This week we are continuing the sermon series that we began last week--a three-part series entitled, "Bless This Home: Lessons for Families from Jesus."
And we're focusing primarily on three verses--all of which are found in the Beatitudes, the very beginning of Jesus' Sermon on the Mount from Matthew chapter 5.
In the first installment of this series we talked about how there is a difference between saying that you have a "Christian" home as opposed to having a "Christ-centered" home--a difference that is highlighted in the things that we long for in our homes.
Matthew 5:6 reads, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness for they will be filled." We determined that righteousness--which is a shorthand way of saying a "right relationship with God"--is always on the menu in a Christ-centered home. In a Christ-centered home the things of God are lifted higher than anything else. The family in a Christ-centered home longs for the world to be as God would have it.
Today we're going to be exploring the following seriously awesome and life-changing truth: A Christ-Centered Home Is A Space for Peacemakers.
In Matthew 5:9 we have the following verse, which will guide us today: "Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God."
Listen, there are so many things that can mess up the peace in your family, but I think improper texting is pretty high up on the list. Consider these few moments between parents and children:
|That moment when technology claims another Baby Boomer victim|
|This Dad needs to win Father of the Year|
|Dad apparently thinks his kid has some sort of chip planted in his brain where he gets text messages even when his phone is no where near him.|
|I probably shouldn't have included this one, but...|
|Classic moment when the Rosetta Stone module on texting abbreviations would have come in handy.|
So here's the thing--a lack of peace in your home can be exacerbated by things as simple as misunderstandings caused by improper texting, which by now you realize isn't as big of a deal as I made it out to be earlier---or it can be something a bit more serious...
When a home is not a place or space of peace, it quickly becomes a space for conflict where bad feelings, anger, frustration, angst, doubt, fear and a host of other issues manifest themselves in all kinds of unhealthy ways.
In short, it becomes dysfunctional.
So, what causes these peace-killing conflicts? We talked about some of them last week, but they bear repeating: Marital Problems, Lack of a Father Figure, Financial Problems, Busyness, Lack of Communication, Negative Cultural Influences... You can also add to that Addiction and Infidelity, which could be argued are symptoms of those bigger problems.
And even though we hear the words of Jesus about how we are supposed to be peacemakers we seem to insist on being peacekeepers instead.
You might very well ask at this point, "What's the difference between being a peacemaker and a peacekeeper, Leon? Aren't they kind of the same thing?"
As it turns out--they aren't even close.
Peacekeepers avoid conflict to keep the peace. And they do it in a variety of ways that are familiar to all of us.
I read somewhere that peacekeepers take on the form of four different kind of "children" in a family system. And I know this is not news to most of us either, but when I say "children" I don't just mean the actual children, but anyone who sort of falls in that role in the family system. Sometimes parents can act more like children than their children...
To begin, there's the Responsible Child, who tries to keep the peace and fix the disharmony by achieving. They think if they can just do better, do more, be excellent... that it will make everything better.
There's the Rebellious Child who tries to keep the peace and fix the disharmony by acting out. They become the focal point of the families negative attention so that no one really has to focus on the actual causes to the lack of peace.
Then there's the Reclusive Child who tries to keep the peace by ignoring the lack of it. They believe that talking through issues, confronting them and trying to solve them out in the open is more painful than putting their head in the sand.
Finally there's the Reprobate Child, who tries to keep the peace by being the clown in the family--never letting things get serious or real. This person believes that laughter is the best medicine, especially if laughter means avoidance.
Like I said, Peacekeepers avoid conflict to keep the peace.
But Peacemakers embrace conflict to keep the peace. They aren't afraid to wade into the moment of conflict and to speak grace and peace into it. They aren't afraid to admit they might be the cause of the disharmony. They don't keep score.
In Romans 12 we find a thumbnail sketch of what it means to be this kind of person--the true Peacemaker:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible as far as it depends on you, be at peace with everyone. Do not be overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.From this short passage of Scripture we can see what Peacemakers do that Peacekeepers do not...
First, they tell the truth in love. The Apostle Paul once wrote, "But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ," - Ephesians 4:15 Lots of Christian-y people love to quote this verse. The only problem is they would rather leave off the "in love" part of the "speaking the truth." If your truth isn't spoken in love, it will serve only to create more conflict.
Second, peacemakers apologize when they are wrong. In the book of James we find this, "Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of the righteous is powerful and effective." - James 5:16 I have known far too many people who operate under the assumption that they own no part in whatever conflict is going on in their family's lack of peace--and they refuse to apologize. A peace-filled home is one where saying your sorry is the beginning of grace and growth.
Third, peacemakers forgive and let it go. In Paul's letter to the Colossians we find this: "Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." - Colossians 3:13 The key part of this verse is "as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." It's easy in the midst of family conflict, especially when we aren't the primary cause of it to grow bitter and intractable---and to forget how unbelievably forgiven we are by a God who gave up everything in order to redeem us.
To that last point--which is perhaps the most important--Jesus told a parable about a servant whose master forgave him the equivalent of millions of dollars in debt--debt that he had no way of ever repaying, and which would have landed him in prison. No sooner than this guy was forgiven, he went out and strong-armed a fellow servant who owed him like five bucks. When the master found about it---he threw the ungrateful servant in prison.
Acknowledging our own brokenness and healing in Christ should always bring us to our knees in humility.
When we make this part of our life---when we seek to be peacemakers rather than simply peacekeepers--amazing things can happen. Like me, you might have a moment when you realize the implications of this kind of shift for your family.
You see, when you cultivate a home full of peacemakers, the result is a peace-filled home.
The other night, I lost my peace and I lost my temper. It had been a long day filled with chores, work, errands and a host of other things that left my wife and I feeling pretty worn out. I had been feeling pretty stressed about a number of things, decisions that I had to make, and some that were being made for me--all of which left me feeling tense.
But still things needed to be done. The kitchen needed cleaning, our littlest boy needed a bath and his night-nights on...
My wife volunteered to handle the littlest boy, and I got the kitchen duty. As I stood in the kitchen trying pick up the dirty dishes and do my part---I suddenly realized something: My two older boys were both playing video games in the next room. A feeling washed over me that was more than just righteous indignation.
I went into the room where they were happily blowing things up on the TV screen and began to let them have it. They were lazy, they were ungrateful, they actually had the stones to let their middle-aged, tired parents deal with the aftermath of toys, books, shoes, dishes and the like that were strewn all over the house...
Then my wife had the misfortune of walking into the moment of my ire along with my littlest boy--who was now squeaky clean and wearing his superman peejays. Everyone was stunned at how upset I was. Heck, I was, too. It felt like another person was saying all of the mean things that were coming out of my mouth.
Finally, my wife said, "Honey, we all know that you are stressed. We get it. We love you. But you don't have to take it out on us. We love you." Then my littlest boy hugged my leg and said, "Yeah, we love you Daddy." My older boys grinned at me. "It's okay, Dad. We love you."
We had a group hug. The peace of Christ washed over me like the forgiveness and grace my family had given me. I told everyone how sorry I was, and how much I loved them.
I realized then that because my wife and I have done our best to cultivate a house full of peacemakers--we more often than not have a peace-filled house. Like I said last week, we fail as often or more times than we succeed---but in the words of the great theologian Richard Rohr, we are "falling upward." We are stumbling after Jesus---in the right direction.
Because a Christ-centered home is a space for peacemakers.