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Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. — Matthew 5:9
There is great need of peacemakers in this war-splintered world, in this angry and polarized country, in our own neighborhoods and families. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed by the scope of these conflicts and I succumb to lethargy while daydreaming about heroic action. But I know that real peacemaking begins with small, unspectacular, daily disciplines.
If we are to be peacemakers, we must simplify our lives. In the 1700s John Woolman wrote, “May we look upon our treasures, the furniture of our houses, and our garments, and try whether the seeds of war have nourishment in these our possessions.” Today the global economy runs on fossil fuel, and wars have been fought over oil. Our overconsumption and waste deplete and pollute aquifers, so many analysts predict that the next generation’s wars will be fought over water. Many consumer products are made by people working overlong hours in unsafe conditions for less than a living wage, fostering a hopelessness that can turn to bitterness and violence. Living off-grid can help us to stop sowing the seeds of war through our daily consumption.
If we are to be peacemakers, we must acknowledge the evil in ourselves rather than projecting it onto others. Carl Jung wrote about how often violence results from what he called shadow projection. We deny and hide the parts of ourselves that shame us—our greed, our cowardice, our rage and violence. We can’t help seeing these forces at work in the world around us. So we decide that these forces are embodied in some group of people who are not like us—members of another party, nation, or race—and we fear and hate those people. As people of faith we are called to own our shadows, confess our sins and have compassion for those who share them. Daily life offers many opportunities for such confession and compassion.
If we are to be peacemakers, we must be willing to suffer harm rather than doing harm. This is the teaching and the example of the Son of God. This isn’t about passivity or failing to resist evil. By deed and word Jesus challenged the powers of his day and lived as a citizen of God’s Kingdom in a world governed by other values. But he did not resort to violence or deceit, even to save his life. In his apparent failure as well as his success he brought the peace of the Kingdom into the world.