You just never know what might happen in your local coffee shop at 8:45am on a Tuesday morning. I was mid-meeting, mid-sentence when a young but very professionally dressed man suddenly and aggressively shoved a bigger man backward while loudly stating “I will not take name calling from you!” The entire coffee shop, all 15 or so of us went silent, looking but trying not to stare at the unfolding scene. Total tension. Was the shoved man going to lose it and erupt into a full on brawl? And you know in those moments, everyone is thinking, “Should I intervene? Should I say something?” but you never know what will help or escalate the situation, so we all sat for about 5 uncomfortable seconds in silence.
tick, tick, tick, tick, tick.
And then in stepped a man. With a joke to lighten the situation (Hey, hey- we’re not still in college guys) and a caution (You need to go on and calm down) as he physically stood in between the two men, arms outstretched, pushing the distance wider between them. The man who stepped in was smaller framed than both the other two angry fellows. I think he would have been in trouble if the situation didn’t diffuse because there was no way he could have physically held them back. But his presence and willingness to step in the middle, risking harm to himself potentially, worked. The men parted ways and we all looked around at each other with raised eyebrows and made little jokes, but went back to our morning. Crisis averted.
This world is a broken, fragmented place. People are on edge. Lives are messy and when those messes intersect, anger often erupts. Miscommunications and hurt feelings and sin and hard times come in between us and we can’t always see straight with each other. My guess is those two men are friends. Or at the very least, did not wake up that morning thinking they would recreate the showdown at the OK Corral in the morning coffee shop. But somebody spoke an offensive word. And somebody lost their cool. And they both could have possibly ended up in a hospital or jail, or banned forever from their favorite coffee shop- if not for the Peacemaker.
Here is what struck me so profoundly about that peacemaker this morning- it was an incredibly active and risky role he embrace to bring peace to that moment. At the least, they could have ignored his efforts or mocked him for them. They could have become angry with him. Or the situation could have escalated putting him in physical harm. I have no idea why he intervened really, but here’s my guess- he was trying to keep harm from occurring to the men and the rest of the folks in the shop. On some level, without knowing this man at all, I think he must have had a noble motive because it required a sacrifice and selfishness does not usually lead to sacrifice.
You cannot aim to be an agent of peace in this world, without getting involved in uncomfortable moments and without risk to yourself. I know we don’t usually have at stake a punch being thrown at us, but there are plenty of other types of risk. Reputation, image, discomfort and others’ anger are not commodities we like to rock the boat on. But, oh does the world need peacemakers! In families, we need someone willing to call for a conversation where there has been silence for too long. In our workplaces, we need people willing to stop participating in bashing each other, and instead build bridges.
Which is what Jesus did for us. We were at war with ourselves and our creator. We had turned to momentary pleasure and it turned on us. We needed someone to bridge that great divide we had created with our sin. But it took more than loving words or kind thoughts. Jesus came into our uncomfortable situation, put himself in harm’s way and took all the consequences, so we could be at peace with God. He was the bridge. As my pastor says, He did not come to show us the way, but to be the way. And so, we who claim to follow Him as Savior, we who have known that great peace when fear and shame are killed and hope rises within- we are called to be like Him. In the world, in our churches and in our homes.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God” Matthew 5:9