I hope you say, “Ask what?” What does a peacemaker do? How does peacemaking work? What would a peacemaker do, in this situation? For now, I’ll answer the first logical question: “What is a peacemaker, as I see it?”
I’m a peacemaker. I am not a pacifist, and I am not an anti-war activist. I believe in “resolving disputes peaceably, emphasizing reconciliation,” a definition used by a group of Christians who sought to provide an alternative for Christians to lawsuits between Christians. We also wanted to provide a prophetic challenge and a workable method for carrying out the reconciliation ministry of the New Testament. Today, I believe that, as we are engaged in a war against terrorism and with our soldiers on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan, we need to understand what real peacemaking is more than ever.
On the scale of possibilities between effective, congenial relationships to adversarial engagements to outright violence, I promote a process that is personal, collaborative, and innovative that seeks to end conflict by creating mutually satisfactory resolution of issues that cause disagreement. In one sense, I regard peacemaking as a Biblical mandate that I may not disregard as a committed Christian. In another sense, I regard the process as having the power to break down the barriers that divide many Christians. I am a fundamentalist, in that I believe in absolutes or fundamental ideas of the Christian faith; yet fundamentalists have (erroneously) called me liberal. I am a classic liberal, often now referred to as libertarian, in that I believe in the individual’s freedom in Christ; yet liberals might easily regard me as a fundamentalist. In the political sense, I definitely lean in the conservative direction; yet prominent conservatives who mock the terms peacemaker and conflict resolution (with reason, given their misuse) trouble me.
Words like negotiation, collaboration, and mediation represent key concepts in the sort of personal peacemaking I advocate, teach, and attempt to practice. Together they stand for an approach to disagreement—personal, political, commercial, or spiritual, even international—that emphasizes listening, understanding, and working together to solve problems instead of the highly polarized and hostile forums of courtrooms, talk shows, and battlefields. I am of the opinion that the only road to world peace is through individuals learning to make peace in their own personal world. Long before we can realistically tackle the interests that divide Israel and Palestine or the United States and radical Islamists, we need to gain practical experience in the smaller, easier disputes in our everyday lives.
I am not quite a pacifist because I believe we must fight for peace and sometimes even wage war (You can’t make peace with a psychopath whether in the house next door or in control of a terrorist group!). Therefore, I doubt we can ever truly win a war without also winning the peace, such as we did with Japan and Germany. I am not an anti-war activist because I have learned that you cannot negotiate or mediate from a position of weakness. Refusing to fight or disarming unilaterally certainly takes strength and courage for an individual, and I support any individual who sincerely makes such a choice for himself. Unfortunately, bullies and aggressors regard such decisions as weakness and opportunity for their attacks. It is for good reason that experts say that you cannot negotiate with terrorists.
Now I know this leaves many unanswered questions, probably some I have never even considered. I invite you to ask. Be as skeptical and incisive as you can be. I will attempt to answer every good and reasonable question. If I cannot, I will try to find someone who can. I may even turn it back around to you.
Violence, war, hostility, and strife are destructive and unpleasant. Most of us prefer peace. I hope together we can figure out how to have and enjoy more of it.