The word “peace” conjures up different things to different people.
I am a child of the 1960s, so my generation links peace with hippies, anti-Vietnam war protests and free love.
Others think of beauty queens declaring their hope for world peace; I can’t help but picture Sandra Bullock in “Miss Congeniality.”
Many conservative evangelicals assume peace is for liberals, whether theological or political.
Other evangelicals, who appreciate the Bible’s emphasis on peace, tend to have a narrow view of God’s peace purposes, focusing primarily on interpersonal peacemaking among believers.
Peace for them is unrelated to the gospel, the Kingdom of God or the pressing social issues of the day. No wonder so many evangelicals feel that the concept of peace is wimpy.
But is peace only relevant for the faithful few? Is peace just for hippies, beauty queens and liberals? Jesus didn’t think so.
Peace is a major piece of the Bible. Here are two examples:
First, in Matthew 5:9, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” He pronounced “blessing” upon peacemakers, which means that God’s favor and approval rests upon them.
When evangelicals talk about being children of God, they rightly quote John 1:12, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”
I rarely hear them describe God’s children as peacemakers. But Jesus did.
According to Jesus, God’s children work for peace. They are called children of God because they act like their Father—the God of peace (Philippians 4:9 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23), who sent the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) to bring about a world of peace (Luke 2:14).
Second, if I had to choose only one verse in the entire Bible to summarize what Jesus expects of peacemakers, it would be Romans 12:18.
This text is concise and comprehensive—perfect for peacemaking dummies like me: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
Notice how realistic Paul was about peacemaking. The condition, “If it is possible,” acknowledges that it is not always possible to make peace.
Scripture is realistic about conflict and discord. Biblical peacemaking is neither sentimental nor naive. It addresses the harsh realities of brokenness and evil.
Read the entire passage, Romans 12:17-21, to understand the full context of this important verse.
Even our most sincere efforts may fail. Peacemakers aren’t always peace achievers.
The second section of this verse also affirms proactive peacemaking—”As far as it depends on you.”
Because it involves at least two parties, reconciliation isn’t always possible. But the responsibility for taking steps toward peace always rests on us as individuals.
We can’t ignore it and we can’t wait for the other party to come to us. We are repeatedly commanded to take the initiative in pursuing peace ourselves (see Matthew 5:23-26; Matthew 18:15; Luke 17:3; Hebrews 12:14).
Finally, notice the last phrase of Romans 12:18: “Live at peace with everyone.”
The Bible teaches peacemaking without borders. The pursuit of peace knows no barriers. The scope of peacemaking is comprehensive, as we are expected to pursue peace with everyone.
God’s peacemaking plan pushes us beyond our comfort zones and outside the walls of our churches. It challenges us to live out the peaceable ways of Jesus with our neighbors and our enemies.
No borders. No boundaries. No exceptions.
Rick Love is the president of Peace Catalyst International and serves as associate director of the World Evangelical Alliance peace and reconciliation initiative. He blogs at RickLove.net and you can follow him on Twitter @drricklove.
Editor’s Note: This article is adapted from Love’s book, ” Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflicts in our Families, Organizations and Communities,” which is available here.
Rick Love serves as president of Peace Catalyst International. He has lectured or consulted in more than 40 countries in the last 35 years and has published five books, including “Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations and Communities.”