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Saturday, May 27, 2017

How do We Keep the Peace when War is All Around?

How do We Keep the Peace when War is All Around?
Most of us start out in life with so many dreams and ideals!  Dreams and ideals for our children, our families and our mission in life.  But then we watch our dreams crumble one by one and we become hurt and angry.  A close friend’s beloved child turns to drugs and they watch helplessly as this daughter is lost in another world.  Caught up in her alternate world the daughter harms her children and tears up other lives.  Another friend dedicates his lifetime tirelessly serving as a fireman, but then he finds when he is old and used up that his promised retirement fund has been stolen by the city he spent his life protecting.  Now his family has nothing to live on in their old age.
 Our workplaces, homes and communities are riddled with conflicts, fights and arguments.  Many of us find ourselves upset and angry at the unfairness.  We soon become prejudiced against other persons or races or groups.  And we have good reasons it seems. Jesus has called us to peace, but our hatred for another person or group can soon take that peace away.   And many of us find ourselves angry and upset.  And our hearts are not at peace but are shaken by war. What do we do about this? 
When we have a conflict or an argument we want a solution.  And the solution we want is for the person or group that is troubling us to change.  To do things our way. We often dig in our heels and justify our position.  Our position is right and the other position is wrong.  We tell the enemy how wrong they are. And how much they have made us suffer.  We complain and insist that they change and agree with our opinion.  We try to teach the offender the right way. Then we nag and badger them.  And then we wonder why they are so unreasonable when we haven’t convinced them that they are wrong!
We often don’t see the enemy as a person or try to see the conflict we are having with him  through his eyes.  We see the enemy as an object that is in our way. He or she is a bad person messing up our world. A person who has robed us of our peace.  Made us a victim. And has no right to do what he/she has done. And when we dehumanize the enemy long enough we have no trouble hurting him or her.  We can take our enemy to court and sue or we can gossip about him/her and ruin reputations. In our eyes our enemy is a looser. When we play these games, we are inviting the very thing that we are fighting against – a solution.  We have taken the argument from peace to war. 
Yes, we so often are choosing war.  We seem to have a need for war.  Being mad is invigorating.  We gather others around us to agree with our side and we all agree that he/she is a monster. We feel so superior and we go to extremes proving to others that we are right and good and he/she is wrong and bad. Inwardly our hearts are not at peace but at war.
Even though we humans have developed good strategies for negotiating conflicts, we still are often unable to settle disputes on our own.  Too often we build walls instead of bridges.  Without God’s supernatural help, we may often remain stuck in disputes, battles and arguments indefinitely.  But with God, all things are possible.     
Scripture tells us how to handle our conflicts and arguments. And God’s ways are not our ways.  God’s way for us is forgiveness. Our heavenly Father commands us to forgive others who have hurt us.  Forgiveness is a gift given to those who do not deserve it. God has freely forgiven us of our sins. Even when we didn’t deserve it. (1 John 1:9, Hebrews 10:17, Psalms 103:12) And because God has forgiven us, we are commanded to be children of our heavenly Father and follow His ways and freely forgive others. (Matthew 6:12, Mark 11:25, Matthew 18:21-22, Luke 6:37, 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, 2 Corinthians 2:7-11)  
Unforgiveness is a poison.  It poisons us if we hold onto it, causing us to become bitter and resentful. We cannot have good emotional health while we hold unforgiveness, resentment and bitterness in our hearts!  Our heavenly Father wants us to live out our lives with big warm  hearts full of love and peace and joy.  Not hard angry hearts full of unforgiveness and bitterness. We cannot be full of love and hate at the same time. 
But we cannot do what God asks us to do in our own power!  We will need to ask God to give us the power to love and forgive, especially when the enemy is truly evil.  So, we must learn to follow the leadings of the Holy Spirit.  Scripture says that: “God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” (Romans 5:5) We are to be “rooted and grounded in God’s love” (Ephesians 3:17-19)  
 Are we receiving God’s love?  We can’t give away what we don’t have!  We need to be filled with God’s love in order to pass it on.  We can pray for the Holy Spirit to give us a revelation of God’s love. The Holy Spirit has been given to believers to be our Teacher and Guide and Helper and God will answer that prayer and give us more love.  Also, perhaps we can memorize Scripture that describes God’s love for us and hide it in our hearts.
And if forgiving our enemies isn’t enough, we are called to go even further.  We are told to not only forgive those who harm us but to pray for our enemies and to bless them!  Let’s read these passages for ourselves: “But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”  (Matthew 5:44)   Bless and pray for those who curse you, implore God’s blessings upon those who abuse you.” (Luke 6:28) And: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them.” (Romans 12:14) We may see our enemies in a different light when we pray for them.  
We followers of Christ are also commanded not to take revenge on a person or group who has harmed us.  Scripture says: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.  And again, the Lord will judge and determine and solve and settle the cause and the cases of His people.” (Hebrews 10:30.)  The Bible also says: “Judge not, lest you be judged…”  (Matthew 7:1-3) God in heaven is a God of love but also a God of justice and it is His to judge and to punish rebellious people.  Not ours. We are in over our heads when we try to do what only God can do. 
Jesus promised His followers peace.  “My peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”  (John 14:27) Jesus also told us that if we followed Him, we would be persecuted and have problems and troubles in this life.  But we were not to be afraid or troubled.  We would have His promised peace. 
When troubles and conflicts and battles come our way, let’s try to resolve them God’s way - with love and patience. Let’s listen to the other with understanding but never give in to evil.   Let’s take the high road and forgive and pray for our enemies as God has commanded.  And let’s hold on to that wonderful peace that Jesus left us.  Even when there is war all around.
Some of the Scriptures and ideas in this blog have been taken from Joyce Meyer’s book, Beauty for Ashes”    

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