Over the past two decades, I’ve presided over and participated in about 400 weddings. That’s a lot of film and fun and funds. People spend a lot of money on weddings. I’m glad I have sons. Anyway, everything about weddings costs a lot of money except for the pastor, organist, hostess, and secretary. Costs have to be cut somewhere!
But over the years, I’ve never been involved in a bad wedding. While people spend too much money and sometimes drink a little too much celebrating at the receptions, it’s a good time for all. People laugh and smile and enjoy each other and even thank God for it all.
I’ve never been involved in a bad wedding, but I’ve seen a lot of bad marriages. It’s like Loudon Wainright III sang:
Boy meets girl and they give it a whirl
and the very next thing you know,
he thinks she’s nuts and she hates his guts
and the bad blood starts to flow.
It brings to mind the time Craig Stadler explained why he switched to a new putter: “The other one didn’t float very well.”
Whether it’s couples who move from the honeymoon to the boxing ring, or a woman who gives up her baby before birth and then selfishly wants her back after the child has spent almost three years in a loving and happy home, or butchers in Yugoslavia, South Africa, Ireland, Israel or almost anywhere in the world, or frustrated and mean-spirited people who say cruel things about other people in a sick attempt to mask their own unhappiness, or Christians who hate other Christians in the Name of Jesus, there are a lot of problems in this world.
Jesus offered the only solution to our problems. He said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”
I. Some Peacemaking Doesn’t Work
A father was approached by a young man who asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. “If you save $40,000 to prove you can provide for her,” the concerned father pledged, “I will consent to the marriage.” When his daughter heard about the deal, she freaked out. She kicked and screamed and cried and bellyached and argued with her father for weeks. The father grew so frustrated with his daughter that he called her suitor.
“Young man,” he said, “I told you that you’d have to save $40,000 to prove you can provide for my daughter. How much have you saved so far?” The young man hesitated for a few awkward moments and then confessed, “$14.92.” “Good,” the father said, “we’ll call it even.”
That’s how peacemaking is handled these days. We avoid the real issues and pretend a peace that will never endure the stresses inherent to all human relationships. We pretend everything is OK when it’s not. Churches do it all of the time. But the pretense of peace fools nobody and solves nothing. It’s like our Lord told Jeremiah, “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace” (
Wes Tracy and I taught homiletics at Kansas City’s Nazarene Theological Seminary back in the early and mid-80s. He was the head of the department and I was an adjunct professor. He told me about an ecumenical seminar on inclusive language which he attended at San Francisco Theological Seminary. The dialogue turned into a debate that produced more heat than light.
One participant rose and said, “Before we go on, I suggest we read
That’s the problem. Peacemaking that doesn’t work is devoid of the will of God as exemplified in Jesus and explained in the Bible. Apart from God, peacemaking just doesn’t work. Apart from God, nothing works. Just look around.
The Psalmist urged on behalf of God, “Seek peace and pursue it” (
I think of a report by ABC White House correspondent Brit Hume on our President’s trip to South Korea: “He was the very picture of an engaged commander in chief standing with his men on an outpost watchtower to gaze at the enemy territory just across the way. Whoops! Those field glasses do work better with the lens cap off.”
It’s time for us to tell our families and churches and communities and country and world to take off the lens caps and discover peace only through common faith in Jesus. Only by approaching each other through Jesus can we experience peace. As G. K. Chesterton scolded skeptics of peace through Jesus, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.”
II. Peacemaking Through Jesus Works
During the Korean conflict, a chaplain crawled through enemy fire to care for a seriously wounded soldier, the chaplain dampened his handkerchief, wiped the man’s face, gave him water, held his hand, talked, prayed, and waited with him until the medics arrived. “Sir,” the soldier asked, “Are you a follower of Jesus?” “I try,” replied the chaplain, “but sometimes I fail.” After a few silent moments, the soldier said, “I’m not a Christian, but if following Jesus makes you do what you’ve done for me, then I want to follow Him too.”
Jesus offers the only solution to our problems. “Come to me,” He promised, “all you that are weary and carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (
When we share a common confession of Jesus, we recognize a common worth. We are no better and no worse than any of God’s other children. We are no more and no less loved by God than any of His other children.
I’ve always liked the way Frederick Buechner tried to explain it in Wishful Thinking: “Peace has come to mean the time when there aren’t any wars or even when there aren’t any major wars. Beggars can’t be choosers; we’d most of us settle for that. But in Hebrew, peace, shalom, means fullness, means having everything you need to be wholly and happily yourself … for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle but the presence of love.”
Of course, it’s important to remember our Lord calls us to be peacemakers. He didn’t call us to sit on the couch with Beavis and Butthead: commenting on life’s ills without doing anything to heal them. He didn’t call us to hang around and wait for something good to happen. We haven’t been given permission to sit at the bar with Jackie Gleason’s old buddy who’d always say, “I’m just hangin’ around doing nothin’!”
Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. That means we are to pray and work for peace. The sense of the Greek is not in the passive of being peaceable but in the active of making peace. “By peacemakers,” commented Calvin, “He means those who do not only seek peace and avoid quarrels, as far as lies in their power, but who also labor to settle differences among others, who advise all men to live at peace, and to take away every occasion of hatred and strife.”
It’s about substance over signs. It’s walking the talk and talking the walk. Walking the talk is relating to others after the example of Jesus. Talking the walk is pointing people to Jesus as Lord and Savior so they will experience the conversion that leads to the compulsion to relate to others after His example. That’s peacemaking!
Certainly, there will be times when we sadly say with the Psalmist, “I am for peace; but when I speak, they are for war” (
The young lady in a little red convertible cut off an older woman in a big Lincoln in order to get the last parking spot in front of the post office. “That’s how it’s done,” said the young lady as she hopped out of her little red convertible, “when you’re young and agile.” The older woman in the big Lincoln smashed into her little red convertible and quipped, “That’s how it’s done when you’re old and rich.”
But as we know, our Lord has not given us permission to breathe fire in a world of dragons. He has not given us permission to act like everybody else. He demands we act like we’re related to Him. And He says we can prove our kinship through peacemaking.
In a letter to John Adams in 1781, Benjamin Franklin wrote, “Blessed are the peacemakers is, I suppose, to be understood in the other world; for in this they are frequently cursed.” That may be true. We live in a pretty angry world where people are ready to put up their dukes over just about anything. But while the world may criticize and even condemn peacemakers, Jesus calls them His children. And to be called a child of God makes it all worthwhile.
That’s why we keep telling people about Jesus. That’s why we’re peacemakers. It’s all about substance over signs. It’s all about Jesus.