“Seek peace and pursue it.” – Psalm 34:14
There are a lot of downsides to getting older. Joints get creakier, bruises take about six years to heal, the increasing bran in the diet, fashion gets more ridiculous, music gets more baffling every year, and so forth. But one downside you rarely hear about is boredom. It seems that every “new” thing is just an “old” thing with new pants on. Did you know that certain scholars have argued that every story can be broken down into seven basic plots? True story.
Hollywood finds even that too many, and it seems that every movie that comes out is a either a sequel or remake, or follows one of two plots. Wanna hear em? The first is one girl, two guys – she has to choose between the charming yet somewhat stodgy rich feller, and the unpredictable funloving rascal that is a little light in the wallet. The second? Revenge. Oh, sweet revenge. Especially if the offenders are heavily armed and yet somehow can’t figure out how to shoot in a straight line and conveniently attack one at a time.
Imagine with me if you will an alternative story. A man is out working in his field; the evil cattle baron comes along, burns down his house and kicks his dog. So the farmer picks up his tools, forgives the cattle baron, and moves out of state.
Sound like a good movie? Not to most of us probably. We want action; we want drama; we want justice; we want “the good guy” to end up on top. And yet forgiving and keeping peace is the command of the Bible. Most of us don’t have any problem with avoiding making idols, or even maybe giving up lives at a martyr. But forgiving those who do us wrong? Why do we find that so hard to follow?
Instead our response is “How dare they do that to me? I’m going to…” After all, that’s only fair, right? One bad turn deserves another. If She talks bad about me to that guy, I’m going to make sure he knows all about Her. If he cheapshots me in on the court, he’s getting an “accidental” elbow in the noggin. If we get pushed, we push back. It feels so good. We are taking control of our destiny; we won’t be a doormat for anyone. We are called to be more than conquerors after all. Surely God did not mean for us to be weaklings, right?
I WILL REPAY
The command is not to make things fair – as hard as that is to accept. Our job is more challenging than putting on our armor and standing up to tyranny. Our call is to love our enemies; turn the other cheek; do good to people who are jerks to us; live at peace with everyone. Are you seeing a pattern? There is no call to stand up and be a man (or woman). There is no call for defending your rights. That’s God’s job. Our job is seeking peace.
That doesn’t mean we will always live at peace with everyone. David did have to fight Goliath; Joshua did defeat jericho. But notice what they were doing. They were not taking revenge for their sake, or even for their loved ones. David tells Goliath that he is there because Goliath defied the Lord; when Joshua defeats Jericho, he burns the whole thing as an offering to God. Zeal for God is sometimes dramatic, but no where in the Bible is fighting back for ourselves seen in a good light. In fact, David is commended for not fighting back against Saul, even when he had good reason.
This is a tough truth for us in our society. We are rugged individualists; we want to do everything ourselves and rely on no one. We want to be respected, and in some regards, feared. But if the Bible says the Lord is to be feared, aren’t we putting ourselves in God’s place when we want to be the Godfather?
Seeking peace is not the weak way; it is far more difficult and takes more strength to trust God than it does to fight back. It strikes at our pride, and forces us to remember that we are not in control. It reminds us that our identity is in Christ, and not in what we can do in ourselves. That’s never easy.
But don’t worry; I’m pretty sure the peacemakers will be blessed. I think I read that somewhere…