After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Matthew 2:1-2
At the risk of spoiling your nativity scenes, here are the facts about the magi (separated from the myths): (1) they probably were not kings, (2) we do not know how many there were, (3) they never saw Jesus as an infant, nor the manger, nor the shepherds, (4) we do not know their names nor their nationalities. We actually know surprisingly little about them. The sum total of what we do know, we learn from 12 small verses of scripture in Matthew’s gospel. That is all. But it is enough for us as peacemakers to continue to learn some important truths from the Christmas story.
These magi (however many there were), were apparently scholars and apparently familiar enough with Jewish prophecies to understand that the “king of the Jews” had been born. They were also men of science, familiar enough with the night sky to recognize a star which did not belong there. They were also shrewd seekers of Jesus, not thrown at all off track by Herod’s deception or malicious intentions. These are all good qualities for peacemakers.
A peacemaker among God’s people is a student of the Word. I know I’ve already made this point in this series, but it bears repeating. The truth of God’s Word is critical to peacemaking among His people. Peacemakers therefore immerse themselves in the Word regularly…even in all the woes and warnings of Old Testament prophecies.
A peacemaker studies the landscape of relationships and recognizes things that do not seem to …
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. Luke 2:17-18
The Shepherds had a pretty simple, but critical role in the Christmas story, right? Go and observe, and then tell the truth about what you heard and observed. They did not elaborate…they did not speculate about anyone’s intentions or possible motives…they did not add their own opinions into the mix. They heard from the angels, observed the baby Jesus, and then they simply reported what they had heard and observed. They did their job well…God took care of the rest.
As a peacemaker, I could learn a thing or two from the shepherds in the Christmas story. I could learn to remind myself that my role in the peacemaking process is not complicated. More times than not, I am merely speaking the truth in love. The role is actually simple enough unless I find myself beginning to interject my own opinions and speculation about motives and behaviors. That is when I get myself into trouble.
A peacemaker must speak the truth about what he has heard from God’s Word. For this reason, faith-based peacemaking is different from the secular concepts of genuine mediation. It is slightly less conciliatory and slightly more directive, at least in the sense of being grounded in the Word of God as the source of all truth and of all solutions. Among Christ-followers, there is almost always a spiritual element to conflict. Spiritual problems demand spiritual solutions…and spiritual solutions come from God’s Word. For me to be an effective peacemaker in the church, I must be listening to the Word of God and I must be representing it accurately…just like the Shepherds …
Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. James 1:22
There is a very simple explanation for why so many people outside the church accuse the church of being full of hypocrites…why people who profess to be Christians often appear to talk one way, but walk an entirely different way. It is because it is absolutely true.
I learned some time ago that knowing the Bible does not make me a better follower of Christ, and in fact, does not really change me at all. I can attend church every Sunday, attend small group every Monday night and discuss in great depth what I believe this scripture means or that scripture means…I can listen to Christian radio all day long and can subscribe to podcasts of my favorite preachers…I can read my Bible every day…I can graduate from Seminary with advanced knowledge in Greek and Hebrew…I can do all these things, but if I am only a knower of God’s Word but do not become a doer of God’s Word, I am the biggest hypocrite of all. And I am not changing for the better.
In The Gathering, which happens to be the class I have the privilege of teaching on Sunday mornings, we talk about each of us having a “next step” to take toward God. No matter where we are in our faith walk, from the strongest athiest to the most mature believer, we each have a next step to take. Scripture teaches us what that next step looks like. The same passage of scripture may show one next step for you and another entirely different next step for me. That is the beauty and the power of God’s Word. But in every case, taking that “next …
My South African friend, Frank, tells a great story about being in a motorcycle gang when he turned his life over to the Lord. A member of the gang confronted him: “So, I hear you’re a Christian now.” “That’s right,” said Frank. The gang member continued, “So, if I hit you, you have to turn the other cheek.” “That’s right,” said Frank, “That’s what the scripture tells me.” So the gang member belted Frank, right across the face. Frank obediently turned the other cheek. The gang member hit him again, maybe a little harder this time. Frank straightened himself out, looked back at the gang member…and flattened him. Then Frank told him, “Scripture gives no further instructions after that.”
It’s important to know the rules of engagement.
In the Christian church, the rules of engagement are all spelled out for us in God’s Word. The Bible, then, becomes the cultural guideline for all of our interaction with one another, whether in times of conflict or in times of agreement. In most Christian churches, the Bible is held among the very highest of values. Understanding that culture (i.e., the rules of engagement), then, requires understanding God’s Word. I think it is fair to say that, in the church today, one of the critical limiting factors to finding peace with one another is Biblical illiteracy. By the same token, all of the most effective peacemakers I know in the church, past or present, have had a pretty good working knowledge of scripture.
In the secular world, at least in our culture, the highest value in mediation is the agreement. In other words, that the parties agree is what matters most. It doesn’t matter so much whether the agreement is fair or unfair or good or bad. If the parties