Peace building includes a wide range of efforts to address the root causes of conflict and violence and to facilitate a process that establishes a durable peace.
When people ask us what we do, we often respond by describing our work as “Jesus-centered peace building.” But what does that mean? Is our work only secular and we’re just looking to create kumbaya moments between people, or is our goal to Christianize others using non-Christian language? Or is it something else entirely?
As you might expect, we’d like to explore Option C. To start, picture a Christian doctor. She (or he) does work that has genuine and profound value in the “secular world” – doctors are appreciated for their skills in every country and by people of any religion. But typically, a doctor who is Christian feels called to care for the sick and hurting because of Jesus’ example. In other words, the motivation behind a Christian doctor’s work is informed by the desire to follow Jesus and be like him, sharing God’s love for all people through her work.
A Christian doctor does not need to justify the spiritual significance of her work by making sure she tells each patient about Jesus, because she understands that practicing medicine and caring for the sick and dying has spiritual value to God (Matthew 25:36). Even so, she undoubtedly tries to be transparent and honest about the motivations that inform her work when, where, and with whom that is appropriate, and as she feels called to do so.
Jesus-centered peace building is similar to practicing medicine in these respects. On a secular level, most people in the world are completely on board with “world peace” – for reconciliation and renewed relationships to take the place of arguments, wars, distrust, and fear. But as peace builders who are Jesus-centered, we feel called to love our enemies and be peacemakers as Jesus taught us to do (Matt 5:9,44; Luke 6:27,35). In other words, the motivations behind our work are informed by our desire to follow Jesus, the Prince of peace (Isaiah 9:6), and be like him, sharing God’s love for people through the work of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18, Rom 12:18, 1 Jn 2:6).
Like Christian doctors, our work is not with ulterior motives as if we pursue peace in order to convince people of the rightness of our beliefs, any more than a doctor’s goal is to help the sick and hurting with any motive other than love. At the same time, we are transparent about how Jesus is our model, teacher, guide, and the one who motivates and empowers our lives and work, and we’re excited to talk about that when it’s appropriate to do so. In fact, it’s often more important in peace building work than in other fields to communicate one’s beliefs and values transparently, yet humbly, because the foundation for peace building is trust. In order to trust one another, we must listen to one another and be honest about our stories, motivations, and values.
Rick Love, Peace Catalyst’s co-founder and president, shares that Matthew 5:9 teaches us that “the distinguishing characteristic of God’s children, of God’s kids, is that they make peace. So we, as God kids, as God’s children, are trying to represent the God of peace, to pursue the peace of God, and share the gospel of peace in a world of conflict” (Isaiah 52:7, Ephesians 6:15). We’re pursuing peace, without ulterior motive, because that’s what Jesus modeled, taught, and calls us to.