In This Issue:
+ His Peace: Unlike Any Other Offer of Peace
+ Saving Face and Saving Grace: My Peacemaking Experience in Taiwan
+ Competition or Community? A Story of Peacemaking in Papua New Guinea
+ Protecting Ourselves is the Most Dangerous Course of Action
HIS PEACE: UNLIKE ANY OTHER OFFER OF PEACE
by Molly Routson, Assistant to the Director of International Ministries
Peace. It’s a natural human desire: we all desire peace because nobody wants to live an unsettled life, uncertain where you stand with God, with other people, and with the world around you.
Promises of peace. We also live in a world where a myriad of philosophies, advertisements and other allurements promise us peace. But Jesus tells us that his peace is unique. In the midst of calming the disciples’ fears about their own uncertain future that would follow his death, resurrection and ascension, Jesus pauses to remind them that true peace is possible, but it’s only possible through him. “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” (John 14:27).
This issue of Peace on Earth shares three stories of peace that highlight this contrast: that the peace Jesus offers is unlike any other offer of peace. Talking about peacemaking is especially challenging when we move outside of our own culture – the world’s promise of peace can look very different in one culture than it does in another. But regardless of culture, Jesus’ peace is a peace that penetrates into the core of who we are, changing us from the inside out, and eventually changing our world in the same way. We hope that, by reading these stories, you will be encouraged to grow, both in your own identity as a follower of the Prince of Peace, and in your ministry to other people–across a variety of boundary lines–who need to hear this offer of peace, which is so unlike any other.
SAVING FACE AND SAVING GRACE: MY PEACEMAKING EXPERIENCE IN TAIWAN
by Ken Sande, President of Peacemaker Ministries
A dear friend of mine has a medical condition that causes the buildup of toxins in her body. As these toxins accumulate, her ability to carry on normally declines. She is weighed down with constant pain and fatigue. After several months it gets so bad that she has to undergo a treatment that purges the poisonous buildup. I marvel at the difference before and after treatment, for the purge restores not only her body, but also her mind and spirit. For several months she is pain-free again and able to do things that would otherwise not be possible. Then, the cycle begins again.
In a similar way, toxins can accumulate in our relationships. Frustration, anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness slowly accrue over months or years, poisoning marriages and friendships. If not purged of these toxins, the results are bitter memories, superficial relationships, broken homes, and divided churches. But if we bring our troubled relationships to God and take hold of the gospel of Christ, the Holy Spirit works in our hearts to purge them of this poisonous buildup. Instead of division and pain, we can experience reconciliation and peace, as the Holy Spirit transforms our hearts and mends our connections to others.
The key to healing is submitting our conflicts to God and asking for his Spirit to transform our hearts and lives. Too often, we fail to do this. Sometimes our failure is the result of pride or ignorance. But, as I learned on my recent trip to Taiwan, sometimes that failure is due to strong cultural pressures within the church to avoid conflict altogether.
Like the rest of us, Taiwanese struggle with relational conflict. It infects families, churches and businesses as much in Taiwan as in the United States or any other country I’ve visited. However, in Taiwan and, more generally throughout Asia, there is an added factor…the strong, cultural priority of “saving face.”
I’m hardly an expert on Asian cultures, but I did learn that Taiwanese do not easily approach others to confess wrongdoing or to offer correction, because to do so might cause dishonor or shame, that is, a loss of face. Many new Taiwanese friends told me that they themselves struggle with this tradition. As a result, although they rejoice in their vertical reconciliation with God through Christ, they rarely experience that same kind of reconciliation on the horizontal dimension — with spouses, children, parents, neighbors, co-workers, and other church members.
The concept of preserving honor and avoiding shame is hardly new. As early as Genesis 3, we read how Adam and Eve, having eaten the fruit, realized they were naked and sewed fig leaves together to make coverings for themselves. Shame and the desire to save face and preserve honor entered the world and have plagued all of us ever since.
As an American and a cultural Westerner, I tend to think of honor and shame largely as a matter of preserving my individual dignity and pride. But, if I am beginning to understand saving face correctly, for Taiwanese it is much more complicated than this. Honor, shame, and saving face are part of a larger social quilt that includes networks of relationships and a high social priority for maintaining communal harmony. When I admit wrong, it is not just me who loses face. I also bring shame on my family, the groups in which I live, even my country. As a result, Taiwanese experience tremendous pressure to cover over offenses and avoid confrontation. While surface harmony may be maintained, genuine reconciliation and restoration rarely take place.
Like many cultural practices worldwide, preserving a person’s honor and avoiding shame contain important elements of biblical truth. We are made in the image of God. Therefore, every person possesses an inherent dignity. Moreover, Scripture calls us to respect and care for one another, counseling us to treat one another with the same kindness and compassion with which the Lord treats us.
But this call is balanced by the broader understanding that biblical love and compassion also require us to confess our sins to one another (James 5:16), to be reconciled with those who may have something against us (Matt. 5:23-24), to gently admonish those who are caught in sinful habits (Gal. 6:1), and even to involve the church in seeking to restore someone who will not listen to our individual appeal (Matt. 18:12-20). This is never easy, not for Americans and or for Taiwanese. The question all of us must answer is “How can I be biblically authentic, but also relationally and culturally wise?”
Fortunately, Scripture provides us with a wealth of wise and effective guidance. We are to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and “build others up according to their needs” (Eph. 4:29). Our attitude should be the same as that of Jesus himself, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7). We are, Jesus told the teacher of the law in Mark 12:30-31, to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength and our neighbor as ourselves.
But, knowing what the Bible says is not enough. Time and effort will be needed to work all this through in Taiwan, just as it is required in so many other places around the world, including my own country. This ought to be deeply pondered and the place it should be pondered most fully is in the Taiwanese church. It is in and through the local church, I believe, that God intends to redeem and shape culture and society, so that our relationships, especially among believers, are characterized by the same peace that we experience with our Father through the death and resurrection of his Son.
I was privileged to hear of this beginning to happen on a small scale at a dinner after the conference. I sat next to Mary, a charming Taiwanese businesswoman who had attended both days of our presentation. She told me that she had been so excited by what she had learned about biblical peacemaking that she rushed home with a copy of the new Mandarin translation of The Peacemaker and gave it to her husband. “You’ve got to read this,” she told him.
“I don’t have time,” her husband replied, “I’m way too busy.”
Mary persisted. “But, you’ve got to,” she said, “it’s life changing.”
“I said I don’t have time,” he told her again. “Don’t bother me with it.”
At this point, Mary told me, the argument would have escalated–over peacemaking, of all things–and would have ended with each retreating to their corners, wounded, with no place to go, no way to work through the hurts they had inflicted on each other.
This time, however, Mary did something different. Remembering what she had learned at the conference, she changed course and said, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have pushed you. I can see you are busy and you don’t have time. Please forgive me.”
Mary had never expected what happened next. Rather than brush off her apology, a tear came to her husband’s eye. “Yes, I forgive you,” he told her, then apologized for his own behavior. It was the first time in their long married life that confession and forgiveness had occurred. In that moment, they began to experience the grace of God as he gently helped them release the buildup of relational poison and bring healing and restoration.
Mary’s experience, I think, gives all of us hope. We are all trapped by sin in one way or another. Jesus came to show us that it doesn’t have to be that way. He promised that the truth would set us free. Just as proper care and treatment free my friend from pain, so godly tending of our relationships can free us from the pain of separation and brokenness. And this is good news for all us, whether we are Taiwanese, or American, or members of any of thousands of other people groups that grace our world.
COMPETITION OR COMMUNITY? A STORY OF PEACEMAKING IN PAPUA NEW GUINEA
by Molly Routson, Assistant to the Director of International Ministries
Who gets the building when a church splits? What if it wasn’t their building to begin with–who has the right to continue using the facility? Two churches in Papua New Guinea recently faced this very dilemma, and the pastors were gridlocked in conflict as they tried to protect their congregations’ rights to the building. But with the help of peacemaker Mick Bandy, these pastors learned to channel their leadership energies toward a peaceful solution that would model God’s reconciling power for their congregations and their community.
When Pastor Paul and more than half of the congregation of the Papua New Guinea Bible Church broke off to form a new church, they wished to continue holding their services in the community’s meetinghouse. However, their plans for using the hall competed with Pastor Michael and the original congregation’s plans for the same space. Eventually, their disagreements became so heated that they erupted into verbal and physical violence, and the frustrated village leaders closed the meetinghouse completely.
Both sides recognized the damaging impact that their conflict was having on their Christian witness and on their own congregations, but they had reached a point where neither wanted to concede to the other. And so the meetinghouse remained closed until missionary Mick Bandy offered to try to help them work out an agreement.
PROTECTING OURSELVES IS THE MOST DANGEROUS COURSE OF ACTION
Since the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech, a spotlight has been turned on the Korean American community, and many people are carefully evaluating their response. In this article, the Rev. Eric Foley discusses different ways that the Korean community can respond to the recent shooting at Virginia Tech. He calls upon his brothers and sisters in the Korean American church to respond in a peacemaking way — a way that goes against the grain of our natural human impulses: “If Koreans follow the recent example of how the Amish responded to a shooting tragedy, we can change Americans’ opinions of Koreans.”
Peace on Earth is a quarterly e-publication of Peacemaker Ministries (http://peacemaker.net). All Rights Reserved.
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