Dear Loved One,
With the Fourth of July well behind us now, this season’s fireworks are officially over. The festive explosions of light that delighted us as we celebrated the holiday have faded and fallen silent. Yet as I write you today I have a sobering sense that across this nation the fuse has been lit on another kind of fireworks—a kind that, rather than bringing Americans together, has been designed to drive us apart.
If you’ve watched the news and listened to people’s conversations, you’ve already seen their effects. Their sparks have set entire communities ablaze. Their thunder has rumbled constantly in media reports about racial and political conflict.
Clearly, something serious is happening in this country. The spirit of division has reared its ugly head and attacked with a level of ferocity we haven’t witnessed in a number of years. Fueling fires of hostility between different ethnicities and governing parties, it has pitted people against each other—not just politically, in the voting booth, but personally, on the streets, at the office, and over dinner tables.
Even some of us as believers are experiencing the effects of it. With such agitation all around us, even we find ourselves at times wanting to pick a side and (at least verbally, anyway) jump into the fight.
But tempting as that may be, the Lord is reminding me these days,
it’s not what He’s telling us to do.
On the contrary, He’s giving us opposite instructions. He’s calling us as Christians, not to be part of the problem but to be part of the solution. He’s speaking to us the words from Matthew 5:9 and saying:
“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Peacemakers. As God’s children, that’s who we are and what we’re summoned by Scripture to do. Especially in times like these, when the hellish works of division are erupting all around us, we’re called to bring the very peace of heaven on the scene. We’re called to loosen the cords of disunity that have held people captive, and help mend relationships that have been torn apart.
How could we possibly be qualified for such a huge mission?
First, we carry within us the very presence and power of the Prince of Peace Himself. And second, we understand what’s really going on. Because of what the Bible tells us, we know that the strife we see around us isn’t being driven by differences in skin color, personality, or political perspective. It hasn’t been triggered by events and incidents of injustice. And it hasn’t flared up by accident because of people’s mistakes.
It is a calculated operation of hell. The outworking of Satan’s own perverted wisdom. As James 3:15-16 explains:
“This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.”
The word translated strife there is the word for division—and it’s what the devil is all about. He began breaking up relationships in the Garden of Eden by breaking mankind away from God. He planted the seed of disunity in the soil of human hearts by separating people from their Creator and he’s been multiplying its fruit ever since by dividing people from each other.
He warps their personalities by infecting them with hurt, bitterness, and fear. Then he pulls the strings of their fallen nature like a sinister puppeteer and convinces them to point the finger of blame at one another.
That’s what’s going on right now in this nation. It’s the reason people are so antagonistic toward each other. And it’s why, now more than ever, we as believers must be peacemakers.
“But Pastor Jack,” you might say, “I’m just one individual. How can I make a difference? Exactly what should I do?”
Purpose, by God’s grace, to minister His peace every day in the context of your own personal life and experience. Become His instrument of unity in your family, at church, among your friends, and in your neighborhood. Make it your aim to communicate His love and life to everyone you meet, wherever you go.
When you encounter in yourself a divisive attitude toward anyone, repent of it and ask the Lord to cleanse your heart. Forgive those who’ve wronged you, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32), and sow seeds of blessing into their lives by obeying the instructions Jesus gave us in Matthew 5:44:
“I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you . . .”
“Well, you just don’t know how hard that would be for me!” somebody might argue. “Those people really hurt me!”
I understand. We’ve all had such experiences to one degree or another. Every one of us can point to painful situations where we felt we were 100 percent innocent and the person who injured us was 100 percent wrong.
But if we rally around our own rightness rather than the unifying ministry of the Holy Spirit, we miss the point of God’s grace. If He had argued over who was right and who was wrong, He never would have sent Jesus to redeem us. He would have judged us guilty, spared His Son the cross, and we would have been eternally lost.
But God didn’t pit His rightness against our wrongness!
Instead, He “made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21).
Over the years I’ve found when I lose sight of that fact I can easily slip into strife. I can get aggravated with somebody I think is wrong and end up adding a few sparks of my own to the devil’s divisive fireworks display.
I recall one time in particular when I was pastoring The Church On The Way. It was during a season when we as a congregation had been praying with special intensity for our nation’s leaders. A list of those leaders had been prepared, and one day as I knelt to pray over it, two names caught my eye—those of our Senators serving in Washington, D.C. at the time. Startled, I felt a wave of realization sweep through me.
They’d been in office for several years but I’d never prayed for them.
Why? Because I didn’t like their politics! I, Jack Hayford, great public policy analyst that I am (not!), objected to their stances on various issues. I hadn’t bad-mouthed either of the men in public or complained about them to other people, but I hadn’t mentioned them to the Lord either . . . because, from my perspective, they were wrong.
Suddenly it hit me how petty I’d been.
I’d disregarded God’s call to intercede for those in places of authority simply because of my own small opinions. Weeping, I repented. “Lord, please forgive me!” I said. “I don’t agree with these particular leaders, but I ask You to bless them. Give them wisdom. Touch them with Your love. Help them do the work You’ve positioned them to do.”
Oh, what sweet peace and joy flooded my heart at that moment! As I prayed blessings over those Senators, I received a blessing myself. Division gave way to a heavenly sense of unity.
That’s what always happens when we pray for people. We sense God’s love for them. And because His love covers a multitude of sins, it ministers peace—not just to them but to us.
Loved one, this is the path God is calling us to walk in this hour!
It’s a wonderful path, and yet I know from experience it’s not always an easy one. That’s why I want to send you my 5-message collection, A Call to Unity: The Power of Peacemakers, as a thank you gift for your support this month. I believe the insights I share in each message can help you be the peacemaker God created you to be. They can further inspire you to become, more than ever before, an instrument of God’s healing, unifying love.
Thank you so much for your fellowship in the Gospel. I love you in the Lord and pray that in the days to come, He will send you—and all of us as Americans—a fresh outpouring of the unifying rain of His grace.
Ever Rejoicing in His Faithfulness,
P.S. With so much contention and negativity in the atmosphere these days, now is a good time for you to double up on your intake of Good News! So take a moment to click here and send for your copy of my 5-message collection on 6 CDs, A Call to Unity: The Power of Peacemakers. They’ll help strengthen your spirit so that even when strife is cropping up all around you, you can take the peace of heaven wherever you go.