Spiritual Practice

The Cost of Peacemaking

Will Penner

“Get behind me, Satan!” Jesus rebuked Peter, the guy who would later become the “rock” on which Jesus built his church (Mark 8:33b, NRSV). Jesus braided a whip out of cords, overturned tables, and drove the moneychangers out of the temple (John 2:15). When Jesus was hungry, he cursed the fig tree because it hadn’t produced any fruit, even though it wasn’t fig season (Mark 11:12–14). We’re not always sure what to do with these episodes in the life of Jesus, the Prince of Peace, who at one point told his disciples, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9a, NRSV), and at another said, “I have not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34b, NRSV).

When I was growing up, I attended a worship service in which the Christmas story was read from the King James Version of the Bible. One of my favorite lines was the angel’s announcement to the shepherds: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14, KJV). Yet in the midst of this glorious event, King Herod, desperate to keep anyone from usurping his throne, sent soldiers to kill all the infants and toddlers in the area (Matthew 2:16).

The point is this: Peace is costly.


Active or Passive

My natural inclination is to run from arguments. When I disagree with other people, I don’t say anything. To avoid a confrontation, I laugh at what I find inappropriate, apologize for my behavior even when I did nothing wrong, and allow people to make ugly comments to me and others. I used to think I was being polite—a southern gentleman. The truth is that I was simply avoiding conflict. I wasn’t following Jesus’ example. His peace was anything but passive.

Peacemaking implies action. It doesn’t pick a fight, but it doesn’t run from one either. Peacemakers actively choose to seek justice, even when it means fighting against injustice.

I am a people pleaser. While this can be a useful quality—people like being around me, which makes my work and ministry easier—it can also hinder true peacemaking.

muddy hands Ftr TSP 95413456Peace is more than the absence of conflict. People who are afraid to be confrontational aren’t peacemakers; they’re conflict avoiders. Peacemaking describes action, not passivity. Making peace is difficult and messy. It takes work. It means stepping out of our comfort zones and being unpopular, which is especially hard for people-pleasers like me. It also means putting other people center stage, which can be hard if we crave attention. Most of all, it means searching for win-win scenarios and healing for the long haul—not just avoiding an argument.

As Christians, we are called to risk being uncomfortable or unpopular in order to practice peace, to bestow peace, to enable peace, to reflect the peace of Christ.



As you ponder what lies ahead for you in 2014, consider how God may be calling you to be a peacemaker. New Year’s resolutions often focus on our well-being—exercise more, eat healthier, read the Bible more, pray more. Is the Prince of Peace inviting you to make peace in your family, school, church, community, or world? In what ways can you begin to respond to God’s call in the new year?

Will Penner is a husband, dad, teacher, speaker, author, editor, and minister. His gut reaction is to run from conflict, but he’s getting a little better at taking risks and making peace in difficult situations.

—from devozine (November/December 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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