“Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.” So began a song that I learned in elementary school. Peace. It is what every beauty pageant contestant wants. We award huge prizes each year to those who work for peace. Yet despite our deep and seemingly universal longing for peace, we live in strife and conflict torn families, organizations, and local, national, and international communities.
Rick Love is so hopeful that peace can be brought into conflict situations that he leads an organization, Peace Catalysts International, that engages in peacemaking efforts between Christians and Muslims. His book begins with his own peacemaking journey from conflicts in an organization he led to his growing understanding of biblical peacemaking and a vision for how this might be applied in various spheres of life.
He roots the peacemaking strategies he teaches in biblical premises: the God of peace, the peace of God, the gospel of peace, and our call to be peacemakers. He then elaborates eight peacemaking practices of peace catalysts: praying for peace, pursuing peace with all, taking responsibility, loving reproof, accepting reproof from others, asking for forgiveness, forgiving others, and loving your enemies. Under this last, he challenges us particularly around the love of those the church has the hardest time loving: those in the LGBT community, illegal immigrants, and Muslims. He particularly argues that the large majority of Muslims are not terrorists but people like us who are seeking a peaceful existence.
The book goes on to provide practical instructions in mediation with a case study of James and the conflict about Gentiles in the church in Acts, and instruction in team conflict, looking at the rivalries among the disciples in Mark 10. In this chapter, he introduces the very helpful idea of written memos of understanding when a team works out specific resolutions to a conflict and provides a format for these memos.
The last part of the book looks at how peace catalysts spread peace through social peacemaking between groups often alienated from each other and in recognizing six spheres of peacemaking: personal, interpersonal, social, urban, national, and international. I found identifying the sphere of cities particularly helpful with its ideas of seeking common good in a city.
At the end of the book are several appendices with ideas for peacemaking, seven steps to loving reproof, a peace catalyst manifesto, a grace and truth affirmation for Christian-Muslim relationships, and a discussion of the just peacemaking (as opposed to either pacifism or just war) paradigm.
What I most appreciated about this book was how it moved again and again from biblical principle to practice in very concrete ways. I also appreciated the grace and truth emphasis in peacemaking that both seeks common ground and mutual interests in love without compromising gospel integrity, the rule of law, and without covering up real offenses and issues of justice that must be faced.
It is fitting to write this review on the last day of the outgoing year. Each New Year’s, we long that this will be the year without new conflicts and one where old conflicts are mended. We long for a better world. But peace will not come in our families, our cities, or on the world scene without the practice of the nitty-gritty peacemaking principles and the hard but important work outlined in Love’s book.