by Rick Love
Jon Huckin and Jer Swigart wrote, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World to help followers of Jesus become “everyday peacemakers.” I think they have succeeded in their peace mission. Mending the Divides is now one of my top ten books on peacemaking.
Huckins and Swigart wisely point out that peacemaking is no “add-on” to the Christian faith but rather the very essence of discipleship. “Our pursuit of peace is simply the embodiment of the peacemaking priority and practice of God” (p 34).
Mending the Divides focuses primarily on “intergroup” peacemaking. It has important implications for “interpersonal” and even “international” peacemaking, but it focuses on breaking down barriers and building bridges between people of different races, religions, and sexual orientations. It mends the divide between “us and them.”
The book is structured around four big peacemaking practices that Huckins and Swigart find in Scripture, especially in the life of Christ and in the parable of the Good Samaritan: see, immerse, contend, and restore. “God, in Jesus, embodied the peacemaking practices of see, immerse, and contend in order to restore shalom” (p. 40).
First, we need to see people as Jesus does. “Everyday peacemakers are men and women who see the humanity, dignity, and image of God in all people…. Seeing is our first peacemaking practice” (p. 71). In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan all “saw” the man beaten up on the side of the road. But only one really saw the voiceless victim as a fellow human being in need of care.
Second, we immerse ourselves in the context. This practice calls us to be incarnational – imitating Jesus by humbly entering into the world we seek to heal. We have to spend “significant time immersing ourselves in the role of learners rather than heroes” (p.92). “Quick fixes based on what we perceive initially may not actually be helpful in the long term. Immersion helps us to contend intelligently and compassionately” (p.111).
Third, we contend for the healing of broken people and systems, especially following the example of the Good Samaritan. Rather than giving a list of “contending practices” Huckins and Swigart call us to immerse ourselves deeply into the broken situation and discern what needs to happen. “Everyday peacemakers move beyond cycles of the status quo and violence in order to seek the flourishing of others through creative, costly initiatives” (p. 124).
Fourth, we restore. Huckins and Swigart rightly point out that this fourth practice is “less something we do and more something we get to be a part of…. We are actively joining God in bringing restoration” (p.137). We co-labor with God to bring shalom into broken lives and broken places.
“Peacemaking isn’t a soft, euphoric ideal but a set of everyday practices that require intentionality, sacrifice, and creativity. It is taking the life and teachings of Jesus and living them out in the complex and often conflicted realities of our world. This is discipleship” (p. 128). Amen!