(A) Introduction: what it means to have peace.

The man who has peace, in the Biblical sense, enjoys a feeling of utter well being. He is not: frustrated and angered by an awareness of his own inadequacy, uneasy or defensive due to chronic insecurity, awkward or touchy owing to an acute inferiority complex or dangerously resentful at an unresolved injustice. The peacemaker acts to increase the sense of well being by removing the causes of frustration, unease, touchiness and bitterness. It is a difficult task requiring insight, tact, industry and courage. There has to be a deep commitment to, and willingness to work towards, the improvement of the life of others. Peacemaking is a higher level virtue than kindness - it is more intelligent.

Peacemakers have the great blessing of a good name. They will be called the children of God. They have a heavenly reputation because they are like Jesus himself who said, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." John14v27.

(B) The peacemaker helps the inadequate to succeed.

"Allez! Allez! Allez!" The girl's haunting cry rang out over the fairground in the small French town of Langres. One small boy was going nowhere. He was stuck in a dodgem. A few minutes before he had thrown a tantrum as he insisted on getting into his dodgem alone. He spurned the offer of help from his rather elderly, serious looking, father. Now he was twisting the wheel this way and that in desperation. Dab! Dab! Dab! The dodgem butted into the wooden surround of the driving area like a demented beetle. Crash! Other dodgems smashed into him disorientating the boy further. He was not at peace. He was almost purple in the face; crying with rage and frustration. Eventually his father got in beside him and putting one hand on the wheel got the dodgem moving. He sat with his hand on the wheel until his son got the hang of steering it. Only then was the hand removed. Only then did the father relax and enjoy the excitement and pleasure his son took in driving the dodgem for himself. Both were at peace.

The father is an excellent example of a peacemaker. He did not revel in his son's distress even though it was deserved. It is so easy to take pleasure in the failure of others especially when it highlights our own success.

The father did not take the driving seat. Many will provide help so long as they remain in the driving seat. After my mother died I cooked for my father and myself. I had trouble making pastry. My pastry was a tough, non-cohesive, variety that disintegrated as I tried to roll it out. The ladies of my acquaintance were both amused and sympathetic. Several gave me tarts and pies out of pity for my father! Not a single lady came into my kitchen and showed me how to make pastry! I learned in the end but could have been spared much frustration.

The father helped his son to cope for himself. He provided practical assistance. This is always what the peacemaker does: build self-confidence and foster independence. On a recent trip to Japan I was at a party and making a poor job of eating with my chopsticks. I must have been very bad because the young women sitting near me started giggling. After a while one of them asked, "Who taught you to use chopsticks?" I had to admit that I was self-taught. The very polite lady said, "We Japanese hold them this way." I showed very poor spatial awareness in rearranging the chopsticks between my fingers. The very sweet Japanese student said, "Let me show you." With her small and delicate hand she put the chopsticks into the right positions. I enjoyed it! I never looked back. By the end of my holiday I was as proficient as any Japanese with the chopsticks and I took pleasure eating with them. It should be the aim of parents, teachers, and church leaders to help others succeed. It is increasingly the policy of charities like Tear Fund to assist peoples of the Developing World to help them selves rather than provide handouts that undermine an already low morale.

I love the story of Jesus who after his resurrection stood on the shore of Lake Galilee watching his disciples fish. They had fished all night and caught nothing. Another failure to add to the growing list! They cannot even succeed at what they know best. Their efforts became purely mechanical - fishing without hope. Jesus doesn't say, "Never mind lads; I've some fish cooking on the beach." No he gives them a little advice, "Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some." John21v6. They catch fish for themselves, some of which they have for breakfast, and the meal was the sweeter for that. Who can doubt that as the disciples sat eating on the beach they were at perfect peace with themselves and all the world. Every time we help someone succeed we are being like Jesus and adding to our reputation in heaven as a child of God.

(C) The peacemaker gives confidence to those with low self esteem.

It was time for my form to write profiles of them selves. This activity was never undertaken with any enthusiasm whilst I was a teacher. Adolescents do not enjoy writing about their strengths and weaknesses. I sympathised with them. Nevertheless they had to get on with it. One very attractive and intelligent girl was sitting with her head on her arms doing nothing. Her father, we will call him Mr Smith, had told me at a recent meeting with parents that Victoria had very low self esteem. He was trying to explain why she underachieved at Geography. I was singularly unimpressed with his explanation. I replied, "Victoria is just making excuses - she needs to concentrate more and work harder." I walked up to Victoria and asked her if she was tired. She looked up and smiled wanly and said, "No." Victoria had written nothing about her strengths. So I told her to buck up and get on with it. She put her head back on her arms! I gave her five minutes and went back again. Still nothing. "Now look here, Victoria," I said, "We've all got some strengths. You certainly have. You're very pretty for one - much prettier than I am. Just make a list of what you are good at." Victoria looked profoundly miserable and buried her head in her arms. I was wrong. I knew that I was wrong. Here was a girl with such an inferiority complex that she could not identify a single positive thing to write about herself. In the end I had to dictate my assessment of Victoria's strengths for her to write down. It is obviously vital to recognise low esteem in others to do the work of the peacemaker. This is not always easy for the insensitive male.

There are many ways to build confidence. We should be prepared to admit our own failures. It is a great help to those who are trying to cope with failure to realise that the successful have their set backs too. When I was a student at University College, London, the first few weeks of our course in Geology were spent studying crystallography. It was a mistake to start with such a difficult subject that involved thinking in three dimensions. The eminent lecturer, Professor Wells, did little to illuminate the subject for me. I confessed to my fellow students that I was completely baffled. Their reaction was to laugh at my admission and affirm that it was all perfectly straightforward and easy to follow. I felt very inferior and miserable. Later, after we had got to know each other better, they acknowledged that were as confused as I was. I would have been spared an unhappy few weeks if they admitted it in the first place! We must beware of triumphalism in Christian service. It is a mistake when reporting on the Lord's work to brush the disappointments and discouragements under the carpet. Tell it is as it is and thereby follow the example of the gospel writers.

The peacemaker will try and provide opportunities for real achievement. When I take my older pupils on field trips it is safest to keep them under supervision all the time. Nevertheless I usually give them the opportunity to work unattended for at least part of the day. This is generally the most valuable experience of the expedition and as such appreciated by my students. We need to adopt this practice in the church. Too many Christians feel thwarted and dispirited, with no sense of well being, because they are spoon fed by their leaders and given little scope to exercise their talents in the service of Christ. Why should the pastor do all the teaching and preaching?

It is important to refrain from disparaging failure and exploiting the weaknesses of the less talented. I am indebted to a former Headmaster of the Perse School in Cambridgeshire for this anecdote. He told it in a magnificent assembly as a visiting speaker to Debenham High School. In the dim and distant past the Perse School had a rather malign P.E. teacher. I have to say that my opinion of P.E. teachers is not high and this story does not surprise me at all. This P.E. teacher's speciality was cross-country running - an activity that involved him in minimal effort but a good deal of satisfaction. The boy who came last in the cross-country race was made to run two laps of the running track. The same rather plump boy came last week after week. On every occasion he was made, to his obvious distress, to plod around the running track. Two boys decided they had seen enough of this and one week they came last. It is far from easy to come last - to let a fat boy beat you - and run 800 metres in his place and stead. What interested me most was the concluding remark of the Headmaster: the fat boy never came last again. The P.E. master in highlighting his inadequacy destroyed the loser's confidence; his two friends restored some self-esteem and helped him to succeed.

The peacemaker praises any success, however small. What an enormous difference a little genuine appreciation makes. Poor John Clare, the Northamptonshire peasant poet, was cursed with a sense of his own inferiority. Prior to the publication of his first book of poems he needed to canvass for subscribers. A definite number of advance sales had to be secured to satisfy his prospective publisher. Clare visited the Dolphin Inn at Stamford one dinnertime to hand out samples of his work. No one expressed much interest and the poet grew progressively more depressed and embarrassed. Another customer came in and Clare handed him a sonnet. The customer read it, treated Clare to a drink and praised the quality of the sonnet. He readily agreed to be a subscriber and said that he didn't doubt but that Clare's work would be a great success. Suddenly the colour of the world changed for John Clare. The unexpected encouragement gave him heart and did him more good than all he, 'ever met with before and after.' John Clare never forgot the name of the Rev. Thomas Moursey, master of Stamford Free Grammar School - his first subscriber.

There were two women in the Gospels for whom Jesus made peace. One woman broke an alabaster box and anointed Jesus with the expensive, perfumed, oil that it contained. Some of the onlookers cruelly belittled the woman's action. How wretched she must have felt. Jesus sprang to her defence:"She did what she could" Mk14v8. He gave her peace. I like to think that the certain poor widow who hurriedly and shamefacedly gave her pittance to God was not allowed to leave before receiving the commendation of the Master. It seems clear from Mark's Gospel that she was apprehended and asked to wait while Jesus gathered his disciples together who then heard him say, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything - all she had to live on." Mark12v43and44.

The peacemaker has a warm and generous heart; he achieves much by stimulating achievement in others.

(D) The peacemaker is someone to feel safe with.

In the camps of the Gulag Archipelago, so vividly described by Alexander Solzhenitsen, there were not many you could feel safe with. The awful conditions corrupted most of the poor wretches imprisoned by Stalin. Every other man was a stoolie, an informer, who would betray his neighbour for a plate of fried potatoes. But not everyone was corrupted. Those who believed that, 'human beings are created for happiness,' were soon destroyed but others whose lives were based on firmly held principles survived uncorrupted. They were the few you could depend upon.

The peacemaker does not worship at the shrine of expediency. He doesn't, 'play it by ear,' or wait and see, 'which way the wind is blowing.' He certainly doesn't use expressions like, 'Well of course we have moved on since then.' Ambition, personal gain and the desire for popularity are not ruling passions in his life. The peacemaker has a code of honour; a belief in honesty, loyalty, fair play and good workmanship. He lets you know where he stands. George Eliot's magnificent creation, Adam Bede, was such a man. He was working in a carpenter's shop with four others when the church clock struck six. Four of the men downed their tools with alacrity. Adam Bede said, in a tone of indignation, "Look, there, now! I can't abide to see men throw away their tools i' that way, the minute the clock begins to strike, as if they took no pleasure 'i the work, and was afraid o' doing a stroke too much." I love the reassuring, perceptive, words that his brother Seth spoke to their old mother who was terrified that Adam might leave home and abandon her, "He'll never turn round and knock down his own work, and forsake them as it's been the labour of his life to stand by." Adam Bede was someone to feel safe with.

In addition the peacemaker has sufficient strength of character to apply his principles consistently. Many children suffer at the hands of parents and schoolteachers who advocate codes of conduct that they fail to uphold. Jesus says, "Simply let your 'Yes' be 'Yes', and your 'No', 'No'." Mt5v37. Promises should be kept and threats carried out. Nothing creates more insecurity amongst the young than the failure to enforce established rules or act on agreed principles.

The peacemaker applies principles without harshness but with warmth and understanding. I always enjoy reading Laura Ingalls Wilder's books about her childhood in the pioneering days of the United States. Both Laura's parents were strict. They expected and insisted upon a high standard of behaviour from their girls. If Laura, a wilful young thing, disobeyed her parents - she was punished. But the discipline was never cold or harsh. It was always administered in the context of loving care. Laura was safe at home. She possessed a sense of well being and knew peace in spite of the difficulties and dangers of a pioneering life. Her home was a safe place to be.

It is always a privilege to live with, or work alongside, a man or woman that you feel safe with. Sometimes the peacemaker is a refuge for the insecure and his company becomes a necessity. The woman taken in the very act of adultery was dragged before Jesus for judgment. Imagine her shame, humiliation and fear. Jesus dealt with her accusers and they melted shamefacedly away. The woman did not take her opportunity to escape. Instead she waited for his judgement. She was not safe in the hands of the religious leaders who were capricious and unprincipled. They paid lip service to the law but devoured poor widow's houses. The woman realised that she was safe with Jesus. The great peacemaker had his principles and he applied them firmly when he said, "Go now and leave your life of sin." John8v11. The woman was not crushed because he also said, "Neither do I condemn you." She left Jesus reproved but restored, chastened but light hearted, challenged but at peace.

(E) The peacemaker puts wrongs right.

It is impossible to be at peace when labouring under a sense of injustice. What an enormous amount of unfairness and accompanying bitterness and resentment there is in the world today. How obstinately justice is obstructed by those with a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

The peacemaker may need to be a doughty fighter to secure justice. Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela did not obtain a better deal for their fellow blacks without long and painful struggles during which their lives were at risk.

I do not think we are all called to major campaigns of this sort but we must all take steps to remedy unfairness within our experience. Small injustices rankle. I can remember being called a cheat by my Geography teacher at school because I marked my test incorrectly. The reason I gave myself more marks than I should was down to stupidity and not dishonesty. I would not have minded being called stupid! Indeed I was stupid! I still recall with faint resentment the master saying, "I am suprised, Reed, that a Christian like you should cheat." So lets see if we can put right some of those small injustices. Is the pastor adequately paid? Are their people in your fellowship overlooked and undervalued? Who do you chose to speak at your special services? Do you always invite the glamorous, eloquent and popular preachers? Why not give an opportunity to one of the forgotten speakers who have laboured long in the locality and been taken for granted. Is too much or too little attention being paid to the young people? Is some member's Christian witness being stunted for lack of trust following an indiscretion long since repented of? I hope we are not like the farmer who employed my father on a part-time basis. On one occasion my father backed a tractor into a ditch. He was never allowed to forget it. Whenever the farmer needed tractor work doing he would say, "We can't have Mr Reed backing the tractor into the ditch today." How that rankled with my father.

The peacemaker may get a reputation for making trouble because he or she does work for change. The peacemaker causes as much trouble as the doctor who lances a gathering boil. Where there is injustice a church will be rent sooner or later unless the peacemaker can recognise the symptoms and is able to remove the cause.

Jesus did not ignore dissent amongst his disciples. He dealt openly with them after they argued about who was the greatest. The disciples were reluctant to admit they had been squabbling about their status. Jesus did not ignore the issue - he taught them that to be truly great was to humbly serve the interests of others.

Jesus advocated women's rights in marriage, befriended the outcasts of society, took little children in his arms to bless them (not a politically correct thing to do these days!) and was prepared to teach a self-satisfied Pharisee like Nicodemus. He called the poor to discipleship but extended the call to the rich young ruler. Jesus by his life and teaching was a champion of fair play and we must follow his example if we with to be called the children of God.

(F) Conclusion

One of John Bunyan's most endearing characters in part two of Pilgrim's Progress is Mr. Greatheart. He was a peace maker - helping in the way Mr. Fearing, Mr Ready to Halt, Mr. Despondency and Mr. Feeble-mind - poor inadequate souls all. Who would wish to travel along with them! The fact that they all successfully crossed the river into the Promised Land owed much to grace but was also to the eternal credit of Mr Greatheart's ministry.