There are two attitudes, two primary mindsets that exist in the world when it comes to living in peace with the people around us. They are both effective in many ways, but I suggest that only one of these mindsets was the one Jesus was talking about when he talked about peacemaking. We will call these two approaches the peacemaker and the peacekeeper.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. -Matthew 5:9
Peacemakers and Peacekeepers have common goals
Before we explore the differences between these two attitudes, we will look at the similarities between them. As Romans 12:18 states, it is a goal to live at peace with the people around us, and both these attitudes further that cause immensely. Many people live without caring about creating or maintaining peace at all. We can honor the peacekeeper while striving to transcend that mindset as peacemakers on the earth.
- Peacekeepers and peacemakers both operate under authority. There is weight to their actions and words.
- Peacekeepers and peacemakers both have a high value for peace. They both see the need for peace in the world around them. They’re not in denial.
- Peacekeepers and peacemakers are both active in society. (In contrast, people who have isolated themselves have abandoned the cause of peace entirely, because peace is innately about relationship and connection.)
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. -Romans 12:18
Where they differ
Despite the similarities, there are many differences in these two approaches to to peace.
- Attributes of a peacemaker
- Peacemakers operate in the authority of wisdom and in the power of love. (James 3:17, James 2:16)
- Peacemakers have high hopes. (Romans:15:13)
- Peacemakers walk in humility. (1 Peter 3:8)
- Peacemakers understand that repentance is necessary for true peace to be created. (Hebrews 12:14, 1 Peter 3:11)
- Peacemakers are creative and sacrificial in their process. (Ephesians 2:14-16)
- Peacemakers celebrate small victories. (2 Corinthians 13:11, Luke 15:7)
- Attributes of a peacekeeper
- Peacekeepers operate under the authority and power of the law. (In contrast, see Jesus’ approach in Ephesians 2:15.)
- Peacekeepers react strongly to the threat of emerging conflict.
- Peacekeepers try to keep society from getting worse. (They are, in many cases, conservative.)
- Peacekeepers fear the consequences of a failure to maintain balance.
- Peacekeepers sacrifice righteousness for the sake of peace.
- Peacekeepers view compromise as one of the greatest virtues.
These approaches look the most different when you consider them in the light of eternity. Peacekeepers use threats of violence, or the presence of physical power, to maintain peace. But peacemakers take aim at the heart of the problem: the hearts of people, starting with themselves.
There is a difference between unity and coexistence. To maintain a form of peace, peacekeepers will silence divergent opinions. But people who truly carry an overflowing peace in their hearts, shine bright:
“And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, ‘where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.’ For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” -Mark 9:47-50
Salt is a preservative, but in the case of peacemaking, I like to think of it more as a festive flavor. As we shine with a humble holiness, we demonstrate that one thing is available to all of us, if we are bold enough to believe it: peace with God. As we unify around this truth, we discover that we have peace with each other as well.