Peaceful Agitators

To be Christian means learning to live within the tension. The kingdom of heaven is already here, but not yet fully. We long for heaven, but live on earth. Death has been defeated, but we still feel its sting. Against all hope, in hope we believe.

But today I want to talk about another, more pressing tension: to be a peacemakers usually means stirring up trouble.

I often feel caught between the words of St Francis and Martin Luther King. I feel the healing pull of St. Francis words, “Lord, make me an instrument of peace. Where there is hatred, let me so love.” These words resonate deep in my bones–this is the life I want to live. These words pull on me to slow down, open my eyes, and see the conflict around me. Their insistent tugging compels me to listen longer than feels comfortable, immerse myself in discord, and speak with kindness, gentleness, and love when everyone else is screaming.

But on the other hand, the words of Martin Luther King Jr are seared into my soul, “I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” These words convict my passivity and light a fire in my heart–they seem to tug me away from “gentle” towards “fierce.” King’s words yank me out of my comfort to confront the realities of systemic cycles of inequality, drag me into contending for the marginalized, rip away my stupor to help restore justice, listen to my enemies, and participate in healing communities’ wounds.

(I’ve borrowed concepts from The Global Immersion Project in the above paragraphs).

And so I wrestle. Do I follow the gentle kindness of the universally-loved St. Francis, or the agitator, the despised-in-his-time-as-a-troublemaker King?

But (once again) the more I study Jesus, the more I realize I’m asking the wrong question. If these two seem like opposites, it’s only because I lack a kingdom-sized imagination. St. Francis was also an agitator. Martin Luther King Jr’s nonviolence embodied gentleness. History shows us that all true peacemakers don’t choose; they embody both.

Peacemakers foster unity, grace, and cooperation. Peacemakers make people feel safe.

Peacemakers challenge the status quo, disrupt, and agitate. Peacemakers make people feel uncomfortable.

To be Christian means learning to live within the tension of both/and.  Jesus’ call to be peacemakers compels us to survey our lives—are we sowing peace amidst discord, or are we simply avoiding conflict? Are we pursuing a just peace, or are we just picking a fight?  If you will allow me to be vulnerable, as I ask myself these questions, I am convicted by the realization that I drift too much towards contending.. I realize I need to balance the prophetic with the pastoral, the fierce with the gentle.

How about you?

May we all follow in the footsteps of both St. Francis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, and together may we pray:

Lord, make us an instrument of Your peace.
May we go to where there in injustice.
Where there is hatred, let us sow love.
Where there is merely absence of conflict, may we bring the presence of justice.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where others say “wait,” may we say “now.”
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where others have lost faith, may we inspire faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is a dark mountain of disappointment, may we carve a tunnel of hope
Where there is darkness, light.
Where others hide tension in the darkness, may we shine the light of truth.
Where there is sadness, joy.
Where there is violence, nonviolence.

O divine master grant that we may
not so much seek to be consoled as to console
to be understood as to understand
To be loved as to love
For it is in giving that we receive
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned
And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life

May we be peacemakers.


About Tim Owens

I'm a husband, father, and Christ follower. I also live in Albany, NY, where I work as a pastor.
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