Pursuing Peace

During this year’s Peacemaker Ministries Annual Conference last week, I gave a devotional one morning on “pursuing peace.” The Bible exhorts us not just to “seek” peace but to “pursue” it (Psalm 34:14). The word translated “pursue” can also be translated “persecute” (cf. Romans 14:19; Galatians 1:13), offering an unusual perspective on how zealously we should pursue peace.

I don’t have any dramatic stories about how I myself have zealously pursued peace, but I heard two inspiring examples from conference speakers last week:

On a Sunday in December 2007, a heavily-armed young man walked into New Life Church in Colorado Springs and began shooting. He killed two teenage sisters, then himself. The church’s senior pastor, Brady Boyd, described for us how he later facilitated a meeting between the two sets of parents – of the sisters, and of the shooter–, all grieving the tragic deaths of their children. Apparently the meeting turned out to be very healing for all of them. I can only imagine the courage it took for these parents to meet, especially the parents of the sisters, David and Marie Works—David Works was himself seriously injured during the shooting. They truly pursued peace.

The other story of “pursuing peace” was told by Dr. Valery Shean, an American veterinarian who works in Uganda. She served two tribes that had been at war with each other for decades until she was able to help them make peace. But after about a year of peaceful co-existence, someone from one tribe murdered the leader of the other tribe, and Dr. Shean feared the tribes would resume their vengeful warfare. So she tracked the footprints of the murderer through the bush, to a hut in the other tribe’s village. She knew the young man was inside, and she demanded that he show himself; he refused. So Dr. Shean stayed outside of his hut for two days, pleading with him, and with God, for him to give himself up. She said she was lying prostrate on the ground, praying and fasting, until eventually the young man emerged and surrendered himself to the tribal elders. Justice was done, and the tribes once again live together peacefully.

Most of us will not be called to pursue peace in the wake of the murder of someone dear to us. But we have all been hurt or offended by people close to us. These examples demonstrate that it is possible, with God’s help, to “pursue peace.”

 

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