The sermons that have nothing to do with parenting are always the ones that cut me the deepest when it comes to my new role as parent. This is probably because parenting isn’t really different from the rest of life’s challenges. The sermon at my church one Sunday was one those non-parenting sermons. And it really had me thinking.
(Click here to listen to the sermon yourself.)
The pastor, Pete Williamson of Oikos Fellowship Church in Bellingham, did two unique things. He covered the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) as a single concept, rather than an itemized list of behaviors or characteristics, which is something I had never heard before. He also upheld a non-Biblical person as a Biblical example throughout his sermon illustration.
And the concepts he drove home shook the core of what I thought was the right away to approach my blended family.
Daryl Davis. He was the non-Biblical person of the sermon, and he’s a man with a profoundly incredible story. In a nutshell, this African American R&B musician has been befriending members of the Klu Klux Klan since the 1980s to find the answer the to the question that started burning in his mind at the age of 10: “Why do you hate me when you know nothing about me?”
Daryl spent much of his childhood abroad due to his parents’ occupation, attending international schools where racism as it is in the States was not encountered. His first encounter with racism was at the age of 10 when he carried the flag for his cub scout troop in a local parade. People began to throw rocks and bottles at him, and his only protection came from the scout leaders who formed a barricade between him and the crowd. When this turn of events was later explained to Daryl by his father, curiosity – not anger or hatred – was peaked in the young man, and that burning question took root: “Why do you hate me when you know nothing about me?”
Daryl professes the Christian faith and has done a lot of writing about his experiences with KKK members. He has attended rallies and cross-burning ceremonies; he’s even collected a few mementos over the years: the robes and hats of men who left the KKK due to their friendship with Daryl.
And that is all Daryl is doing: befriending these men, talking to them about what they believe, and – more importantly – listening to them. For through listening, Daryl discovered people commit completely different acts out of the exact same values and/or fears. Values such as:
I love my country.
I want to protect my family.
I don’t know these people.
These core values and/or fears can lead people to terrifying things sometimes.
You can read more about Daryl Davis on your own time, but for the present purpose let me conclude my summary of him with one of his quotes: “Establish dialogue. When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting.”
Daryl Davis, then, was the sermon’s illustration as someone who is a peacemaker. A peace-maker that will be called a son of God (Matthew 5:9).
PEACEMAKING is not a passive move. It is an action. It’s a responsibility!
This is not how I perceive peace. Peace is order, contentment, the absence of friction or conflict. Peace is found within or in a meadow or grove of trees. Peace is a state of mind or heart or being. Right?
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn…
Blessed are the meek…
Blessed are those hunger and thirst for righteousness…
Blessed are the merciful…
Blessed are the pure in heart…
Blessed are the peacemakers…
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness…
Jesus is painting a picture of who the Christian needs to be. We can’t pick and choose here. The Beatitudes is not a list of options. This is who we are supposed to be. We’re supposed to hold our material lives and relationships loosely in our hands, mourn for the terrible things that happen in this world, seek to do what is right, show mercy to people who probably don’t deserve it, avoid corruption, make peace, and – if it comes to it – suffer at the hands of other people because of who we are.
Peacemaking is our responsibility. Making peace is actively restoring broken relationships. Making peace is taking the time to listen and be a friend, even though the odds are working against you or other tensions are running high. “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18 NIV). Living at peace with everyone takes work. Peacemaking is truly love in action.
So what in the world does this have to do with my blended family?
I believe in boundaries. Boundaries, boundaries, and more boundaries. For there to be peace, clear lines must be drawn. Order is the priority. People must face the natural consequences of their life decisions, and there is only so much we can do. I can come to you, but you must meet me half way.
We do this to protect ourselves. With good intention, we build walls around our hearts and our lives, keeping the “enemy” out. Who exactly is the enemy anyway?
As I listened to the words of the sermon, I realized being in a blended family automatically brings a broken and dysfunctional relationship. As a Christian, I am called to make peace with everyone around me. This most definitely encompasses my immediate family.
But you see, in my heart of hearts, I was doing everything reasonable and in my power to keep my stepdaughter’s biological mother out. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until I saw what I was supposed to be doing: making peace, not building fences. I flinch and become defensive at her every move, and, out of my love for my own family, do what I can to manage interaction, minimize interaction, and maintain a low interference level.
But this is not making peace with the mother of my stepdaughter. She is not the enemy. We share a love for the same little girl, and my walls and her involvement are coming from the same motivation.
Of course, I can argue that it’s natural for me to feel this way and put up walls; but at the end of the day, I am called to be a peacemaker, not a wall-builder.
To be poor in spirit, perhaps I must remain humble and open to what other people may say or do, even though it might hurt. Life – especially family – gets emotional sometimes. Maybe being hurt easily is not a negative thing. Maybe that’s what being poor in spirit is all about. I need to mourn for what my husband and his ex-wife, along with others, experience when they go through divorce – the devastation and heartbreak and anger that must clear and settle before a new life begins. I can’t be arrogant about my own life experiences or pretend to know something I have never touched or seen. I must seek to do what is right, even if it means showing kindness and love to the awful people of this world; I don’t get to pick and choose who I show mercy to. That is God’s job. Avoiding corruption is not always easy, but I have to strive to keep my conscience clear. And as for making peace – this is done with enemies, not friends. I might suffer, but it would only be a sliver of the pain my own Savior put Himself through for the sake of my salvation.
This feels like a rather tall order, but I need to start small. I have been called to start with my family. I need to make peace with those I feel threatened by and leave myself vulnerable to whatever may happen next. God protects His people so they are free to fight.
Blessed are the peacemakers.