War Machines and Peacemakers
On a recent road trip, I was listening to a song called “I Am A War Machine,” by an artist known as Sontalk. It was a song I’d listened to before, but as happens often in a busy and distracted life, I’d not paid attention to the lyrics much until I was alone and quiet in the car. And when I was able to focus and listen, this line in particular jumped out to me:
“If all I am is all I’ve seen/ And all I’ve done/ What I mean/ I am a war machine.
What struck me most about the song, and especially this lyric, was the idea of taking stock of my life: my thoughts, actions, intentions and outcomes, and examining the impact they have on the world around me. When summed up, am I a force for good, or a force of destruction? Do my words and deeds do more to tear people down than to build them up? And ultimately, am I living out the call that I carry as a bearer of the gospel of Jesus Christ to be a peacemaker? Or am I a war machine, as the singer has come to realize?
In a time when our cultural climate seems to be more and more divided by ideological differences and rhetoric, it can be difficult to know our role. We are called to make peace, and yet, we must also be those who resist injustice and evil, which can cause more strife. This is when the words spoken to me by a college mentor continuously ring in my brain: we must not be so concerned with being right that we are unable to do good. Look to the comment section of just about any slightly political post on the internet, and you will find it littered with verbal abuse and destructive words from self-righteous people who call themselves Christians. Even in our best intentions, we can easily fashion our ideological differences, scriptures and even our own position of privilege into a weapon that we believe we swing with righteousness. And yet, the more we swing it around, the heavier it falls and the more destruction we cause. This makes it nearly impossible to hear and learn from those who may differ from us in opinion and experience, and even harder for anyone to see the redemptive love of Jesus in his so-called followers.
The Pharisees believed they were in the right because they obeyed and followed the laws of scripture to the letter. But they also used the laws to make life difficult for the poor and more marginalized people in their community. And Jesus called them out for it again and again:
23 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.”
Thankfully, by the grace of God, we are more than the sum of our actions. Through the blood of Christ, we are forgiven and called righteous, friend, child of God, and inheritor of the kingdom. My prayer is that this mercy we’ve received would flow out of us and extend to all. And that even as we take our place as Christ followers in our culture, we would humbly remember that we carry this message because of the cross. May our thoughts, words and deeds dwell on healing our world through the power of Christ’s death and resurrection. Let us carry out the call of being peacemakers, not instruments of war.