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Following Jesus

Are You a Peace Maker?

July 23, 2020 by

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

I’m a Christian, I live peacefully, but am I a peace maker? The peacemakers are the historic greats, like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. That’s not me. Yet I would truly like to follow the directive of all the Beatitudes, for they are Jesus’ way of pointing us to his kingdom.

As a teen I was strongly influenced by my paternal grandfather, Hans Meier, who in Switzerland in the 1920s (while then an atheist) came to the conviction that participation in the military was wrong. A pacifist, he took a lonely conscientious objector’s stand and went to prison annually until a court declared him “insane.” He contended that war was insanity, but was told that if 99.9% of Swiss youth willingly participated in military conscription, then that defined sanity, and he was the outlier. I admire my grandfather’s ardent conviction.

I went to high school in the Appalachian mountains of Pennsylvania. I was aware of racial tension between the city kids and my mountain neighbors, but this was the late seventies, not the sixties, and I didn’t think much of it. I was a big kid earning respect by arm-wrestling all comers. One day in the cafeteria, some big white jock came over to my table and said, “Big boy, which side you going to be on if things bust open in this school?” I hardly took him seriously, and I told him I was not going to take sides.

welderPhoto credit: Danny Burrows

Only days later, school closed early as 120 state troopers descended on campus to “keep the peace.” The younger brothers of two varsity basketball players, one white and one black, had gotten into a fight the night before and were hospitalized. Overnight the riot reached its tipping point. Mountain men drove down past the high school with their guns and pickups; kids brought baseball bats, knives, and brass knuckles to school. Arrests were made. It was real, and it was scary, and I’m afraid I didn’t have much chance to be a peacemaker, but I was forming my own convictions. I was going to live trying to love and respect all people. What if we all truly loved and respected each other? Wouldn’t that bring peace?

That was forty years ago. Looking down the streets of our country today, how much has changed?

Maybe peacemaking mostly isn’t about big deeds. As a teacher over the past twenty years I have had plenty of opportunity to see trouble brewing and mediate a situation. They say “a stitch in time saves nine,” and it’s true. Even in the welding shop where I teach, a student can sweep dirt into the next booth and suddenly there is a hot word. I have learned to step in quickly. It takes a little diplomacy to get the two parties to look each other in the eye, but then I point them to the higher way of going the extra mile for each other.

Along with love and respect, forgiveness is necessary for peacemaking.Along with love and respect, forgiveness is necessary for peacemaking. Marriages succeed or fail depending on whether each partner is willing to forgive. I was once given the wise advice to be the first to ask forgiveness. It’s hard to do, but essential for making peace (and maintaining relationships).

I will close with another inspiration from my grandfather, Hans. In his old age he was a people person with a fire in his eyes. He would look for common ground with anyone he met and build on that, engaging in lively conversations that often lasted hours. He loved the old Hebrew word “shalom.” Many people recognize this greeting that comes from the word for peace. Hans insisted that true shalom means not only 100% peace, but also 100% love, and 100% justice. Yes, at the same time. Then with a twinkle he would ask, “And where do you find that? Only in God.”

How this world needs peacemakers, and true shalom.

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About the author

Mario Meier

Mario Meier

Mario Meier and his wife, Robin, are parents of four grown children, and grandparents of two. They live at the Rondout...

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