Peacemaker in the Family: A Salute and a Challenge
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9).
By far I hear more people identify with Jesus’s blessing for the peacemaker than any other, especially in therapy.
Those who claim, “I’m the family peacemaker,” often live with one or more pathological hotheads who keep conflict up while claiming that everyone else needs professional help. The peacemaker appeases, mediates, pontificates, and sometimes self-flagellates to get conflict down, an exercise much like trying to stop a hurricane with a baseball bat. The peacemaker comes to see the shrink.
I love these people. I share with them an aversion to conflict and a backlog of tearful prayers for concord and calm. They see the beauty in the idiots they love, and they remain faithful, understanding that love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things. The situation is not their fault.
But their truncated concept of peace – shared with about 99% of the world’s population – stops peacemaking in its tracks, and the emotional violence rages on. Let’s look at the idea of peace: Have you noticed that everyone wants peace, including tyrants and warmongers? Just like nice people, they define peace as absence of conflict.
Nice people try to achieve it through the exhausting and futile approach of smoothing over and appeasement. Ruthless people eliminate or suppress the enemies and inconvenient ones who strike dissonant chords amid the harmonies of the homogenized. Either pursuit of perfect concord fuels cycles of violence. Tiny Tim and Attila the Hun share more in common than meets the eye.
Peacemaking entails not just calming waters but building bridges. It requires stepping out of comfort zones while risking conflict unarmed.
Jesus crossed waters and boundaries to bring wholeness and hope from a Hatfield to a McCoy. He commended the faith of a Roman soldier and shared dinner with a despised tax collector. He got in the faces of the first and exalted the last.
And “the first,” didn’t like it. When they went after him, Jesus did not fight back or defend himself, at least not on their violent terms.
So if you are the peacemaker in a dysfunctional family, what does Jesus’ example mean for you? If you are like me, you hate conflict because you need to be the good guy. You want people to still like you at the end of the day as a consolation prize for bearing the ceaseless strife. Let go of that.
Let the love of Jesus be your consolation and the courage of Jesus be your example. Speak your truth in love. Perhaps they will listen more than you expect.
Or they may turn their drunken wrath on you. But you will not be alone. You are joining the God who is, after all, Love, in a relentless peacemaking project displayed graphically in the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus. If someone’s feelings must get bruised and new boundaries set on a nonviolent road to neighborliness and tranquility, God will lead you.
And God will lead the one whose ire you raise when you speak and live your truth in love. Whether you must walk separate paths, God will finish and secure the bridge you started building when you reached out. Peace will come there in God’s time.
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