Peacekeeping or Peacemaking, The Gigantic Chasm

“Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God,” Matthew 5:9.

I was chatting with a pastor when a topic arose that laid the way for him to make this profound comment: He said,

“Many people in our churches are peacekeepers and not peacemakers. The Bible calls us to be peacemakers, not peacekeepers!”

“A profound statement,” I responded. Later I asked him to explain this further. He answered, “I grew up in a culture that taught a theology of peacemaking but modeled a culture of peacekeeping. Peacekeeping seeks to avoid conflict wherever possible. Peacemaking works at the resolution of conflict. There are no situations where there is the absence of conflict--that is a utopia world view. We are called as believers to create a culture where conflicts are resolved in the power of the Holy Spirit.”

I figured the peacemaker/keeper contrast must be a familiar cliché within his circles, but I found out otherwise. When I repeated this statement in a seminar I was teaching, in which most of the participants were from this pastor’s strain of faith, their reaction told me that this idea was a new revelation to them, too. One participant commented that this concept was the main thing he got out of my whole seminar.

In my book, To Kill a Lion: Destroying the Power of Lust from the Root, I dedicated a whole chapter to the subject of passivity, because sexual addiction and passivity often go hand-in-hand. Peacekeeping is a companion of passivity, but it carries consequences far beyond sexual addiction.

Peacekeepers avoid conflict and confrontation, while peacemakers know that true peace comes from contending for truth.
Many people have told me that they hate confrontation. My answer is, “Who doesn’t?” Nobody in their right mind enjoys confrontation, but we can grow to love the fruit of confrontation, which leads to TRUE PEACE. Peacekeepers push problems under the carpet temporarily, waiting to surface at a later time, and usually much fiercer.

Peacekeepers don’t express how they feel when their feelings may be controversial, while peacemakers value honesty.
Being safe, keeping all things calm, sidestepping problems, and such like can appear to be virtuous, but all this does is prevent the process of finding real solutions to conflict. This doesn’t mean that you have to be immature or insensitive when you express your opinions, it just means that you value your thoughts and will express them when needed at the proper time.

Peacekeepers conform to what is expected of them, or what looks most on the surface like peace, while peacemakers are not satisfied until alignment is made with the law of the Lord.
The key to being a peacemaker is to value what God values. Jesus is the best example of peacemaking. Count how many times in the gospels He confronted issues, problems and attitudes. Peacemakers don’t rush in to fix things. They understand that peace sometimes comes with time, and more importantly, timing.

Peacekeeping is a selfish motive rooted in self-protection and often the fear of rejection, but peacemaking is rooted in true love.
He who rebukes a man, in the end, will have more favor than the one who flatters with the lips, (Proverbs 28:23).
Open rebuke is better than secret love, (Proverbs 27:5).

In addition to love, characteristics such as obedience, strong character and maturity make a person a peacemaker.

Peacekeepers may “give in”--denying truth, and sacrificing themselves in order to defer challenging emotions that emerge from relationships. Peacemakers know that love, at times, is tough, and they are willing to stand for what is right even in the face of disagreement.
Peacekeeping isn’t characteristic of world changers, Bravehearts, contenders for social justice, Kingdom warriors, and such like. True peace often comes by the brutal process of tearing down lies, false belief structures, and dysfunctional traditions.

Peace in Marriage
This teaching on peacemaking can be applied to many different arenas of relationship, but for now let’s explore a few applications to marriage.

Many years ago I preached at a church and in my message I addressed passivity in husbands who were non-confrontational, who ignored problems assuming they would go away, and were skilled at weaseling out of conflict resolution. Elbows flew into the ribs of husbands all over the auditorium. A symphony of groans resonated like the last squeals of a mouse caught in a trap.

Though my challenge to passive hubbys was just a few lines of my message, it had the most effect. One lady approached me and said, “I’m from such and such a place, and where I come from, we tell it like it is. When something is wrong, we speak our mind and get it out. I’m not saying this is all right. It is not, but I moved here after I got married and found out that here people take their problems and sweep them under the carpet, acting as if they don’t exist!” Another lady complained because she never knows if her husband is pleased with her, because he would never tell her if he wasn’t. She felt as if she couldn’t take it any longer. After the meeting a few couples asked me if I would have a separate meeting just to address this issue in marriage, which we did two weeks later.

Passive peacekeeping is not just a malady of men, but often women are guilty, too. One of Ruthie’s most influential teaching is called “Okayness in Women.” It addresses women who stuff their feelings, and become what others want them to be—all to maintain peace!

Many times Ruthie and I have been tempted—in the midst of a serious disagreement—to walk away and ignore the problem, but early in our marriage we determined to always resolve conflicts. This has been a challenge, but we have remained faithful to this commitment. “Let not the sun go down on your wrath,” has been a key verse for us.

I could write a book on this topic, but hopefully I’ve given you enough to meditate on, and apply to your relationships, and especially to your marriage.

Peacemaking is not safe. It follows different rules than peacekeeping, and often involves sacrifice, but lasting peace is a fruit of peacemaking, and like Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the sons of God,” Matthew 5:9.

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