Bio: Carolyn S. Byars, MDiv, is a graduate of Howard University School of Divinity. She is the author of “Is American Christianity Antichrist?” and established Authentic Christian Life Ministry (https://authentic-christianity.life) to promote the good news of Jesus Christ that offers EVERYONE His gift of salvation and empowers us to overcome the evils of the world system.
It is human nature to react to terrorist attacks with anger, rage, and determination to seek revenge. However, peace can never be achieved by retaliating to terrorism with counter-terrorism. I appreciate President Biden for cautioning Israel’s leadership after the terroristic attack against Israel by Hamas to not make the same mistakes the US made in reacting to the 9/11 terrorist attacks against the US. However, I do not agree with the stance of the US along with many other nations who have declared “We stand with Israel”. Instead, we should be standing for the innocent victims both in Israel and Gaza. Instead of providing military support to Israel we should be providing humanitarian support and protection for the civilians of Israel and Gaza and insisting upon a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. I agree with the statement by UN Secretary-General Guterres that “the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.” Retaliation only leads to collateral damage against the innocent!
As a follower of Jesus Christ, I know for a fact that God affirms and values every human being and He does not value any people group over all others. I learned from Jesus’ teachings that no one is excluded from God’s loving-kindness, grace, and mercy (John 3:16-17). I also believe what Jesus spoke in His Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew 5:9 “Blessed [spiritually calm with life-joy in God’s favor] are the makers and maintainers of peace, for they will [express His character and] be called the sons of God.” (AMP)
You may ask, “How can I be a peacemaker? Isn’t maintaining peace the responsibility of our government leaders, police officers, and military forces?” Let me make it very clear, the world system is not capable of establishing and maintaining peace. War and conflict have been happening somewhere in the world constantly since the beginning of time. However, every follower of Jesus, who is the Prince of Peace, has been empowered by His love to be a peacemaker.
So, what can we do to make peace? First of all, Jesus instructed us to love our neighbor the same way we love ourselves (Mark 12:33). This is the foundation of peacemaking. Treating our family, friends, strangers, and enemies the way we want to be treated sets us up for peaceful relationships. Jesus said the only way others will be drawn to Him is by the way we treat them. Over and over, we read in the Gospels how Jesus was moved with compassion and went about doing good. People were drawn to Him because He was kind and caring. When Christians interact with others, we should have the same impact that Jesus had on the people He encountered. Peacemaking is accomplished simply by being kind to the people we come in contact with during our daily routines.
Another instruction on how to be a peacemaker is provided in Hebrews 12:14, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone.” I must admit that living in peace in a hostile world is challenging. Jesus was constantly harassed by the religious leaders but He refused to get sucked into their madness. He never defended Himself or engaged in debates with His detractors. Even when He was unjustly arrested, persecuted, and crucified for a crime He never committed He never said a mumbling word. I learned from His excellent example how I should respond when I encounter conflict with anyone. We all have friends and family members who are prone to argue and lash out when things don’t go their way. But it is futile to try to reason with individuals when they are angry and filled with rage. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Rather than going tit-for-tat, quietly listen to them, quickly end the conversation with a gentle word, remove yourself from their presence, and pray for them in private.
In the 14th chapter of the Gospel of John Jesus was preparing the disciples for His ascension back to Heaven. In verse 27 He said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Jesus cautioned them that, “The world cannot give you peace, but I can.” He explained they had no reason to be afraid because the peace He offered would protect their heart and keep them safe. Indeed, being in the arms of God is the safest place to be and Jesus left us His peace so that we can be peacemakers in the midst of this hostile world.
One concept I find common in most religions, including Christianity, is their claim to an exclusive connection to God. Christianity and every other religion have their own sacred text that validates their beliefs and claims to be the only means to know God. However, religious dogma has been used continuously to perpetuate hate, discrimination, discord, wars, and genocide among and between people groups since the beginning of time. This is the reason Israel and the Palestinians are at war today!
I learned from my studies of Christian history that a long list of atrocities against humankind has been perpetrated in the name of Christianity. However, not one of these actions reflected the love and humility of Jesus Christ. Many Christians express their desire to travel to the Holy Land of Israel and I participated in such a pilgrimage in 1999. It was fascinating to visit the many historical sights of Jesus’ ministry. Although Jerusalem is supposedly the “city of peace” I did not sense any peace in a city where there were armed militia posted at every site we visited in Jerusalem. I am so glad to know that God’s presence is not limited to the land of Israel and I have no desire to return to Jerusalem again until the New Jerusalem of Revelations 21:2-4 is presented:
2I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.
Keep in mind that being a peacemaker does not require the use of guns or any other artillery. Blessed peacemakers understand that sharing the love of Jesus is our most effective and powerful weapon against the stranglehold of hate in this world. Amen!