Recently, I've spent time thinking about what would have happened in the 1960s if people had ignored Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and listened to more militant voices.
America would almost certainly have descended into another civil war.
I am very worried that we are moving towards learning the reality of that "what it" question today.
We have so far not found a nationally recognized voice navigating through issues of continued social injustice which has resonated with masses. That's not to say there haven't been efforts.
President Obama has spoken on these issues, but as a politician, his words are unlikely to cause viewpoints to drastically change, no matter how heartfelt his words are.
Likewise with former Attorney General Eric Holder who spoke about having to sit his son down and have "the talk" about how to interact with police officers if he felt he was being unfairly targeted due to the tone of his skin.
Nationally known people from the civil rights movement of the 60s have also become politicized to the point where Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are unlikely to be able to contribute in meaningful ways to the current national conversation - or to resolve the lack of conversation may be a more accurate statement.
Perhaps finding one person to speak into this void is foolish. In the age of social media, the masses now hold the megaphone rather than just a few people.
Perhaps instead of looking for one man or woman to bring leadership to our current national troubles, we need a multitude of people willing to influence those around them in useful, valuable ways.
Instead of one Dr. King, perhaps we need a million Dr. Kings.
Instead of one Dr. King, perhaps we need a million Dr. Kings.
That's quite a tall order, yet as a follower of Jesus, I am taught that every person who accepts the forgiveness of Christ is filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.
We know that God is committed to justice and reconciliation and has chosen to work through people to accomplish it. (See the Beatitudes in Matthew chapter 5 - you can even buy a book I wrote about the Beatitudes!)
Yet, if the Church cannot lead the way in effective communication and healthy engagement, who will step up to do it?
If Christians fill their facebook posts/tweets/grams/snaps with blame and anger - or perhaps just as bad, if we stay silent on this critical issue, how are we following in the footsteps of Dr. King who showed Christians how to deal with social injustice in pro-active, constructive, Christ-like ways?
If you are a Christian man or woman, I hope you are going out of your way to be a peacemaker.
Peacemakers are not those who ignore issues or try to smooth things over without actually resolving the issue. Peacemakers are willing to put themselves in the middle of conflict and point towards important, unchanging truths:
God cares about justice.
God cares about every son and daughter.
God's kingdom is multicultural.
A peacemaker, if necessary, is willing to lay down his or her life to advance the Kingdom of God.
Now, in my cushy American life, I likely won't have to face the possibility of physically dying to protect others from injustice, but being willing to lay down my opinions and arguments and desire to be right is certainly a form of dying to myself, is it not?
To be a peacemaker, I have to be willing to serve others, to put concern for others ahead of myself.
If you're not laying down your preferences, your discomfort, your self righteousness, then you are probably not serving in the role of peacemaker. The good news is that it's never too late! We serve a God of resurrection and redemption. You can do a 180 and ask God to transform your life in this area.
You can become a peacemaker - actively seeking to resolve places which are broken and hurting in our world.
Maybe you're saying, "But I'm just one person. What can I do? Nobody is listening to me." I get that. I'm not Dr. King. I'm not Mother Teresa. Who is going to pay attention to me?
I would suggest that you have influence or at least the opportunity for influence around you - family, co-workers, fellow church attenders, your online network, and anywhere else that you regularly visit.
You and I may not have a voice that will impact an entire nation or world, but the point of the Body of Christ is that it's not about our voice. We're not doing this on our own. We're doing it with literally a billion brothers and sisters around this planet. (Or at least we are supposed to). If each of us connect with those around us, we can spread this message around the globe.
Now, I know this may sound like old school, guilt ridden evangelism obligations: "You better get people saved or you're a bad Christian." I hate that kind of crap. But you know what we can do? Care about people. Have conversations. Point towards Jesus without being condescending jerks. Without turning it into some competitive numbers game.
What better opportunity to influence others do we have than by being a voice which values the dignity of everyone? By refusing to choose sides in arguments, but instead taking the side of love and caring and dignity - which is exactly what Jesus did.
And from that place of valuing and uplifting others, sharing why we do it? That's a far sight better than the old model of megaphones and shouting at people about hell.
Now, I hope at this point you're saying, "Easier said than done, bub!" Because if it was easy, it probably wouldn't make a change in our world. People are willing to do easy things. People are not always willing to do healthy things. Everyone who has cancelled a gym membership they hadn't used in forever, join me in raising your hand.
If [being a peacemaker] was easy, it probably wouldn't make a change in our world. People are willing to do easy things. People are not always willing to do healthy things.
Christians have said they are done with easy things. Otherwise, we wouldn't follow a messiah who invited us to take up our cross and follow him.
This world could sure use a billion peacemakers.
You, who are filled with the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, can absolutely be one of them.
Jesus never told us to love a cause, or to love a religion. He told us to Love God and Love People. As we undertake that healthy, but not easy, task, may we be the peacemakers this world so desperately needs.
I'm a white man living in the suburbs of Baltimore. I don't need to drive into inner city Baltimore to "fix the problem". I need to have conversations with my other white neighbors to exemplify a person who loves my fellow black americans just as much as I love police officers.
My 11 year old daughter recently make a poster calling for harmony and unity instead of violence between black americans and police officers. (I require her to undertake projects of her own choosing in the summer to remain productive and creative). She told me she wants to hand out bracelets of black and white to encourage people to embrace unity. I was incredibly proud of her, and also inspired.
We will be walking around our neighborhood when they arrive and talking with people around us encouraging them to look at other humans in loving, healthy ways. We're no better than you or your family. We're just not willing to sit on the sidelines when the world needs peacemakers. Please join us, because we can't do it without you. We need the diversity of the Body of Christ to help bridge the gap in the diversity of our society.
If you aren't sure where to start, let me encourage you to do this: ask God to help you get away from choosing a side, and instead to love people.
Then, pray and ask God to give you opportunities to have conversations where you can invite others to do the same.
I am choosing to be a peacemaker, not because it's easy, but because Jesus calls me to be one. I hope you will join me!