Good Morning, my name is David Moyer. Some of you may know me as Dr. Moyer, the oral surgeon. As some of you also know, I have recently retired from my clinical practice of 29 years. My wife has told me I should “inject” a little humor into my sermon, because I tend to be a rather serious person. So I told her it would be the first “injection” I have given in about a month!
Today I’d like to talk to you about 2 subjects that are related and important to me. First, I’d like to tell you a little about the Mennonites and the Mennonite Church. The second topic I will discuss is “Being a Peacemaker”.
I grew up attending the Doylestown Mennonite Church, in Doylestown, Pennsylvania and still return when visiting my parents. My father’s ancestors were Mennonites that came to America in the 1700’s. There are roughly 2 million Mennonites in the world today mostly living in the United States and Canada. Mennonites are named after Menno Simons who was a former Catholic priest from the Netherlands living in the 1500’s. Mennonites are Anabaptist. In Europe, during the 16th century, my Mennonite ancestors broke away from the state religion’s practice of baptizing infants. As they looked to the scriptures for guidance, they believed that only adults could make a decision to follow Jesus Christ and be baptized voluntarily. So they “rebaptized,” as adults, those whom the Church had already baptized as infants. The word Anabaptists comes from the Greek root “ana” which means “again”. The Mennonites and other Anabaptists were considered heretics, and many were persecuted and even killed for their actions and beliefs. Rather than baptize infants, many Mennonite families participate in a service of dedication of their children to God. The parents ask their congregation to help them train their child in the way of Jesus Christ. Mennonites hope is that their children will choose to follow Jesus Christ and be baptized, but will leave that decision to them as they mature into adulthood.
People often confuse the Amish and Mennonites. Mennonites are not Amish with telephones and TVs. Mennonites and Amish come from the same Anabaptist tradition begun in the 16th century, but there are differences in how they live out their Christian values. The distinctiveness of the Amish is in their separation from the society around them. They generally shun modern technology, keep out of political and secular involvements and dress plainly.
The Mennonite Church is also known as a Peace Church. The term “historical peace churches” refers to three churches—the Church of the Brethren, the Mennonites and the Quakers—who took part in the first peace church conference, in Kansas in 1935. These churches have worked together to represent the view of Christian pacifism. The peace churches agree that Jesus advocated nonviolence. Whether physical force can ever be justified, either in defending oneself or family members, remains controversial in my mind. Many Mennonites adhere strictly to a moral attitude on nonresistance in the face of violence. However, these churches generally do concur that violence on behalf of nations and their governments is contrary to Christian morality. Conservative Mennonites do not object to serving their country in peaceful alternatives (called alternative service) such as hospital work, farming, forestry, road construction and similar occupations. Their objection is in being part in any military capacity whether noncombatant or regular service. During World War II and the Korean, Vietnam Wars they served in many such capacities in alternative I-W service programs initially through the Mennonite Central Committee. My father turned 18 in 1950 coinciding with the inception of the Korean War. He registered as a conscientious objector and performed 1-W service at Philadelphia State Hospital, a psychiatric hospital. He worked as a mental health aid for 4 years and was paid by the Mennonite Church. He met my Mother there, …….and no she was not a patient, but a new graduate of nursing school.
With that sense of history, I’d like to talk to you about Being a Peacemaker. Jesus said during his Sermon on the Mount, “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they will be called the Children of God” (Mathew 5:9). We are sent to be Peacemakers in a world that is unfortunately filled with violence and hate. CNN legal analyst Mark O’Mara states, “by the time a child is 18 years of age, they’ve may have killed over 100,000 people in video games and other online platforms”. Incidentally, my Mennonite grandmother did not allow us to watch the “3 Stooges” on television as she considered them too violent for young boys.
So what did Jesus mean by peacemaker? A working definition of a peacemaker is someone who is actively seeking to reconcile people to God and to one another. Let’s look closely at the word peacemaker. Easily we can see that this compound word is comprised of two very common words: “peace” and “maker.”
The word peace is the Hebrew word shalom. Often used as a greeting word or a departing word in much the same way we would utter “hello” or “goodbye”. “Shalom” is taken from the root word “Shalam” which means to be safe in mind, body, or estate. It speaks of completeness, fullness, or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back or to generously re-pay something in some way. When a Jew said “Shalom” they were wishing on another the full presence, peace, and prosperity of all the blessedness of God. The famous priestly benediction of Numbers brings out this idea very clearly: “The LORD bless you and protect you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD look with favor on you and give you peace” (Num. 6:24-25).
The word “make” in the term “peacemakers” comes from the Greek verb that means “to do” or “to make.” It is a word filled with energy. It mandates action and initiative. Someone has to bring the combatants to the table and give them a reason to put down their arms. Notice Jesus did not say, “Blessed are the peacewishers or the peacehopers or the peacedreamers, or the peacetalkers.” Peace must be made. Peace never happens by chance. A peacemaker is never passive. They always take the initiative. They are up and doing.
So when these two words are taken together, “peace” and “maker,” it describes one who actively pursues peace. The peacemaker pursues more than the absence of conflict; they don’t avoid strife (in fact, sometimes, peacemaking will create strife); they aren’t merely seeking to appease the warring parties; they aren’t trying to accommodate everyone. Instead, they are pursuing all the beauty and blessedness of God upon another. As William Barclay, the Scottish theologian, translates this verse, “They are people who produce right relationships in every sphere of life.”
Peacemaking is a divine work. God is the author of peace. And, Jesus is the supreme Peacemaker. Jesus came to establish peace; his message explained peace; his death purchased peace; and his resurrected presence enables peace. The messianic predictions were that he would be the “Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6). The angels announced his birth by singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth (B) to people He favors!” (Luke 2:14). Jesus’ persistent word of absolution to sinners was, “Go in peace!” Just before he was crucified, Jesus’ last will and testament was, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful” (John 14:27). When the Lord returned after the resurrection, his first word to the disciples was “Shalom.” “Peace to you!” (Luke 24:36). Jesus is our supreme example in bringing peace in our hearts, our relationships, our church, our nation, and our world.
The task of peacemaking is however, not be easy or pretty. And, those who do it will often be misunderstood. In 1781 Ben Franklin wrote to John Adams, “‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ is, I suppose, for another world. In this world they are frequently cursed.”
Peacemaking is messy and wrenching work. It takes time and a lot of emotional energy. It is like crossing a fast moving creek on slippery rocks. The journey is needed. The work is risky. And, sometimes you fall. You get bruised. And, sometimes you don’t make it across the stream.
The hallmark of a Christian is the ability to get along with other people. The testimony of a church is its ability to get along with other people. We have a God-given, scripturally directed responsibility to pursue peace. The apostle Paul declared, “God has called you to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15). Does that mean we agree with everything others say or do? No. Sometimes we agree to disagree, agreeably. God wants his children to be bridge builders. What can we do to build those bridges of peace? What steps, what methods, can we employ to actively reconcile people to God and to one another?
A.Talk to God
The power of prayer cannot be underestimated. I find it crucial to talk to the Lord about what I’ve done or what people have done to me before I talk to them. It gives me perspective and tenderness. The Lord helps me see the deeper needs in the relationship and what has caused the problem. He, also, shows me my part, and often, my wrong words, behavior, or attitude that is hindering the reconciliation. Even if the other person is 95 percent in the wrong and I am only 5 percent in the wrong, I still have to confess my error. Then, I surrender the conflict to the Lord.
B. Take the first Step
Jesus is real clear on this action. You are to make the first move. Peacemakers take the initiative. “But,” you say, “Why should I go to the person when they are the one that hurt me.” Conflict is never resolved accidentally. That first step may be a letter, a phone call, or a visit. If someone has wrong you or you have wronged someone else, take action today. Your peace of mind and your Christian witness depends on your taking the first step. Happiness awaits action.
C. Tell the other person how you feel
When you take the first step and speak to the other person, before you speak, remember the words of Solomon, “A gentle answer turns away anger, but a harsh word stirs up wrath” Empathize with their feelings. Consider their situation. Attack the problem not the person. Clarify don’t confront. Cooperate as much as possible. Emphasize reconciliation, not resolution. Reconciliation is more crucial than being right.
D. Stop talking about the people who have hurt you to other people
Nothing disqualifies us more in being peacemakers than talking about people rather than talking to them. The Old Spanish proverb is correct: “Whoever gossips to you will gossip about you.” A peacemaker never says anything about another person that she or he has not first said to that person directly. After that, why tell anyone else?
When you put the above steps into practice, you earn a recognition that far exceeds anything that you can imagine.
The opposite of peacemakers is troublemakers. Troublemakers are people who are mean-spirited, stir up strife, and create conflict. Peacemakers are sometimes troublemakers to bring peace, but troublemakers make trouble for the sake of trouble.
If our character is such that we spread rumors and gossip about others; if we are constantly fomenting discontent; if we find joy in the report of trouble and scandal; if we are unwilling to be involved in peacemaking; if these negative qualities characterize our lives, there is a good chance we are not leading Christians lives.
Notice I did not say, if we fall into these things or are struggling to control them; but rather if these elements are a part of our character. If this is what we are like, then we need to take a day off from work or school and spend it with the Scriptures open before us, seeking the face of God. True children of God are not troublemakers!
The good news of the gospel is that a troublemaker can become a peacemaker. My experience with troublemakers is that they are creating conflict in their external world because they have internal strife. They can change, often with the help of a peacemaker. They must change to experience the reward and benefit of this beatitude.
The radicalness of Christ’s call to peacemaking demands a radical remaking of human personality. One must first have a profound experience of the Shalom of God. No one can become a peacemaker until he has found peace himself. We cannot give what is not real to us. Peacemaking begins with an experience of peace in our own hearts.
The salutation of the Apostle Paul’s letters almost always begin: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:2). Reading his letters, you never find the order reversed to “peace and grace.” Grace always comes before peace. We have to experience the grace of God before we can experience the peace of God. We have to come into relationship with God and Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, before we can be purveyors of peace to others. We have to know peace ourselves before we can make peace in our relationships. In other words, we can’t make peace if we don’t have peace
In conclusion, I challenge you to become, or continue to be a Peacemaker. Our Lord is on a recruiting mission. He’s looking for a few volunteers to join “God’s Peace Corps”. He’s looking for a “few good women and men” who will spread God’s peace all over the world.
So much war, so much strife, so much pain, exists in our world. That means there is plenty of work for us to do. Will we take up the mantel of peacemaker? Every tiny step, every pure action, receives God’s blessing.
How do we get involved in the world? Be a peacemaker.
What will we be called? Children of God.