Most Likely to Become a Peacemaker

30 01 2012
Martin Luther King, 1964

Remember those high school yearbook predictions: most likely to become famous, most likely to become fabulously rich, etc.?  Have you ever thought about what kind of person is most likely to become a peacemaker?

In my novel, SOMEONE HAS TO DIE, you’ll be surprised at who is willing to take a risk for peace, and who does everything in their power to prevent peace.  You might think that a Christian pastor is more likely to pursue peace than a Muslim imam–actually, that hasn’t been my experience in the Muslim world, and you’ll get a taste of this harsh reality when you read the book!

True, Martin Luther King Jr. was a Christian pastor.  But other famous peacemakers come from a variety of walks of life: Gandhi was a lawyer, Badshah Khan started schools for the poor, Jimmy Carter was a peanut farmer who became president, and Jesus was a poor carpenter’s son.  And all over the world today there are everyday people who see two people or two groups of people hostile to one another, and take a risk to stand in the middle and love both sides.

When 9/11 happened, I remember emailing my Christian friends in the US encouraging them that it was the right time to make friends with the Muslims around them who might be afraid of angry, random retribution.  One couple took my suggestion seriously and joined other members of the community to serve their local mosque as nightwatchmen.  The mosque’s attenders were overwhelmed by the kindness of these neighbors.  One of them got talking to my friends, and next thing you know they were planning a hike together and eating in each other’s homes.  The risk my friends took to build a bridge paid off!

Just this week another friend shared how he took a group of American Christians into the gay prostitution district of his city to ask the homosexuals for forgiveness for how the Christian media and institutions have treated them!  He told me how many of them were deeply touched and asked my friend’s team to pray with them right there in the street.

One of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King is this: “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. You can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the interrelated structure of reality.”  You may not think of yourself as a Gandhi, Mandela or MLK, but when you see any opposing people or groups where God gives you the grace to love both sides, take a risk and do something about it!  The ripple effect of you becoming who God wants you to be creates a momentum for them to become who God made them to be as well.

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Peacemaker of the World

19 01 2012
English: Jesus entering Jerusalem on a donkey

One of my favorite descriptions of Jesus in the Bible comes from Micah chapter 5.  Many Christians hear the beginning of this passage read at Christmas foretelling Jesus’ birth: “But you, Bethlehem…from you will come the leader who will shepherd-rule Israel…”  But if you read in the Message translation, verses 2-4 end with the shepherd-ruler being ascribed this amazing title: “Peacemaker of the world!”

I remember teaching a group of Muslim students once about how similar Muslim and Christian views are concerning our future world peace.  Several Hadith (Muslim records of the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad) point to a future time when the Prophet ‘Isa will return to take leadership of the Muslim umat (the people of God), to correct all false teaching concerning himself, and to usher in a period of world peace under his leadership.  The Bible also foretells Jesus’ return to reward the people of God, when every knee will bow before him and confess him as Lord (no matter what they believed about him in the past), and that he will bring about a time of world peace under his Kingship, where even “the lion will lie down with the lamb.”

Although there are also some differences between Muslim and Christian views of the end times, I find it interesting that both groups are waiting for the coming of Jesus as the next major event on the eschatological calendar.  And if we’re all waiting to see Jesus face-to-face and to live under his Leadership, doesn’t it make sense for all of us to try and get to know him the best we can even now?

We’re already seeing that the Jesus of Ephesians 2 is the demolisher of separating walls between people, and he’s bringing peace already between many various groups who thought they could never be at peace with the other.  What’s happening already is just a foretaste of the time when Jesus returns to the earth and is acknowledged by all peoples as the great Peacemaker of the World.





A Way Out of Hell

18 01 2012
Deutsch: Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948), polit...

Many sources have relayed this story of Gandhi’s extraordinary wisdom in peacemaking.

On one of Gandhi’s prayer and fasting to the death attempts to bring Muslim and Hindu radicals to lay down their arms and reconcile, a group of Hindu radicals enter the Muslim home where Gandhi has chosen to fast to lay down their weapons. One of the wildest of the group tells Gandhi to stop his fast and eat: “Here! Eat! I am going to hell; but I do not wish to have your death on my soul!”

In a whisper, Gandhi responds, “Only God decides who goes to hell. Tell me, why do you say you are going to hell?”

The man answers, “I killed a small [Muslim] child! I dashed his head against the wall because they killed my little one.”

“I will tell you a way out of hell,” Gandhi shares. “You find a Muslim child whose parents have been killed. Then you and your wife bring him up as your own.”

The Hindu radical is too stunned to speak, but bows touching his forehead to Gandhi’s feet.

Hell is all about separation—separation from God, and from meaningful relationships with men. The cycle of vengeance starts the process of a living hell on earth.

In heaven, on the other hand, we’ll experience holy intimacy with God and men. Earthly differences will have been completely overcome by perfect love. When we choose here on earth to love those who are different than us—as Jesus taught us, to even “love our enemies”—we join with God’s heart to bring heaven to earth.

Jesus instructed us to pray it: “Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” There is a way out of the living hell mankind has created here on earth—by our prayers and our deeds of love, believe it, we will see heaven begin to invade earth!





Healing the Wounds of a Nation — South Africa

17 01 2012
President Bill Clinton with Nelson Mandela, Ju...

As we work toward reconciliation between religions, we have to recognize that often other factors of difference, such as ethnicity, culture, language, control of wealth, control of power, etc., are also contributing to, if not driving, the conflict. On the surface, these contributing factors may make the peacemaking effort seem impossibly complex. But at the heart-level, the keys to reconciliation are consistent whether we’re facing Muslim-Christian conflict in Indonesia or the racial conflict of Apartheid in South Africa.

Recently, my peace-team and I invited a sizeable group of Muslim and Christian young adults to watch the film, INVICTUS. It’s the amazing story of how Nelson Mandela overcame his personal offense at the hands of a racist government to then lead the nation in building a unified society, where blacks and whites became one family again.

After viewing the film, we broke into small groups to discuss these powerful quotes from the movie below. As you read them, I invite you to write back to me how they affect you.

Quote #1 — The Power of Forgiveness: (Mandela) “The rainbow nation starts here. Reconciliation starts here.” (bodyguard) “But these people tried to kill us!” (Mandela) “Yes, I know. Forgiveness starts here too…. Forgiveness liberates the soul. It removes fear. That is why it is such a powerful weapon.”

Quote #2 — Surprise with Compassion: “For 27 years in prison I studied my jailors. I learned their language. I read their books, their poetry. I had to know my enemy before I could prevail against him. And we did prevail…. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaner (whites). They are our fellow South Africans, our partners in democracy. And they treasure Springbok rugby. If we take that away, we lose them. We would prove that we are what they feared we would be. We have to be better than that. We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint, and with generosity.”

Quote #3 — Inspiration: “How do we inspire ourselves to greatness? How do we inspire everyone around us? … If I cannot change when circumstances demand it, how can I expect others to?”