This is post #24 of a series entitled Peacemakers for the Cause of Christ – Facilitators of God’s Peace in a World Looking for Peace. We hope you’ll enjoy these 31 podcasts and blogs that focus on our great need in today’s society for peacemakers; men, women, and children who are willing to step away from all the contempt, division, and hatred, and step in toward the blessed call of being Christ-centered peacemakers for the greater glory of God. Here you’ll find very practical and biblically-sound advice on building bridges instead of walls, offering hope instead of despair. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
Click on the link below to listen to the podcast version of this blog!
Truth #8: Peacemakers Work From God’s Circle of Peace.
Today’s Lectio Divina: Take a good look at My servant.I’m backing Him to the hilt. He’s the one I chose, and I couldn’t be more pleased with Him. I’ve bathed Him with My Spirit, My life. He’ll set everything right among the nations. He won’t call attention to what He does with loud speeches or gaudy parades. He won’t brush aside the bruised and the hurt and He won’t disregard the small and insignificant, but He’ll steadily and firmly set things right. He won’t tire out and quit. He won’t be stopped until He’s finished His work—to set things right on earth. Isaiah 42: 1-3 (MsgB)
Here in America, we tend to have an insatiable appetite for bigger and better.
We are attracted to big events. We idolize big stars. We drive big cars and trucks. We dream of living in bigger homes. We strive for big salaries, run with big dogs, and supersize our burgers and fries.
Generally, in this world of bigger and better, we’ll give an ear to loud speeches, and turn our eyes to gaudy parades. But, as for the bruised and the hurting, or the small and the insignificant, we might tip our hat to their suffering and despair, but sadly, we become easily distracted when the next pricey commercial pops up during the Super Bowl.
So, for those of us who want to become peacemakers for the cause of Christ, we must pay close attention to how this culture of ours taints and distorts our priorities, knowing if we truly want to continue the peacemaking ministry of the Master, we’ll need to step away from our Americanized worldview where bigger is always better, and what glitters is always gold.
You see, to Jesus, there’s true power and purpose in paying attention to the hidden things in life. The small. The few. The broken. The bruised.
Case in point? Let’s look at Matthew 25: 35-36, 40 (NIV):
For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited Me in. I needed clothes and you clothed Me, I was sick and you looked after Me, I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for Me.
Eugene Peterson, author of The Message Bible, encourages us to reform our ways, returning to a more Jesus-centered approach to the world and its problems. He says it well here with this quote from his book, The Contemplative Pastor:
A reformation may be in process in the way (peacemakers) do (our) work. It may turn out to be as significant as the theological reformation of the sixteenth century. I hope so. The signs are accumulating. The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best (peacemakers) have consecrated themselves in every generation. Discovering the meaning of Scripture, developing a life of prayer, guiding growth into maturity. This is the work that is historically termed the cure of souls. The primary sense of ‘cura’ in Latin is ‘care’, with undertones of ‘cure’. The soul is the essence of the human personality. The cure of souls, then, is the Scripture-directed, prayer-shaped care that is devoted to persons singly or in groups, in settings sacred and profane. It is a determination to work at the center, to concentrate on the essential.*
You see, to Jesus, peacemaker extraordinaire, working from the center, concentrating on the essential, meant inviting others into God’s Circle of Peace while letting go of ‘bigger and better,’ where getting things done means developing a cookie-cutter process built to minister to the masses. Instead, Jesus chose to follow a much slower, and to our eyes here in the 21st century, a much less efficient ministry style that cared for people individually, nurturing souls, one person or one group at a time.
So, you might be asking yourself…
“How does caring for souls have anything to do with peacemaking? Isn’t that the job of a pastor…not a peacemaker?”
Well, my friends, let me share my thoughts on that.
For thirty-plus years I served as a pastor, spending the great majority of my time, energy, and resources, attempting to build up my church, using a formula of success that came straight out of our Americanized “bigger is better” rule book. I call this formula for success, the 3-B’s, where I measured my effectiveness (or lack of it) by focusing on (B)uilding size, (B)ucks in the offering, and the number of (B)utts in the seats. This formula for success, by the way, is not only used in churches across the fruited plain of America, but also in most businesses, schools, and government programs where facilities, dollars, and customers determine the way in which we do our work.
Over the last ten years, through the de-construction of my church work, and the help of spiritual formation leaders like Eugene Peterson, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, and others, I’ve come to the realization that my 3-B approach to ministry just isn’t compatible with God’s Circle of Peace approach to the cure and care of souls.
So, you see, it just doesn’t matter if I’m a pastor, a peacemaker, a teacher, a coach, a neighbor, or a friend. But what does matter are these questions…
Am I more interested in my success than in caring for a person and their immediate needs?
Am I more interested in getting a job accomplished than caring for those who are working on that job with me?
Am I more interested in what I can get done than who the people next to me actually are?
As I see it, the care and cure of souls, tending to others around me and their needs, must become a core value in the world of peacemaking. Or, as they might say in one of those Super Bowl commercials…
God’s Circle of Peace. The Care and Cure of Souls. Don’t Leave Home Without It.
My Prayer: Jesus, forgive me when I allow my ‘bigger and better’ approach to life taint my compassion and empathy for those around me who are hurting or are in need. When someone is without peace, either inwardly or outwardly, there’s work to be done. Holy Spirit, give me your heart for those around me who might be overlooked, underserved, or uncared for today. Restore this ancient work of caring for souls, and do it through me, for Your Name’s sake. Amen.
A Few Questions to Ponder: Eugene Peterson calls the work of caring and curing of souls as “a determination to work at the center, to concentrate on the essential.” In what practical ways, as a peacemaker for the cause of Christ, might I put this work of caring at the center of all I do? What lesser priorities in my life need to take a back seat to this important aspect of inviting people into God’s Circle of Peace?
So, how are you experiencing God’s presence as you are becoming a peacemaker for the cause of Christ?
*Note: I’ve taken the liberty to modify Eugene Peterson’s quote from Chapter Six, The Contemplative Pastor, to reflect the role of a peacemaker. Peterson was referring to pastors in his writings, but as I see it, the point of his message applies to both.
Peacemakers for the Cause of Christ – Facilitators of God’s Peace in a World Looking for Peace.
We hope you’ll enjoy these 31 podcasts and blogs that focus on our great need in today’s society for peacemakers; men, women, and children who are willing to step away from all the contempt, division, and hatred, and step in toward the blessed call of being Christ-centered peacemakers for the greater glory of God. Here’s the homepage for the entire series.
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