Peace after political wars
L. Randolph Lowry (PHOTO FROM LIPSCOMB UNIVERSITY)The election and the two years before it confirmed stark differences among the people who share this nation. We are in conflict over core values, social behavior, religious faith, political priorities and the type of country we would like to create.
And we often are bold and offensive in proclaiming those differences.
So, what do we do? In my previous work in the field of conflict resolution, I would often suggest, as many others have, that peace is not the absence of conflict. Peace is the ability to deal with conflict efficiently, effectively and respectfully.
In essence, that statement makes two claims. First, conflict will always be with us, particularly in a multicultural society. People view life differently, define faith differently and embrace politics differently. That was true in New Testament times and it is true today.
‘We find peace not in the absence of conflict but in our respect of others and our work to serve them.’
Second, that statement suggests that peace comes from people who are driven by respect for all individuals created by God, no matter how different in perspective and belief. This is what being a peacemaker is all about.
With the context of that statement, there are three practical things Christians can do in this often-uncertain and alarming political climate.
• Pray for our newly elected leaders. Just as Paul wrote to the young preacher Timothy, “I urge then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people — for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2) Regardless of having won or lost politically, each one of us can pray for God’s blessings in the wisdom and work of those elected to office.
• Engage in the “ministry of reconciliation” to which Paul called the community of believers in Corinth — ministry that seeks to bring peace not only in the lives of people as they are reconciled to God, but also as they seek to live in a reconciled community themselves. We are called to be ambassadors, to take the message of God and his love and grace to humankind. Whether it is across the racial lines in a city, between people of radically different political views or even those with whom we worship but do not agree, each of us can be the instrument of God’s reconciliation.
• Focus on the interests that we hold in common, not on the issues that are divisive. Politics defines issues over which we divide. Television talk shows depend on this division, endlessly debating issues and making no real attempt to solve problems. Peacemakers look for common interests — motivations that drive all human beings. It is at the interest level where we share far more than we might think. This is where we are able to be supportive in our journey together.
Beginning there creates a very different conversation, one that has much greater chance to achieve peace.
As those in our church fellowship know, the namesake of my university, David Lipscomb, felt strongly and wrote emphatically that Christians are of “another Kingdom.”
From that vantage point, we do not despair when human politics is disappointing. We find our rightful place in this society and recommit ourselves to being Christian — in prayer, in ministry and in empathy — as we are called to be. We find peace not in the absence of conflict but in our respect of others and our work to serve them.
L. RANDOLPH LOWRY has served as president of Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., for 11 years. He has worked nationally and internationally in the field of conflict resolution. After establishing an innovative program at Willamette University School of Law in Salem, Ore., he founded the Straus Institute for Dispute Resolution at Pepperdine University School of Law in Malibu, Calif., and Lipscomb University’s Institute for Conflict Management.