Saturday, December 7, 2013



"Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God."
Matthew 5:9

During advent we witness peace represented as a baby. Evangelical preachers often speak of the power of God. But when I see a baby I think of a fragile and vulnerable life. New life needs protection and nurturance.

Peace is like a baby. Peace is fragile and vulnerable to disruptions from many sources. Nurturing people affirm peace. Peacemakers nurture peace through gifts of time and talent. Like an infant, newly formed peace requires devotion. To survive, peace must be fed and clothed. People keep peace alive. People let peace die. Some people seek to destroy peace.

When the Prince of Peace became a man, he made serious demands of his followers. When the light of Peace shone in the darkness, Peace was attacked and Peace surrendered. Peace died as did the hope of his followers. But then came life. Peace lived on in the hearts of his followers who shared the peace with others.

Peace and Human Behavior

Peace psychology is a worldwide endeavor studied by psychological scientists and pursued by activists. In the US, Peace Psychology is division 48 of the American Psychological Association.  Peace psychology is both about the strengthening of peace and positive social relationships as well as the reduction of violence and conflict. Peace psychology attempts to understand existing peacemaking and violence within an historical and cultural context. The psychology of peace includes the study of variables of interest to Christians such as effective apologies between groups, forgiveness between groups, reconciliation between groups previously in conflict, and ways to ameliorate the effects of violence -- pain and suffering. (Click to see the current issue of the Peace Psychology Newsletter for more.)

Peace and violence

Peace is contextualized by violence. Like many aspects of life, we often know one thing by its contrast with another. Recently in the USA, documentaries and films have looked back 150 years and 50 years to times when the violence of slavery led to a bloody conflict and slavery-like discrimination laws kept African-Americans from enjoying the same privileges and benefits as those from European descent.

Groups identified by different ethnic and religious traditions are in conflict around the world. Within many cultures, women and children are targets of violence. Human trafficking and sexual exploitation are international concerns. Peacekeeping forces are needed to rescue the abused, protect the abused residing in conflict zones, and shield targeted people from would be attackers. 

The pregnancy of Mary and the birth of Jesus also evoke thoughts of wanted and unwanted pregnancies. Abortion remains a controversial issue—some focus on the violence done to women when their pregnancies are linked to rape and sexual abuse or linked to pain, suffering, or even the risk of the mother’s life. Others are concerned about both the woman who is pregnant as well as the violence done to the unborn child and to the families and community linked to the expectant mother and her unborn child. Even among people sharing the same religious faith, opinions clash. And sometimes peace is lost to physical violence.

Peace is costly  

People invest heavily in arms to destroy others. And where the violence is less physical, people invest heavily in lawsuits, which destroy the resources of those who cannot afford to continue the legal struggle. Peace requires time and effort. Like a baby, peace must be nurtured and protected. Ironically, peace sometimes comes at the cost of one's life.

Sometimes people arise to resist evil in a peaceful manner. There are peacemakers who forgive rather than pursue revenge. There are peacemakers who prefer reconciliation rather than insist on justice. It is fitting to remember Nelson Mandela, as an example of a peacemaker. Whatever his human imperfections, his government did not seek to punish the white minority when he assumed the presidency of South Africa. Peacemakers are real people with strengths and weaknesses.

Taking action

1. Promote peace by emphasizing the good rather than the harm.
2. Resist the urge to characterize all of a person's life based on a few or even many failings.
3. Consider mercy when justice is required.
4. Take a stand against violence and protect the vulnerable.
5. Consider the possibility that people can be transformed rather than assume people will never change.
6. Learn conflict management skills.
7. Seek support when dealing with difficult people.

Violence and hatred will persist. Peacemakers are not blind to evil. Peacemakers are people on a quest for conciliation.

Related posts


Effective apologies

Nelson Mandela (and Truth & Reconciliation)

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