Years ago, I was a design leader at a large manufacturing company and had several designers that were on my team. As their leader, I was not only responsible for the productivity of the team but the relational aspect of the team as well. Then one day, while conducting a yearly review with one of the designers, he said something to me that made me realize something about myself. During his yearly review, I began to address an issue he had with getting to work on time, but in an indirect way. In the middle of his review, he interrupted me and said these words, “John, you know what your problem is? You just want everyone to like you! Why don’t you just get to the point!” He was right, I was not giving him the truth, I was avoiding personal conflict with him in an effort to keep the peace. I was being a peacekeeper.
Matthew 5:9 says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Notice our Lord’s words; He does not call us to be peacekeepers, but peacemakers. Although we may think of the two as being the same, they are not. Jesus was called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), yet it seems that everywhere He went He was involved in some kind of conflict!
Although this has been a process for me, here are a few things I have learned.
- Peacemakers Speak the Truth, Peacekeepers Avoid It
This is what I was struggling with and is a characteristic of a peacekeeper. Peacekeepers want everyone to like them and conflict is hard for them. Often, we read of Jesus flipping over tables in the temple or confronting the religious leaders of His day, but He always spoke the truth. Truth’s goal is to make peace, it does not always keep it.
- Peacemakers Love Others, Peacekeepers Love Peace
Speaking the truth is much easier when our concern is for others and their well-being, rather than keeping the peace or avoiding conflict. Our efforts to make peace do not always have to be ugly or argumentative just to prove we are right. A peacemaker’s love for the relationship will always be the driving force behind delivering the truth.
- Peacemakers are Proactive, Peacekeepers are Passive
Peacemaking involves being active in the process of accomplishing peace not avoiding it. The greatest example I know that shows us what peacemaking is all about is recorded in Paul’s letter to the Romans, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8 NKJV).
God spoke the truth: Sinners and are not at peace with God.
God loved others: His love for the sinner made a way for peace.
God was proactive: He sent His only Son to die so that God and sinner may have peace.
The blessing of Matthew 5:9 is that the peacemakers will be called “sons of God.”
So, what would someone say if you were to ask them, “Am I, peacemaker or peacekeeper?”