Some Thoughts On Peace and Peacemaking

I like planning ahead, especially when it comes to planning Sunday services and sermons. Last summer, and moving into fall, as all of the tension in the United States seemed to boil over, side-effects perhaps of necessary lockdowns due to COVID, affects on the economy, racial tensions spurred by the deaths of several persons of color at the hands of police, to name a few causes of unrest. Add into that mix a host of difficult to distinguish trouble makers and rabble rousers happy to make things worse, to say nothing or as little as possible about the viciousness of the rhetoric leading up to the Presidential election, and you have several problems crying out for peace. Because of all of those things, or each of them together, I began to think about doing a sermon series on peace for the weeks after Christmas.

Part of what I presented in that sermon series was a number of practical ways to live a peaceful life. I write from the perspective of a Christian pastor, rooted in stories from the Bible. My hope in sharing some of these points is that even if we do not share the same faith or approach to faith, we share the same humanity.

Throughout the years, when I have read the phrase, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called Children of God” (Matthew 5:9) I thought it was about professional peacemakers, diplomats and other power brokers at an international level. But as I began to consider this passage again, it struck me as much closer to home, more individually and with a sense of obligation. I think too about the song, ‘Let There Be Peace on Earth” (See author info below) and the last line that is often sung with such passion and gusto in church, “…and let it begin with me!” Do we mean that? It is a little like the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “forgive us as we forgive…” Do we mean that too?

As those phrases and that question, “Do we mean it?” came to me several practical ideas began to weave together, and present themselves to me, so I offer them here for your consideration. Lofty ideals need to be tethered to practical applications.

Picture of a diverse group of young people sitting at a table, a young woman and man shaking hands.
Photo by fauxels from Pexels

1 – Everyone is created in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) even those with whom you profoundly disagree. Look for the gifts that God has given them. This might take some work. Ask God to help you see their gifts. Take it a deeper step, and ask God to help you see individuals as God sees them (yes, even your annoying neighbor, in-law, or co-worker).

2 – It may be stated differently in other Christian denominations, but in the United Methodist Book of Worship and Hymnal as well, one of our Baptismal promises reads: “We promise to accept the freedom and power God gives us to reject evil and injustice in all its forms.” This is a solemn promise. I do my best to rely on that promise in my every day life. Some days I fail, but I believe that God will give me the grace and power to keep that promise. It does not happen by osmosis though, it is a promise that requires our willing participation.

3 – If you want to make peace with family, friends and neighbors, and if you want to teach peace by example, stop using labels for people. Labels belong on cans, people have names. Do not call a person “retard” or “retarded” or any other name. Do not use generalized political descriptions like “far left” or “radical right.” That has become a very accepted pattern of speech, but I tell you that it is name calling and dismissive. When you refer to a person like that, they become less a person in your eyes and more the enemy.

4 – Watch your words, not just cuss words. Words can inflame or inspire. What do you want your words to do? Think before you speak. My favorite image for this is that of a tube of toothpaste. Like toothpaste that cannot be put back into the tube, once we have given voice to hurtful words, we cannot simply withdraw them. Like arrows that have left the bowstring, they can wound and cause irreparable harm.

5 –Humility is essential and sorely needed. Micah 6:8 says “Act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God. (New International Version of the Bible) or “Do justice love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” (New Revised Standard Version). My ethics professor in seminary said it was always important to have the humility to know, and admit, that you might be wrong.” I think most of us would rather push our rightness than to exercise humility.

A note on a piece of paper that says "There is power in Kindness" pastel colors on the paper.
Photo by Anna Tarazevich from Pexels

6. Respect! Treating all of humanity, including your family, pets, neighbors and people with whom you disagree with respect is crucial. In my work preparing couples for marriage, I stress respect as the most important thing. You might think it is love, but love that does not show itself in respect is empty. (As an aside, I am totally not sure how smashing wedding cake in your spouses’ face shows love, or how the tradition got started).

7. Practice gratitude, every day. Recognizing your blessings from God can put you in a much better frame of mind to deal with conflict and to make peace.

8. If you have wronged someone, admit it to them, do not make excuses. So, do not say, I am sorry, but…and ask their forgiveness. Accepting responsibility for your words and actions can be much more effective.

9. Exercise compassion. Everyone you meet is dealing with something, so be kind. The 2021 theme for the National Random Acts of Kindness Movement is “Make Kindness Your Norm.” http://www.randomactsofkindness.org

10. Suspend judgment. It is easy to judge another person’s actions, without knowing their background, or their story.

11. You don’t have to like someone, or agree with them to make peace. You need common ground and a willingness to agree to disagree.

Picture of two women having a conversation. One is listening to the other.
Photo by Tim Douglas from Pexels

12. Listen! Listen to what the other person is saying about how they feel, what they believe or want, and why. Have you ever been in a group of some kind, where instead of listening to the person who was talking, you got caught up in thinking about what you would say when you got a chance to jump in? That is not listening. Sometimes friends do that, classmates do that and couples do it too. Try to zero in on what the person who is speaking is saying and ask clarifying questions.

13. Look for common ground. You might assume there is no common ground, but if you can put some of these foundation stones in place you might be surprised.

I have had the nuts and bolts of this post on my computer and in reserve in my blog, but just procrastinated. I thought perhaps I had waited to long and these words would not be needed; but peace does not seem to be on any horizon, so I offer these thoughts in the hope that they can help.

Not holding back the tide,

Michele

Copyright 2020-2024 Michele Somerville, The Beach Girl Chronicles and https://msomervillesite.WordPress.com

“Let There Be Peace on Earth” Words and music by Sy Miller and Jill Jackson; harmony by Charles h. Webb, 1987 Copyright 1955. Assigned to Jan=Lee Music renewed 1983.

Linking up with Esme Senior Salon, #Life This Week (Denyse Whelan) and #Weekend Coffee Share

Published by msomerville2014

About: Michele Somerville is a wife, mother, stepmother, grandmother, sister, aunt, cousin and friend. She lives with her husband and their dog Sheba. Sheba is their fourth rescue dog in 30 years. She is a retired ordained United Methodist Elder and serves two churches part-time in North Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her Bachelors’ Degree in 1999 from Mansfield University and her Master of Divinity in 2004 and Doctor of Ministry in 2016, both from Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School in Rochester, New York. My Doctor of Ministry Thesis was:” Prophetic Words of Grace: Biblical Storytelling in the Local Church.” Michele began writing and performing character monologues for worship in 2008. She began by asking the question about nameless characters in the Bible, “What would they say if they could speak for themselves?” and then using her theological education and experience of the human condition to attempt an answer that is both academic and creative. Much of what you will read here are memories from growing up in a tourist town, in a bar, in the 1960’s, shaggy dog stories about our rescue dogs, life in a small town, and stories of faith and hope. Throughout her life she has lived in many states, including small towns, large towns and cities. She lived in Rota, Spain, for nine challenging months. Despite all the places she have lived since moving away from home in 1970,Michele is at the heart of all things Jack and Maggie’s daughter, and a beach girl from Onset, Massachusetts.

19 thoughts on “Some Thoughts On Peace and Peacemaking

  1. Hi Michele, I love this post. These words ARE needed. It’s so necessary to remind ourselves to be peaceful people, especially in these difficult times. I’ve grown to dislike when people use labels, even as a ‘joke’. I much prefer these days to listen, and sometimes not say much at all in order to understand others’ points of views, or just to hear what they’re doing these days. Life is so short and I feel that we don’t spend nearly enough of it being peaceful. Everyone wants to win, or be on the winning team, without realising that we’re all on the same side, and they’re ready to fight to prove that they’re the winners. I’m not sure what I’m really trying to say here! Just that I hear you, and I strongly agree with your words. Thank you for reminding us about humility, too. It’s something I’m trying to practise more often. Wishing you a lovely weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Cheryl, for taking the time to read and comment and for those affirming words. One of the many blessings of blogging is getting to know people in countries around the world, share thoughts, experiences and opinions, it makes such a big difference. It can aid compassion and become building blocks for genuine peace. But even on a smaller level, we need to learn to ask the right questions. I am not sure what all the questions are, but asking the right questions and listening to the answers are crucial. I love our connection and can’t wait to hear more about your garden and your flock and life in your new home. Blessings to you both. Michele

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Hello Michele, I meant to reply here much sooner than now, but life got in the way (which is a good thing, actually!). I also love our connection and I’m hoping to share with you more about our Bulgarian lives soon. Wishing you a pleasant end to the week and a lovely weekend.

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    1. Call me stubborn, but I believe we can make a difference. Did you ever watch E.R. when it was on television? One of the many characters, “Dr. Green” was leaving the show and the hospital and he said to young Dr. Carter who was taking over as the Attending Physician, “You set the tone!” Thanks Anne, Michele

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  2. Hi Michele – I always remember hearing that the word is peace “maker” not peace “keeper”. Which means we aim to create peaceful interactions but we don’t subjigate our own values to keep the peace with someone who is flagrantly trying to inflame the situation. There’s a lot of peace gained by allowing a little distance sometimes! That being said, I’ve come to see (in all my aged wisdom) that there are a lot of shades of grey out there and always being right can be very taxing and very off-putting. Choosing kindness and a desire to reflect God’s love is a much more worthwhile pursuit. I really liked all your points in how to make the process work.

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    1. Hi Leanne, thank you for sharing thse thoughts. I agree about the difference between peace aker and peace keeper. To me, the phrase “Peace Keeper” brings up images of the sheriffs and officers of the Old American West, or current military actions as well. I also agree that we not try to keep peace with someone who is flagrantly trying to inflame a situation. At least to the extent that sometimes the peaceful thing to do, or the right thing to do is to walk away. I have this conversation in sermons and bible studies. You can forgive someone who has hurt you grievously, though it takes a huge amount of grace to do so. But it is also reasonable in those situations to say, “I forgive you, but you do not get to do that to me again.” Thanks very much for sharing your thoughts and response. I always appreciate your comments. Best and blessings, Michele

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  3. Even if you do not practice a religion or identify as Christian, your points can be incorporated into all of our lives. It would be good not to just label others, who we don’t agree with, as radical or crazy. I know I get angry with some of those others view points and rhetoric. I wish some in our Congress could apply your recommendations in their interactions as well.

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    1. No argument here. I do believe that many of these points work from a strictly humanist perspective. While I do not specifically write a religious blog, it is mostly memoir. But I bring my whole self to the writing, the Beach Girl, and the Pastor:) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. not sure we have ‘met’ before, though maybe in a link party. Thanks for stopping by and sharing. Michele

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  4. Oh, Michele, I am with you on the wedding cake thing. What a horrible way to begin a marriage based on love and respect. This post should be required reading for anyone getting married. Or anyone posting on social media. Or maybe just everyone in general. Some of these items are hard – like suspending judgment. It is so easy to judge. And so satisfying. We always seem to come out on top. No one ever said that building God’s Kingdom here on earth was going to be easy, though. Just necessary. Great post!

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    1. Thank you Laurie. I know that I mentioned a few of these ideas in a previous post, but it was definitely the sermon series taht brought all these ideas together. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. Best and blessings, Michele

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  5. Michele, Many gems and wisdom in this post. We all need to remember gratitude, kindness, compassion, active listening, respect, love, and peace and try to practice these in our day-to-day living. Thank you for linking with #weekendcoffeeshare.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I certainly agree with that list. Active listening may be the most difficult and the most important, or at least foundational to be able to do all the rest. Kind of like what we do reading and commenting on each other’s posts. Thank you Natalie!

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  6. Hi Michelle. This is so well spoken and read. I especially amen’ed your point about not apologizing then following it up with a “but”. I offer this template: “I value your friendship more than any disagreement we might ever have, so I’m sorry for what I said / did. It did not underscore how much I value you and I hope you’ll forgive me.” This attitude of grace, forgiveness has rewarded me with some friends who I strongly disagree with, but together we are both better for the friendship and different way of seeing things while continuing to respect and love each other.

    Now, I’m working on consistency for those who are simply hard to love. . .
    That’s a whole different battle.

    Blessings.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Gary, your template is a good suggestion, Perhaps part of the issue is that people do not know how to apologize or ask for forgiveness or accept responsibility for their actions so we/they try to deflect. Thanks for dropping by and taking the time to comment. I am fresh out of tea, so very nice of you to stop and visit anyway!

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