in my life and in all the world. Amen.

 

Julie Clark bio square small

Julie Clark is a poet and peacemaker who lives in Seattle and works with her husband Bill as Peace Catalyst’s Northwest Regional Directors. Read Julie’s poetry here.