Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Are You a Peacemaker?

In Genesis 21:22-34, we see a much different Abraham. We see an Abraham that is confident in his faith, an Abraham who no longer deceives to achieve the ends God would have for him, and an Abraham who would rather make peace than go to war. And why shouldn't he be that way? Isaac, the child of promise, has been born. There is no longer any lingering doubt or uncertainty wrapped up in how the promises of God are going to come about. The threats to the promises have been removed, painful as it was. Hagar and Ishmael were sent away.

Given an opportunity to reclaim his reputation, Abraham is offered a treaty of peace from neighboring Abimelech. This is the same Abimelech from chapter twenty, the Abimelech Abraham deceived. It is interesting to note that the two key things Abimemelch knows about Abraham is that "God is with him" and that Abraham has dealt falsely in the past.

However, after the oaths are taken, Abraham discovers that Abimelech has dealt falsely with him. The army of Abimelech has seized control of Abraham's wells. Even today, water is a precious commodity in the ancient near east. This is a justifiable offense in that Abraham ought to go to war; he should go to war. However, Abraham, having met this Everlasting God (verse thirty-three), rather makes peace with Abimelech instead of going to war.

When you are offended by someone, is it your custom to go to war rather than make peace? Abraham had a formidable army; chapter fourteen showed us that. Abraham probably could have overwhelmed Abimelech's army (it is telling that the commander of Abimelech's army attended the ratification of their peace agreement in verse twenty-two). Abraham reflects the character of God in that when he was justified in making war, he chose to make peace instead.

(Taken from my sermon, A Good Neighbor, preached this past Sunday night)


Karma Shuford said...

I have several thoughts about this topic and subsequent applications, but they are all loose in my head right now. As soon as I can corral them into some kind of order, I will "respond."

Bernard Shuford said...

Good post. All my blogging thoughts are on hold due to limited typing ability.... waaaaah.

Tony said...

Y'all (youns) take your time. :-)

Karma Shuford said...

My first thought was of the difference between a peacemaker and a peaceKEEPER. Keeping the peace is much like you described. Just because I CAN argue/fight/scratch about it doesn't mean I need to or even should. Being a peacemaker can be a bit trickier. Sometimes, they have to address the conflict and "air it" (especially if it is in the form of "murmuring" or an undercurrent) in order to get to a peaceful end.

Don't know that it is really relevant to what you posted, but anytime I see "peacemaker" I'm also reminded of a "peacekeeper."

part ii forthcoming

Karma Shuford said...

second thought -- you mentioned that "Abraham had dealt falsely in the past."

To me, personally, if someone wrongs me, I am a lot slower to take up arms if I have wronged them in the past.

I have a third thought, but I guess i need to get some work done.
back later

Tony said...


Necessary disclaimer: What I have posted is only an excerpt of the message.

Part I: Oh yes, there is a necessary distinction between a peacemaker and a peace keeper. I did make that distinction in the course of the message and that Abraham, who would have been justified in mounting an attack against Abimelech (which is why Phicol was there during the proceedings) chose to make peace (by the covenant and the presentation of the seven ewe lambs) instead of going to battle.

Abraham knew he had no leg to stand on and Abimelech's entreaty for peace was not just a good thing, but a necessary thing, if they were going to live in the same land (verse thirty-four).

My take on this passage is that Abraham finally "gets it;" meaning he finally understands who he is supposed to be in the Lord, that God is faithful, and Abraham need not connive or manipulate in order to bring about what God has promised. God can do it on his own WITHOUT Abraham's help!

Part II: I think that is one reason why Abraham so readily accepted Abimelech's plea for peace. A more valid reason is because since Abraham is finally "getting it," his faith is now firmly planted in God (represented by the tamarisk tree he plants in verse thirty-three) and he sees that he can accomplish nothing apart from God.

Incidentally, the nature of the covenant they make with one another is the SAME type of covenant God makes with Abraham in Genesis 15. In Genesis 15 only God passed through the pieces of the sacrifice, meaning the obligation to keep the covenant rested on God's shoulders alone; however, in this passage, both parties pass through the pieces. In effect, what they are saying to one another is, "May I become like this sacrifice (dismembered) if I break this covenant."

Anxiously awaiting Part III. :)

Karma Shuford said...

Yea, I figured (hoped) there was more to the sermon than that. That would take, what, a minute to deliver?

Part IIIa.
Just because we *can* wage war doesn't me we have to, or even should.

Now, it is not my place or responsibility to wage war. I could send a letter to the president/leader of another country and declare war, but would probably be labeled a fruitcake (and justifiably so). BUT, people wage war every day.

If someone "trespasses against me," our legal system is set up that I can seek recompense from the offending party. It is accepted, and even encouraged because I am fully within my "rights" to do so.

In our world, and it seems especially in the US, if someone exercises, or tries to exercises, his "rights" and it limits my freedom, I am encouraged to stand up and fight.

I understand this mentality, truly I do. I've grown up hearing it and seeing it. I've even participated. But, as I get older, I'm seeing that if I am truly surrendered to Christ, it is not MY rights that I am to be concerned with, but rather what Christ wants from me. To exercise my rights at the cost of someone else's being diminished seems the epitome of arrogance to me.

Which leads to part IIIb.
And this is the part that I sometimes clash with other Christians about. (irony alert)

Just because we *can* protest and defend our rights, does that mean we should?

To me, that is the accepted way of the world and the way encouraged by the world. The exception is to say, "I was wronged unjustifiably, but I forgive you," and then go on.

We tend to say, "I am a Christian so therefore I do not partake of [insert activity here] because it is of the world." or "I am in the world, but I am not of the world, so I will not [insert activity]."

I suppose that could be part of how we keep ourselves separate, but frankly it is a slippery slope to legalism and Christian snobbery.

We need to ACT different than the world ACTS, and not based upon just a list of dos and donts, but rather on a basic philosophy that is based on Biblical teachings.

This story is a good example. Abraham *could* have waged war, and he didn't. This made him different.

As Christians, we *could* 'wage war' by bringing litigation, "taking a stand," etc. but when we don't, and we explain why we don't, we are different from the world.

The world wants something that is different and something that is real. As Christians, we have a golden opportunity to show that we are different. Unfortunately, it seems that many times we choose not to take it.

Tony said...

That little snippet would have taken about forty-five seconds to deliver.

Paul addressed that whole scenario of Part IIIa in 1 Corinthians 6. His conclusion was the same as yours. :)

Sure, I have that opportunity. But it is the classic is/ought problem. Just because a certain thing IS a certain way does not mean it OUGHT to be that way. Just becasue I can sue someone doesn't mean I should.

Paul concludes that to exercise a right to the detriment of the rights of one of the brethren is not arrogance but rather, it is shameful.

I grew up taught the exact opposite of that mentality. I was taught you should get what is coming to you--that attitude of entitlement. Being conformed to the image of Christ in that regard is devilishly hard. If I am wronged, all that is in me rises up and screams, "JUSTICE!"

Part IIIb...Jesus taught us this as well; forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors...

Abraham was justified in going to war and I think Abimilech expected it. And your final point was my final application of the passage. When we are wronged and we respond in reflection of the character of God, as Abraham responded, how much more so will people be drawn to Christ.

Jesus taught us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you; go the second mile; turn the other cheek. Abraham exemplified the attitude of Christ there. So should we.

Thanks for teasing this out with me. :)

Karma Shuford said...

"Jesus taught us to do unto others as you would have them do unto you; go the second mile; turn the other cheek. Abraham exemplified the attitude of Christ there. So should we."

But, sometimes, it is so much more FUN to just fly off. (much more detrimental to the cause at hand, but much more fun).