Sermon illustrations


How We Become Peacemakers

To become peacemakers, then, we must begin with ourselves. We must ask ourselves, “Why do I make cutting remarks to another person? Why do I make demeaning remarks about them?” We must also ask ourselves, “What causes my resentment toward that person?” or “Why do I continue to nurse hurts by that person instead of forgiving them? What is it that causes me to be envious or jealous of that person?” In order to even ask those questions, we have to admit that we have those attitudes. But because we know they are sinful, we tend to live in denial that we have them.

Jerry Bridges, The Blessing of Humility, The Navigators.

Jesus’ Brand of Peacemaking

Jesus’ brand of peacemaking is extensive. It embraces the breadth of humanity. But peacemaking is also intensive. The commands to love and pursue peace challenge us not only to resolve conflict but also to build accord, to humbly seek to rebuild trust and to make love deposits (or relational investments). To pursue peace is to work for in-depth harmony in the relationship.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.55 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Laundry Love

Greg and some of his friends from church were zealous to pursue the common good of their community, Ventura, California. Instead of coming up with their own ideas of how to do this, they started by listening to their neighbors. One day they were talking to a neighbor who happened to be homeless and asked him, “What would it look like for us to come alongside your life?” The man’s response was simple and honest, “If I had clean clothes, I think people would treat me as a human being.”

That comment sparked the peacemaker instinct inside Greg and his friends. We can help our neighbor clean his clothes, they thought. They knew that even clean clothes are a part of shalom. So they got some detergent and some quarters and helped their neighbor clean his clothes.

Word got out, and they began helping other people clean their clothes too. Their initial efforts at simple peacemaking sparked the peacemaker instincts inside other people and thus Laundry Love was born. Today the Laundry Love movement has spread to hundreds of locations across the country.

What’s it all about? “Laundry Love washes the clothes and bedding of low/no income families and person(s) across the US. We brighten the lives of thousands of people through love, dignity, and detergent by partnering with diverse groups and laundromats nationwide.” Greg and his friends (and now hundreds of people across the United States) are simply doing what Jeremiah and Peter remind us we are created and called to do: to pursue the common good of the place and people around us. They are making peace in their neighborhood.

Taken from The Hopeful Neighborhood: What Happens When Christians Pursue the Common Good by Don Everts Copyright (c) 2020 by Don Everts. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com


A One-Verse Peacemaking Manual

If I had to choose only one verse in the entire Bible to summarize what Jesus expects of peacemakers, it would be Romans 12:18. It’s concise and comprehensive—perfect for peacemaking dummies like me: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Notice how realistic Paul was about waging peace. The condition “if it is possible” acknowledges that it is not always possible to make peace.

Scripture is realistic about conflict and discord. Biblical peacemaking is neither sentimental nor naive. It addresses the harsh realities of brokenness and evil. (Check out the entire passage—Romans 12:17-21—to understand the full context of this important verse.) Even our most sincere efforts may fail. Peacemakers aren’t always peace achievers. This verse also affirms proactive peacemaking: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you . . .”

Since making peace involves at least two parties, reconciliation isn’t always possible. But the responsibility for taking steps toward peace always rests on us as individuals. We can’t ignore it, and we can’t wait for the other party to come to us. We are repeatedly commanded to take the initiative in pursuing peace ourselves.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.15 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

The Passing of the Peace

In the Anglican liturgy the passing of the peace comes after confession and absolution, on the heels of our reminder that we are forgiven. This too is no coincidence. Our forgiveness and reconciliation flow from Christ’s forgiveness of us.

Out of gratitude over the enormous debt our king has forgiven, we forgive our debtors. Receiving God’s gift of reconciliation enables us to give and receive reconciliation with those around us. In the end, God is the peacemaker. It is not simply “peace” that we pass to each other.

It is the peace of Christ, the peace of our peacemaker. Christ’s peace is never a cheap peace. It is never a peace that skims the surface or papers over the wrong that’s been done. It is not a peace that plays nicey-nice, denies hurt, or avoids conflict. It is never a peace that is insincere or ignores injustice. It’s a peace that is honest and hard-won, that speaks truth and seeks justice, that costs something, and that takes time. It is a peace that offers reconciliation.

Taken from Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life by Tish Harrison Warren. Copyright (c) 2016 by Tish Harrison Warren, p.175. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Peacemaking Begins With Us

Recently we found ourselves around a table with a team of faith leaders from an influential Midwestern church. Their restlessness was palpable. “Peace has been one of our core values for years,” they said, “but our community is saturated with conflict. It’s pervasive! Will you help us?” When we asked them to describe the implications of their dilemma, they spoke of a conflict-saturated staff culture, the inability to experience healthy disagreement among leaders and volunteers, the uptick of marriages and families within the church dissolving, and an inability to collaborate with other local churches to address local issues. 

The leaders went on to express their sense of helplessness as they watched issues of racism and injustice surge in their neighborhoods and armed conflicts accelerate around the world…At last, they disclosed just how far their church was from the reality of peace: “We’re experts at identifying, discussing, and gossiping about conflict, but ultimately, we choose to either ignore it, run away from it, or engage it violently.” As we dug in with this team, we asked them to consider how they were contributing to the conflicts in the church.

It was a risky question to ask a bunch of leaders who had spent more time diagnosing the problem then examining their own motives, intentions, and behavior…By meal’s end, they had begun the hard work of acknowledging how their pride and pursuit of power had created a culture of conflict in the congregation. They realized that if they wanted to become an embodiment of peace in their city, they first needed to confront their own pride, repent of it, and begin moving through rather than around the conflicts that existed within the family.

Jon Huckins & Jer Swigart, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World, InterVarsity Press.

Peace Keeping vs. Peacemaking

Peacekeepers are conflict avoiders, sweeping important issues under the carpet so no conflict manifests itself. This often happens in families and churches. This also happens between alienated ethnic groups and countries. Peacekeepers separate two parties in order to prevent conflict and thereby keep the peace. Temporary separation for the sake of de-escalation is a valid step in the process of peacemaking during a war and in a radically broken marriage or relationship.

When tensions or emotions run high, we need outside help to keep us from explosive reactions. Peacekeeping is peace faking. It is a forced peace; it is a false peace. And God does not like false peace. “They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially, Saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ But there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14 NASB; see also Jeremiah 8:11; Ezekiel 13:10). True peace is not just the absence of conflict but the presence of harmony.

And so peacemakers sometimes need to be peace disturbers. They need to shake things up, expose hidden heart issues or confront barriers to harmony. The Prince of Peace certainly disturbed the peace of the Pharisees more than once. Jesus relentlessly challenged them about their attitudes of superiority and judgment—two mindsets that divide rather than unite people.

Moreover, Jesus said they did not have the love of God in their hearts (John 5:42). He knew that the motivating power of God’s love was lacking in the Pharisees and would undermine harmony in relationships. Martin Luther King Jr. had to do a lot of peace disturbing in the peacemaking effort we call the civil rights movement. King boldly and lovingly addressed the hypocrisy, prejudice and injustices perpetrated by the white establishment against African Americans. But he wasn’t just trying to overthrow white supremacy. He sought reconciliation between these two groups. Before there could be peace, the status quo had to be disturbed.

Taken from Peace Catalysts: Resolving Conflict in Our Families, Organizations, and Communities by Rick Love Copyright (c) 2014 p.42 by Rick Love. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

Peace Takes Time

In this short excerpt, noted Christian ethicist Stanley Hauerwas describes the integral link between peace and time:

Peace takes time. Put even more strongly, peace creates time by its steadfast refusal to force the other to submit in the name of order. Peace is not a static state but an activity which requires constant attention and care. An activity by its very nature takes place over time.

In fact, activity creates time, as we know how to characterize duration only by noting that we did this first, and then this second, and so on, until we’ve either gotten somewhere or accomplished this or that task. So peace is the process through which we make time our own rather than be determined by “events over which, it is alleged, we have no control.”

Taken from Christian Existence Today: Essays on Church, World, and Living In Between, Brazos, pp.253-66.

Scars Tell Beautiful Stories

In their excellent book, Mending the Divides, Jon Huckins and Jer Swigart describe a Japanese Pottery tradition that articulates the power of peace and reconciliation:

When we speak of peace, we can call to mind the ancient Japanese pottery tradition called Kintsugi. With this technique, a clay vessel is broken and then put back together, but not in its original form.

Instead the restoration process involves the use of pure gold to mend the divides and heal the fissures. The broken vessel is put back together in such a way that it is stronger and more beautiful than before it was broken. In Kintsugi, the scars tell beautiful stories of healing and restoration rather than painful stories of destruction.

Jon Huckins & Jer Swigart, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World, InterVarsity Press.

Solving the World’s Problems

Warren Robinson Austin was an American politician and diplomat serving both in the U.S. Senate and the United Nations as a U.S. ambassador. During a debate, Austin was asked how he would approach the conflict in the Middle East, specifically between Jew and Arabs. Austin’s advice was simple: sit them down and have them settle their differences “like good Christians.”

Stuart Strachan, Source Material from Clifton Fadiman, Bartlett’s Book of Anecdotes.

Starting with our Closest Relationships

The place to begin peacemaking is in our closest relationships. Jesus said,

“If … your brother or sister has something against you, [drop what you are doing] …. [G]o and be reconciled to them.” How do I know if I need to make peace? One familiar

sign is what I like to call the ugh in my stomach. When a certain person walks into the room or their name comes up in a conversation, I instantly feel a tightening in my stomach.

Some people feel this in their head or chest. Our bodies alert us to relational tensions. If we ignore these signals, it can lead to further conflict and potential violence. When you sense tension in a relationship but aren’t sure why, you can always ask, “Are we

okay? Did I do something to offend you?”

Taken from The Ninefold Path of Jesus: Hidden Wisdom of the Beatitudes by Mark Scandrette Copyright (c) 2021 by Mark Scandrette. Published by InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL. www.ivpress.com

See also Illustrations on The Beatitudes, Peace, Reconciliation