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When God directs us to do or be something, our obedience is the very thing that invokes happiness for us. As believers, we are called to be peacemakers (Matthew 5:9) and blessed when we are.

Take a good look around you—even take a look at your behavior. How do you react to your family members when you think no one else can see your actions? When has cordiality been more desperately needed than today? I don’t remember a time when there has been more impoliteness, division, resentment, and pure hatred in my lifetime.

For fallen humanity, hostility and war—whether personal, local, national, or global—are evils that seem to be part of our DNA. But there is a way open to us that has the power to stop it from spreading. Evil is like an electric current. On a day-to-day level, it courses from one person to another through a closed circuit. When the circuit is opened, it stops. Each of us has the opportunity to be the point where the circuit is broken. What we have to do is to throw wide open our hearts to God and not let the evil pass through and beyond us. The slander, pettiness, or hatred stops with us. We refuse to contribute to it.

Jesus gives us a great example to emulate. A person is commandeered to carry a soldier’s pack for a distance, which undoubtedly often happened in his world occupied by Roman troops. This was no easy task and probably created a good amount of resentment among the people. Jesus’ advice is not only to carry the heavy burden cheerfully, but to carry it twice as far voluntarily (Matthew 5:41). Such behavior, unheard of in his day, accomplished a few things: on the one hand, it shocked the soldier by turning the tables on him. It put the victim in charge of the situation and changed the dynamics from the normal course of injustice by personally absorbing it and not passing it on to the next person in some other form. 

We’ve all heard the stories of someone getting furious at work, then driving with anger (or road rage), and pushing a fellow driver off the road on the way home. This action causes the subsequent offense in a chain reaction that leads another person to shout at a family member when they get home, who then kicks the family dog, and so on. That’s often the way things work.

More seriously, we regularly hear news reports of a disgruntled person who, for one reason or another, is so outraged that he goes home to get his gun, only to return and shoot any number of his work associates. Typically, the rage of revenge is far out of proportion to the original offense. That’s why God forbids us to take vengeance on others (Romans 12:19). It belongs to him alone, and it is always perfectly balanced justice.

A peacemaker deliberately seizes the opportunity to cut off evil by nipping it in the bud. When we see tempers rising (particularly ours), or emotions beginning to go out of control, there is often a brief moment when we can step in. In fraught situations like these, we can bring calm by speaking words of life and light, or simply letting the aggressor take their verbal anger out on us without a retort in kind. A gentle answer turns away wrath (Proverbs 15:1).

Naturally, when tempers and emotions are running high, we know how hard it is to be a peacemaker. It’s even more difficult, often far beyond us—virtually impossible—because we’re just as “human” as the next person.

Jesus’ teaching regarding the soldier and taking a slap on the face (Luke 6:29) seem out of touch with reality, simply because they are! Jesus knows that every command of his, such as loving God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, or loving our neighbor as our self (Matthew 22:37-40), is inherently impossible for us to carry out on our own steam. That’s the reason why he taught that we could do nothing of consequence in the spiritual realm without some extraordinary, powerful help (John 15:5).

We aren’t capable of producing spiritual fruit without the Holy Spirit. The indwelling presence and power of the Spirit in believers is what separates the genuine Christian from the “make-believe” Christian. The Spirit empowers us to do the humanly impossible and is the reason a believer can successfully be a peacemaker. It’s the person whose life is ruled by the Spirit who can pray in a crisis: “Lord, tell me what to do now, and help me do it!” The reward is the pure joy and contentment of bringing peace to a warlike situation—to being a part of Kingdom work.

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