Do you know how pearls are made? If I remember correctly, an oyster responds to the irritation of a grain of sand it cannot get out of its shell by slowly turning it over and over, smoothing its rough edges by laying down a chemical on the surface and, over time, it makes a smooth, beautiful gem.
Irritating thoughts can be like that for me at times. Sometimes a thought gets into my head and I need to turn it over and over and wrap it in truth and watch how God makes it a beautiful thing. Perhaps thoughts like these are a pearl of great price, one worth finding, hiding, and purchasing a field over.
Now, you might not find this thought so irritating or the results of my contemplation a beautiful gem, but a friend of mine posted a comment on his Facebook page a couple of months ago, and it’s been spinning around in my head ever since.
He said, “In last night’s episode of Star Trek (original series), the message was: War can be bad, but ill-timed peace can be worse.”
Can you see why that needed to spin around for a bit?
The truth in it is so irritating. Especially if, like me, you don’t really enjoy conflict. I tend to want peace and peace to come quickly!
I have to say there is never an ill time for true peace, but sometimes I strive for peace-faking more than peace-making. And that is exactly what ill-timed peace is all about.
You know what I’m talking about – those moments when, instead of lovingly persevering to reconcile an emotional injury (real or imagined), I shut down, stuff it, and call it “overlooking.” Then I feel so proud of myself because I responded so “graciously.”
I’m not sure the purpose of overlooking sin is to feed my self-righteousness.
The thing that got me as I ruminated over Robert’s Facebook comment is that ill-timed peace is a lot like pre-marital/extra-marital intimacy.
In the physical relationship, we want to enjoy the pleasures of physical intimacy out of place, out of time, and without the commitment to remain with the person through all the other moments of life. It is a desire for something good – physical intimacy is good and beautiful – but without the context which makes it truly intimate. It is based on a desire for one’s own pleasure rather than an extension of love for another person. It is pursuing the crown without committing to the kingdom. Eating the icing without the cake (or the steak or salad or anything of substance), and it tends to make us sick.
Ill-timed peace is that same kind of theft and adultery. It is the same twisted desire to have the benefit without the work, to have the crown and glory of a right relationship without the realm of true peace. Peace-faking is selfish above all – it is based on a desire for my own pleasure and comfort over the sacrifice needed to live at peace with another person. Eventually a diet of peace-faking will make me sick, and my relationships will be map-nourished.
I think sometimes I slather my hurt feelings with icing. Putting icing on a stone doesn’t make it a cupcake; it just disguises the hardness and hides future pain. If someone tries to take a bite (move in to enjoy fellowship) they will be surprised by what’s under the icing – a hard heart laced with iciness, edginess, and bitterness. Or, the “cupcake” becomes a surprise weapon I lob it out in the sling-shot of the next argument. Either way it hurts rather than heals.
So, when I am tempted to think I am “overlooking” an offense, it is important for me to dig a little deeper to look for the roots of peace-faking.
Am I “overlooking” out of a desire for selfish gain?
Am I simply avoiding conflict?
Does the thought of confronting an offense cause me anxiety?
Am I “overlooking” to make myself feel better? To strengthen my position of self-righteousness?
Do I feel “holier” because I am choosing to “rather be wronged”?
Am I settling for peace-faking?
You know, Jesus came to bring peace; and he never overlooked sin.
He also didn’t condemn sinners. He didn’t leave us where we were. He didn’t stockpile his anger for future battle.
His peace looks like restoration and reconciliation.
His peace removes all barriers and penalties that would keep him and his offenders from sweet fellowship. He offers forgiveness (which includes owning something was wrong, not pretending everything is right) as the only path to peace.
Perhaps my search for peaceful relationships should look a little more like Jesus’ model: seeking to restore and reconcile. If overlooking an offense leaves a wedge, a root of bitterness, or a bomb ticking in my heart waiting to be triggered by the next offense, I’ve committed peace-faking adultery. I have stolen the temporary thrill and pleasure of “peace” without committing to peacefulness.
Peacemaking looks like choosing to do good to those who hurt you because your Father asks you to do so. Peacemaking means sacrificing and dying to self by confronting sin with a desire to restore. True peacemaking comes alongside those who have sinned and gives them strength to repent by offering grace – the grace of declaring it wrong, hurtful, and… forgiven.
Peacemaking is a pearl of great price. It is wrought when we deal with irritating offenses by turning them over and over and over to Jesus, bathing them in scripture, forgiveness, and grace. And at the end of the day, you can take the offense out and look at it in a whole new light – seeing the beautiful gem God made from working it over in righteousness.
You simply don’t get a true pearl of peace without the grain of sand.
To learn about biblical peacmemaking, and to gain skill in living “at peace with everyone, as far as it is up to you” check out Peacemaker’s Ministries. Years of experience with their materials and practical application in my own conflicts have informed this post and my daily walk before Christ and with others.