I appreciate how peaceful our church is. I can assure you from my own experience and from interaction with other pastors that many churches struggle to maintain the sort of peaceful, unified, joyful, loving church culture that we have grown accustomed to at Broadway.
Not that we never disagree with one another or that there are never personality clashes within our con-gregation. We are all human, and sometimes we deal with rough patches in our relationships. But generally, we get along and trust each other.
It’s also important to acknowledge that conflicts and disagreements aren’t always signs of an unhealthy church or of dysfunctional relationships. Sometimes change and growth require us to have hard conversations and to make decisions that some people will resist. We can be a peaceful, unified church even when we don’t all agree on certain issues. That can even be a sign of maturity.
During May, I will preach from the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. Jesus addressed a variety of difficult issues in this long teaching, some of which surely ruffled feathers and made people uncomfortable. Jesus didn’t shy away from conflict when it was warranted, and He always spoke the truth even when it meant offending some of His listeners.
At the heart of Jesus’ sermon, however, was the call to love others, and He began with a list of heart-conditions that He expects from His followers, including that we act as peacemakers.
Our world desperately needs peacemakers today. In many ways, our nation, our community and even many churches are more divided today than ever before. Deep social trenches are dug to divide people over politics, race, education, sexuality, response to the pandemic, and a myriad of other issues. People hold their views so adamantly that there can be no compromise or sympathy with their opponents.
Like the Pharisees and religious leaders who criticized Jesus, many people today believe they are justi-fied in treating others with contempt and trying to prevent them from expressing their opinions. We live in an increasingly hostile, angry culture, made worse by the pandemic.
Which is why being peacemakers matters so much today. Jesus invites us to join with Him in offering the world a better way to treat one another. He calls us to follow the example He set in showing compassion for those in need and loving those who oppose us. He expects His followers to turn the other cheek, not just in physical confrontations, but also in our conversations and online interactions. He tells us to be salt and light in this bitter, dark world.
We begin by promoting peace, unity and love within the church. We treat each other with kindness and mercy. We trust each other and support one another, even when we disagree. We commit ourselves to building a peaceful church where all people are welcome and can feel the loving presence of God.
We also reach out to our world with a message of peace and with actions of love. We treat all people with respect, even those who look, speak or believe differently from us. We stand up for justice and equality for people of all races and backgrounds, seeking a community characterized by peace and kindness. We speak truth, especially God’s truth, in love and for the sake of drawing others to Jesus, where their hearts can find lasting peace.
We have a great opportunity, in the face of so much unrest and animosity, to show the world who Jesus is as we live at peace with one another and promote the peace of Christ in the lives of those near us.