Posted in Following in His footsteps, Living out our faith

Are you making peace? Do you try to keep peace?

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“Blessed are the peacemakers,
    for they will be called children of God” Matt 5:9.

Most of the time when we think of “peace” our thoughts immediately go to world peace.  There is so many news stories about fighting and killing in countries around the world, and here at home, that just thinking of “PEACE” hurts.  We feel so helpless to be a peacemaker.  We feel to small and insignificant to be a peacemaker.  If we have any heart for people beyond ourselves and our families, than it hurts to see, read about, and think of the savagery which seems to run rampant in our world.

But maybe, just maybe, Jesus was intending these words to focus much less on world peace, and more on peace close to us, individually.  For example, peace within ourselves, peace within our families, peace with our friends, peace with our co-workers,  and peace with our neighbors.  Think about it with me for a moment.

  1. This type of peace is something we can do something about.
  2. If we could begin to live in peace within our self, our family, our friends, our work environment, and our neighborhoods, others might learn to do the same.
  3. If we taught our children the same and they taught theirs….
  4. As the families grow and spread out, into new place, new work environments, new neighbors, new friends, more family, peace grows.
  5. And as it grows, the results could really change the world.
  6. It all starts with us, with our own homes, families, friends, co-workers, and neighbors.

This is what Jesus meant, and it becomes a reality in our lives as we grow in god-likeness, starting with realizing we need Christ in our life, cry out and confess falling away from, or never seeking God, humbly accepting change and giving our lives to Jesus, hungrily seeking to live and serve in a Christ-like manner, seeing others as God sees them, and serving and giving to others without seeking anything in return.  And all of this is what Jesus was teaching at the beginning of his very first teaching of his ministry.

You know Jesus said,  “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” Matt 5:17.  Note, this statement is found in Matthew 5:17, the Beatitudes, which I have been pondering with you over the last several blog posts, are found in Matthew 4:3-10.

Keeping that in mind, let me mention the laws of the Old Testament that Jesus was referring to.  There are the 10 Commandments, which I previously mentioned match this series of Beatitude statements.  There are also a great many small, and in modern eyes, seemingly irrelevant laws, especially found in the book of Leviticus.  May I boldly tell you that not one of them is insignificant for us today, or irrelevant.  I’m not kidding.

Let me explain.  God, in his great love for people, provided them with directions on what to do and not to do in order to live safely, free of illness and disease, and in harmony with each other.  Yes, some of those directions such as foods we should not eat, are no longer applicable to our lives due to the progress in processing foods, and the prevention taken against contamination.  What is applicable, however, is that we note what is important in these directions is not that God was burying his people in rules and laws, but rather that he was setting up guidelines that would enable them to:

  1. stay faithful to Him as the only true God
  2. turn to Him in times of need
  3. seek His protection and help in the battles they faced
  4. seek His strength when they were facing overwhelming obstacles
  5. live in peace with themselves and their neighbors
  6. know how to peacefully resolve disputes
  7. know how to protect themselves from diseases
  8. and much, much more

God wanted His people to live in harmony, and he explained exactly how that could be accomplished.  We should be slower to scoff at this, and more careful to consider the details of life that our God is willing to be involved in.  There is nothing too small that he would not help with, if (and this is a big IF) we would only let Him.

Maybe it would be good to stop and think about how we can become peacemakers.  It just might start wi43sca02cth turning to God and asking for His help.  With His help we can keep create and keep peace in our families, even settle disputes and disagreements in a way that keeps peace.  With His help we can create and keep peace with our co-workers, our neighbors, and our friends, even settle disputes and disagreements in a way that keeps peace.

Peace can prevail, but only when the people who are called by His name, decide to be peacemakers, with His help.

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Posted in Following in His footsteps, Living out our faith

Seeing people through God’s eyes

mercy_2406cI was amazed as I read William Barclay’s The Gospel of Matthew, Vol One to find confirmation of a life experience of mine so clearly taught by Jesus, but so missed by people, even Christians who read the Bible faithfully.  I, personally, never knew what Jesus was saying when he said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” Matthew 5:7.

I always thought this was one of the beatitude statements that was easy to understand…..If I show mercy to others, (compassion or forgiveness shown toward someone whom it is within one’s power to punish or harm. Oxford Dictionary), and God will show mercy to me.  That is not always easy, but it is something we can all do.  It also seems like a theme of Jesus, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” Luke 6:31.  “Forgive, and you will be forgiven” Luke 6:37b.

However, this simple statement about mercy says much more than one reads on the surface; it has a much more powerful meaning.  As I learned today, the Hebrew word for “mercy” is “chesedh” which does not mean just compassion for another, or the willingness to forgive someone who has harmed you, but it means, as Barclay puts it, “to get right inside other people until we can see things with their eyes, think things with their minds, and feel things with their feelings.”  What Jesus is telling us is that we need to look at them through God’s eyes so we can know what pain, hurt, suffering, of misguided moments in their lives caused them to do, say, or act the way they do.

“Impossible!” you might say.  “Not so,” is my answer.  Difficult at times, but not impossible if we are willing to let go and allow ourselves to begin to see people through God’s eyes.  God knows what is behind the hurt, the pain, the thoughts of each person.

I know this for certain, because it has been my own, personal, experience.  I worked in a small office with 5 other women and a supervisor.  The supervisor liked to play mind games with her staff.  She even admitted to another supervisor, in my presence, that she stayed awake at night thinking about how she would move the pawns around on the game board the next day.  She would always use us as her protection when things in our department did not go right.  Even if it was her decision that caused the problem, one of us would be blamed.

Oh, how I began to hate her.  It wasn’t just because of how she treated me, but I could see how she was hurting those I worked with as well, and it tore me apart inside.  One day in my prayer time, God told me to pray for her.  “Pray for her God,” I immediately thought, “I can’t pray for her. I can’t stand her.”  “Pray,” was God’s only reply.  I must confess, I didn’t, but God did not relent.  Everyday I heard the same words from God.  Finally, one day, I said, “Ok God, I will.”  But all I could get out that day was, “Dear God, Louise.”  That was it.  That was all I could get out, my hatred was so strong.   The next day I tried again, and the next day, and the next.  Each day it got a bit easier, and I even got to praying a whole sentence.  I continued each day, struggling with what to pray.

An amazing thing happened.  I began to see Louise through different eyes.  I began to hear her hurt and pain as she’d briefly speak of something that had happened to her.  All the things she had said and done, even her placing the blame on us for her failures, began to be bearable as I began to understand her more and more.  It did not make what she did right, fair, or justifiable, but it did make it understandable, and that, in itself, took away my anger and hatred.  Louise did not change, but I did, and it was a change experience that has made a tremendous difference in my life.  For the first time, God allowed me to see someone not through my own eyes, but his.  I began to love Louise even in all her ugliness. I began to pray for her because I wanted to, not because God told me to.

At some point in the last year, I began to pray for God to allow me to see all people through His eyes, even total strangers.  Little by little, as I kept up this prayer, God began to open my eyes.  Now I know my godly vision is not fully clear yet.  It is still a bit blurry.  But I do know that most little thoughts, the quick judgements, I used to have about people who I meet for the first time, or those I just see as I am out shopping, or the guy that passes me on the berm during rush hour traffic, are gone.

I do not consider myself especially judgmental, but my eyes were opened when I realized how often I did make quick little judgments about others.

With time, as I continue to ask God to open my eyes to see each person as he does, I will be able to see them as the beautiful souls that God loves, just like Louise, and I will be able to see feel their hurt, their insecurity, and know their need.  Then I will be in the best position to truly be merciful.

“Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” (Matthew 18:33)

Be blessed!