I am a peace-keeper. Or, some might say, a peace-faker. I avoid conflict. I can sense tension in a room. I am always tempted to steer conversations away from hot button topics.
So the premise of Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World seemed counterintuitive to me at first, but eventually made a convicting sort of sense: if we love peace and want to see more of it in the world, we must move towards conflict.
Instead of “saying ‘Peace!’ where there is no peace” (Ezekiel 13:10), Huckins and Swigert invite us to recognize “peacemaking as God’s mission” and embrace our “vocation of everyday peacemaking,” which is “the adventure we have been saved into” (p. 50).
Peacemaking means seeing “the other” and “the enemy” as people, as equals, and as people God loves. This book calls us to pursue peace in interpersonal relationships, in our local environments, and internationally.
We are invited to consider that “Isolating ourselves from difference and disagreement doesn’t reflect a strong faith but a fragile one….When we move toward people who are ‘different’ from us, it doesn’t compromise our faith; it reflects the very best of it” (p. 89).
Peacemakers can effectively “contend” for peace only after engaging in a crucial time of “immersing ourselves in the role of learners rather than heroes,” which will require us “to linger, be present day in and day out, and listen longer than seems comfortable” and to “intentionally displace ourselves so we have the eyes to see the people and places we have been taught not to see (p. 92).
This book made me uncomfortable in two ways: one negative and one positive. On the negative side, I was uncomfortable with the the authors’ emphasis on joining God in ushering in his redemption on earth without spending much time on the ultimate redemption that will come at the return of our King.
It is certainly true and glorious that our work of peacemaking on this earth creates signposts that point to the ultimate peace that is coming, but I am concerned that such a primary focus on change coming on earth (without also encouraging us to lift our eyes in hope towards the returning Redeemer) might discourage welcomers who are engaged in difficult ministry in which change is slow and when one thing gets fixed another gets broken and people are complicated and our contributions seem like a drop in the bucket. This earthly emphasis could easily lead to early burnout.
The fact that this world is fallen and creation is groaning resonates with and actually encourages me as a welcomer because I myself am a sojourner here and I’m on pilgrimage here towards my True Home, inviting others to walk with me on this journey on the broken road. I’m not called to fix everything permanently in this life, but I am invited to create a foretaste of the beautiful redemption that is coming.
The book also made me uncomfortable in a positive way, calling me out of comfort and into the adventure of co-laboring with God (1 Corinthians 3:9). The authors do not wear rose-colored glasses, but encourage us to see as God sees: “There is nothing convenient about peacemaking. It is not fun nor easy, and it rarely fits into our hectic lives. [But] when we become slaves to convenience, we miss out on joining God in his best work” (p. 128).
Recommended for welcomers who want to “join God in his best work” in peacemaking interpersonally, locally, and internationally, and who already have a solid grasp of the fallenness of the world and hope of a returning Redeemer.