Blasted are the Peacemakers

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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. – Jesus

The longer you live and communicate for a living on social media, the more you come to accept a fairly reliable truth: discord sells.

Our minds are bombarded with hundreds of thousands of messages every day, all clamoring for our attentions and affections, all seeking to occupy the same increasingly crowded bit of real-estate for a few precious seconds.

And when it comes to breaking through the virtual din, nothing moves the needle quite like conflict. As a result most people (Christians included) welcome it, nurture it, and if needed—we manufacture it. This is true of faith-based bloggers, big time pastors, celebrity evangelists, savvy politicians, and Christian folks looking to grow their brands and ministries.

All too often we who claim Christ are as divisive and antagonistic and combative out here as anyone, and I’ll be the first to cop to it and repent of it. Yeah, we name drop Jesus but we’ll take you out in a flurry of tell offs and put downs while we do it. It’s a startling easy trap to fall into: begin by obeying a noble, sacred calling but end up chasing the cheap aphrodisiac of page views and post impressions.

And it would all be perfectly fine—except, Jesus.

Reading the words that begin the most famous sermon attributed to him, there is a quiet calm on display; a dignity and gentleness that now sounds foreign to our ears and easily become white noise fading off into the background. They’re actually radical, counterintuitive invitations but they don’t generate enough heat to register that way anymore.
 
I’m afraid that if Jesus were on social media today, most Christians wouldn’t follow him. 

His posts would likely be buried in relative obscurity beneath loud, flashing layers of shade-throwing and name calling; written off as trite religious pabulum. He’d certainly never hope to go viral with that played out, hackneyed, “love one another” schtick.

In fact, try and echo the soft heart of the Beatitudes these days and you’ll find most Christians aren’t all that interested. Nothing sexy there. No juice. No bombast. No fireworks. Worse, it seems the louder people become in their call for compassion, the more they advocate for decency, and the greater they elevate humility, the more likely they are to get ignored online or soundly destroyed by a chorus of ticked off trolls, accusing them of watering down the Gospel. Christlike love now gets shouted down in the streets by the angry mob of our collective outrage.

So much of our modern spiritual experience runs on negativity that it’s become a core value. Take a look around. Remove the anger from many Christian’s social media expression of faith and you’ll often find there isn’t a whole lot left. Ironically the more commonplace controversy becomes in our public faith discourse, the less interesting Jesus seems to become to us and yet the more necessary he is.

He is the clear antidote to the chest-beating, pot-stirring, dying-to-go-viral vanity that we mistake for fervent faith; his steady benevolence a dying language as we all grow more fluent in bitterness. 

When Jesus’ goodness and humility really take root in us, our inflated egos shrink back to their proper size, the towering facades of self we labor on crumble, and we begin seeking restoration as much as confrontation as we encounter people.

The ways of Jesus are the movement toward the small and the low places, they are the ways of denial and sacrifice and yielding to another, they are the path of mercy giving and peacemaking.

They are beautiful and filled with “life that is truly life”—but maybe that isn’t enough to grab us anymore.

31 thoughts on “Blasted are the Peacemakers

  1. This, just after reading an article by a “Christian” blogger who delights in his righteously angry posts on abortion, transgender issues, and all the other things he believes are corroding our society, is a huge relief. The beatitudes often guide my heart and mind when the world threatens to drown out the voice of God.

  2. So much truth in those words!
    One of the greatest problems in the “Christian” community is the worship of a man rather than understanding his mission as the way-shower. He gave us examples of how to live yet the bombast turns it all around into dogma, rules, hate, bias and anything but living a Christ like life.

  3. Interesting – this is, I think, the first time I’ve read one of your posts where all the name-calling, etc. has not filled the responses. Am I just too early or, in light of the subject matter, have they all decided to be silent? Jesus seemed to be, what we would call in reconciliation ministries, a “non-anxious presence” in the midst of other people’s anxiety. We become anxious and fearful when we do not trust that God is in charge, and begin viewing others as “the enemy.” But love casts out fear. Faith in God and what God is doing brings peace. Thanks, John – as always!

    • Gary, I imagine all the name-callers, just as John suggests, lost interest in this post because it’s about gentleness and dignity, not ‘sexy’ ego-boosting confrontation… thank you John, superb.

    • Shalom = Peace.

      In Hebrew, the letters that make up the word are, Sheen (destroy) , Lamad (authority) , Vav (nail), Mem (chaos). Shalom means…’ to destroy the authority that causes chaos’.

      Thank you Jesus, for not just sitting back and meditating in a cave. Thank you for doing the work that destroyed evil. It is finished.

      • LG — Thank you for the explanation. I don’t know Hebrew. My only understanding of the word “Shalom” is “Peace”, as in a pleasant greeting.

        Your final paragraph jumped out at me. I didn’t understand at first glance how it built upon your explanation of Shalom. But it did seem an authentic expression from your heart, adding detail to the picture I have of you.

        So yesterday I went back through some recent posts and the replies and comments they inspired.

        I had been saddened by some of your assertions: “I can see John P continuing for quite a while on this ‘one note’ –which is mostly the derision (mockery) of persons that voice disapproval of him .”

        and: “JPs entire ministry is a reaction to those who have a biblical world view…”

        I found that not just dismissive, but also presumptuous. If you “disapprove” and feel unwelcome because of the way you read the sentiment here, I ask myself the same question others have put to you. “Why does she continue to return if she finds this all so……dare I say…evil”?

        I have to confess that my internal thoughts were not dissimilar in tone or content to some of those who wrote out their objections. But something within me also grieves for the “scent” of nastiness that accompanies the emotion (passion) in the back and forth.

        But to continue — I did suddenly recognize where that most recent bottom paragraph originated when I reread the progression of your previous replies:

        “My only motivation here is to take the focus off of our selves, and the many perceived slights.”

        So it made sense to me that you felt some need to insert Jesus by name into the discussion. Having been raised in an evangelical/fundamentalist environment, I recognized that compulsion to follow some specifically worded script. It was almost as if there was a fear that unless Jesus was said in every sentence, that somehow He (and whatever the reality of God actually is) would be lost!

        As someone who just naturally holds details in my head, and finds them rolling around in there trying to make patterns and build connections, this has been percolating.

        So LG — I hope you will not feel like I am insulting you here. But I woke up this morning and remembered a particular sermon from my childhood; and it fit the picture I have been piecing together of you.

        You are no doubt familiar with the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10. In my imagination you are so concerned about the details you find important to emphasize here, that you can’t just let them go and bask in the Presence of the One who John is writing about.

        The focus of that sermon that was seared into my memory was the moment when the minister said “Martha………… Martha………” It was NOT said in a scolding way. Rather, it was delivered with a gentleness that could only be compared to the way a parent or sibling would exhale lovingly and issue an invitation to relax and get reassurance and comfort. Jesus was “schooling” Martha with an offer: to let Him give her His Presence.

        So……. LG — I wonder if Jesus wouldn’t react the same to your concerns. If Jesus WAS God in the flesh, and God IS in control of all reality, then don’t you imagine you can release your need to worry about the details?

        Come sit with us and bask in the Presence of the One who makes the table possible.

        As for myself, I will try to take to heart Jesus reply to the Pharisee (Luke 7). When questioned why He would allow someone who was “other” to anoint His feet with perfume and tears, Jesus pointed to the woman’s thoughtfulness as an expression of her love and devotion. (I know there are other places to go with that and the parable Jesus used to illustrate it. But that is not my point here.) So I will back off and separate my own discomfort, which emanates from the largely judgmental and destructive experiences of my background, which I associate with your comments.

        Please take a seat and savor the love that resides here. I hope you might also add to it.

        Shalom

      • Read this study and tell me if there is a simple meaning in the letters or the whole of the word.
        So Shalom is spelled with :

        a shin () Shin Sin – dot on right sounds like sh dot on left, sounds like s. Picture = Teeth pressing, tearing, destroy, repeat something (two teeth) eating, sharp, Words with shin/sin:Heaven, masculine form of the word two, shama, obey (by repeating), a year, Numerical value of 300 (how long something happened)

        a lamed (), Lamed – Picture = Shehpard’s staff -, leading, to teach, to yoke, to go forward, tongue, to control, the heart (led by), desciples, those who learn, the flame, bread (now you will have to struggle for your bread), to murmer, to struggle, English = led (to lead someone)

        a vav (): Vav or Waw = number 6 and Symbol = a hook or nail, to join, to pierce, also means “and”(to connect two things together, used as a vowel. When you put a dot over it, it produces a O sound. When you put a dot to the left (inside of it) of it, it produces a U sound. The Word of God became flesh and was nailed to a tree – The aleph tov which is all the hebrew letters (Word) when you put a vav in the middle, now means: a sign as in “I am only going to give you one sign, the sign of Jonah…”

        and a mem sofit ()* = Important for from or out of or where things come from turns a verb into a noun. ex: from cross over to a boat, flame to a menorah, from to call to a gathering, from to lie down to a bed, from to join together to a family, from to lean to a staff, from to heal to health

        Yet it is important to remember- In Hebrew, the root of the word (usually in a three or occasionally four letter format), and depending on the vowels that are used, has several meanings (that are relevant to the general meaning of the word Shalom); as for example: One meaning is “Whole”, another could be the actual verb “Pay” usually in command form. The conjugated verb has other spins that are worth noting, such as: “Hishtalem” meaning “it was worth it” or “Shulam” as “it was paid for” or “Meshulam” as in “paid in advance.” Hence one can jokingly say that, “when it’s paid-for then there is peace.”

        The Hebrew term shalom is roughly translated to other languages as peace [En.] (i.e. paz [Sp. and Pr.], paix [Fr.], pace [It.]), from the Latin pax. Pax, in Latin, means peace, but it was also used to mean truce or treaty. So, deriving from the definition and use in Latin, most Romance terms simply use the word peace to mean such, and also provides a relational application (be it personal, social or political) – a state of mind and affairs. Peace is an important word in the Christian sacred scriptures and liturgy. Eirene, the Greek term translated to peace, also means quietness and rest.

        Shalom, in the liturgy and in the transcendent message of the Christian scriptures, means more than a state of mind, of being or of affairs. Derived from the Hebrew root shalam – meaning to be safe or complete, and by implication, to be friendly or to reciprocate. Shalom, as term and message, seems to encapsulate a reality and hope of wholeness for the individual, within societal relations, and for the whole world. To say joy and peace, meaning a state of affairs where there is no dispute or war, does not begin to describe the sense of the term. Completeness seems to be at the center of shalom as we will see in the meaning of the term itself, in some derivatives from its root, shalam, in some examples of its uses in Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and in some homophone terms from other Semitic languages.

        The noun shalom means safe, for example, well and happy. On a more abstract application, its use points to welfare, for example, health, prosperity, and, peace. It is the verb form shalam, though, that provides a deeper understanding of this term in theology, doctrine, and liturgy. Literally translated, shalam signals to a state of safety, but figuratively it points to completeness.

        In its use in Scripture, shalom describes the actions that lead to a state of soundness, or better yet wholeness. So to say, shalom seems not to merely speak of a state of affairs, but describes a process, an activity, a movement towards fullness. Using the King James Version as reference, James Strong lists the rendering of shalom and shalam, among others, as: To make amends, To make good To be (or to make) peace, To restore, Peace, Prosperity, Wellness”

        People often try to find a code in the letters that together sum up the words but the letter and the phrasing and the nuance and the parts of words and the words themselves are all multi-layered and part of the fabric; like woven threads bearing different colors – the threads themselves do not denote the meaning but when you stand back and look you seen the design. Much like when you dig in a garden you overturn soil and roots and worms wiggle out and there are seeds and beetles.

          • …which is why I love that Jesus used gardening parables. Break up the stony ground! It takes effort and hard labour to do it but the gardener isn’t angry with the ground nor is the ground evil. The hardness needs to be ‘destroyed’ in a sense but not eliminated or erased. God works with us all and sends us to work with each other.

        • Kathy — Thank you for taking the time and making the effort. You are at such an advantage if you have a grasp of Hebrew and Greek when reading the Bible. I do not.

          To be honest and clear, I do not take that book as divine dictation. And I further can not imagine that whatever the actual reality of God truly is would be bound by some document, apart from any direct promises (covenant relationships) that may have been made in some way.

          I can only relate in this way: When I write, I choose my words based at least as much upon their connotative meaning as their denotative meaning. That is obviously because in our culture certain words that may share a basic definition carry different nuance. They suggest different understandings. They allude to or suggest different interpretations. Context becomes relevant, as important sometimes as the word itself. There is a symbiotic interaction between them (choice of word & context).

          If integrity is important to me. it demands that I clearly understand my sources and exactly what it is they are saying. To do anything less is lazy in my view, not to mention setting myself up for misunderstanding. That is why I so appreciated Rev William Carey’s reply to John’s earlier post on bedrooms & bathrooms. If we are going to have a conversation about difficult issues, and some are going to cite scripture, it is of absolute importance to know what our source material actually says. And that takes, scholarship, study, discipline, and effort, especially if the source is set in a different language, as well as historical and cultural context.

          So again I thank you.

          • I agree Tim, it is a study I did. I am certainly not a scholar on the subject, rather I have a personal interest in etymology. Language and alphabets have developed over thousands of years. The Hebrew language is fascinating and it pains me to see people use it superficially. But we can’t be afraid to look at it’s origins and importance in Biblical context. I am not sure if the Bible is divine dictation or not, although it seems implausible because Jesus didn’t even do that. He left the storytelling up to those who were there, the disciples. I try to look through the lens of Jesus telling his story through people and himself while on earth. Language has slightly hindered us because we quibble over words, even scholars have disagreements. So the overriding story is what prevails eh? And that is what concerns me. What is important is that we know that God loves and wants us all. How we understand that message seems to vary drastically from denomination to denomination sometimes. As well it occurred to me that we might find there is a little bit of truth in every Christian; and we might find connection as brother and sisters in Christ through the light in us- both person to person and in the whole body of believers. If we look for the good in the other and overlook the disagreeble things we might find more unity in Christ. Seems near impossible sometimes though, eh? Thanks for your comment, Tim. I enjoy your contribution here .

              • Kathy — That happened once before (a number of John’s posts ago) when someone replied. It first posted as Anonymous and then they corrected it.

                In addition I have noticed more than one distinctive writing style commenting under “Anonymous”. >smileshrug<

                In any case, I find "connection" in the simple give and take of thoughtful discourse. There seems to be a richness in a significant portion of that here.

                Thanks again for your thoughts.

  4. “When Jesus’ goodness and humility really take root in us, our inflated egos shrink back to their proper size, the towering facades of self we labor on crumble, and we begin seeking restoration as much as confrontation as we encounter people.”

    Every once in a while I experience a moment where I can feel the release of my need for attention. It washes over me in much the way a “sigh” does. A weight I carry evaporates and I experience a very different kind of confidence. I begin to “see” others in a new way and feel soft threads of connection.

    Yeah — “restoration”!!!!

    John — your image of a table, a place at that table (inclusion), the chance to meet and listen, and engage (encounter), and then all that sense of loneliness and alienation dissolve — it all just melts away my need/desire to be the center of attention and I can feel a freedom from those ego “needs” dissipate.

    THAT opens a space in me to feel something deeply satisfying in a way that I may not have words to express. But I love your choice of “restoration”.

    Thank you

    • Thank you too for posting this, in heartfelt response to John’s beautiful post (very timely for me right now, I need to be hearing what both of you have said).

  5. Osmosis is the spontaneous net movement of solvent molecules through a semi-permeable membrane into a region of higher solute concentration, in the direction that tends to equalize the solute concentrations on the two sides….

    I fear that the strident and stentorian tone of current politics has invaded, through an osmotic process, many current expressions of Christianity…..can anyone say there is a real difference between the preaching of many (not all) televangelists and the speech of the average (mostly right-wing, but not exclusively) politician?

    Recall that the Lord was in the still, quiet _whisper_ to Elijah, and not the mighty wind, earthquake or fire (1 Kings 19:11-12)

    Thank you, again, John, for wise words!

  6. As usual, your words have struck a chord and resonate with a yearning to live in a world that truly embraces compassion and humility, reconciliation and peacefulness.

    I often re-post your blogs. I will not re-post this one, not because of any concern or conflict with your words. They are beautiful. As a therapist who deals with clients that have histories of trauma, I cannot, in good conscious, re-post simply because of the image that precedes your words. I know many that would see the image and not be able to absorb the point of the blog. Sad but true.

    Keep writing, John! I will keep following and often re-posting. Your voice is a sane and refreshing one in a sea of crazy and ugly ranting.

  7. Just think. If the ancient Priests, Scribes, Pharisees, and Jews in general had taken those words of Jesus seriously and not converted them into violence—which led to widespread death and the diaspora—Judaism would have stayed where it was in the Middle East—and assorted vicious Arabs would not be trying to exterminate them because they would have always been just down home folks who were ALWAYS THERE. The Arabs would be saying.. “Oh,these are the Jews. They have always been here. This is their home, and they contributed much to Islam too”

    But oh no-o-o-o-o-o-o-o!!!! Some Jewish zealot in the 1st century had to get all hot and bothered at the Romans and start a damned war. Now look where they are. Jesus knew. He knew.

  8. I hope that if Jesus we’re blogging today I’d recognize him. He’s been so watered down and boxed in but his teachings would be (are) so pure and so unlike any other. I’ve never worshipped Jesus the man, but try my best to worship God and try to love. Why don’t churches get it? And I don’t mean religions or buildings, I mean the collective body, the believers…..

  9. “Remove the anger from many Christian’s social media expression of faith and you’ll often find there isn’t a whole lot left.”

    I think you’ve nailed it.

  10. Dear John,

    I very much liked your post today particularly after sending you my e-mail on how dangerously I feel our
    life and the world we live on is crumbling again via social media. I feel it really cut to the heart and hope that people can start to heal themselves thru the love our Lord gives us neverending if you have faith.
    Thank you again.

  11. Humility a good place to spend a long time at
    Crow doesn’t taste very good, but is good for us to eat occasionally

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