Peace Catalyst International gets asked a lot of the same questions over and over again. The wording may be different, but the concerns remain the same. Here are our answers to some of these Frequently Asked Questions.
1. Is it really possible to have peace between Christians and Muslims?
2. How does peacemaking relate to evangelism?
3. Why should we even bother with peacemaking?
4. Did Jesus come to bring peace or a sword?
5. Are you teaching Chrislam?
6. What is Jesus-centered peacemaking?
7. Why do you promote religious freedom?
Many Christian s believe it is impossible to have peace with Muslims. After all, they say, Jesus is the Prince of Peace and came to bring peace on earth. So everyone who does not know Jesus as Lord and Savior cannot experience peace.
It’s like the bumper sticker that says, "Know Christ. Know Peace. No Christ. No Peace."
But is it really that simple? Is this slogan true? Are we at Peace Catalyst making assertions that don’t jibe with reality? We don't think so.
Yes, to know Christ is to know peace. Peace with God. Peace with others. Peace with creation. That’s the biblical mandate and the comprehensive nature of reconciliation in Scripture. However, we really only experience a measure of this peace if we are honest with ourselves. Many Christians are sincere believers but have broken relationships all around them. All you have to do is look at the divorce rate among Christians and conflicts between believers.
So let's show some humility here. We don’t think the church itself even models the kind of peace that Scripture affirms and that this bumper sticker declares. So let's rid ourselves of this adversarial perspective that our Christian club has peace but you don’t.
To know Christ is to experience a measure of peace. A foretaste of heaven. Through Christ, peace has burst into this broken world. In fact, Christ has waged decisive peace through his life, teaching, death, and resurrection. But it is not automatic. We have disciplines to learn, commandments to obey, and healing to experience if we want peace.
And even then, is it really true to say that there is no peace outside of Christ? That people created in God’s image don’t experience a measure of peace in this world? Martin Luther King Jr. believed that peace was possible with the white majority because they were created in God’s image.
Or what about Mahatma Ghandi, Nelson Mandela, or as my Muslim friends would mention, Abd el-Kader of Algeria, honored for his remarkable courage in preventing thousands of Maronite Christians from being massacred in 1860 in Damascus, Syria? Didn’t they demonstrate peace in the world? We think so.
It is possible to live in peace with those outside of the Christian community, because everyone is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26). Even though sin has tarnished and corrupted the image of God, everyone still has a sense of right and wrong and the potential to do what is right (Romans 2:14-15; Luke 6:32-34).
But there is even more biblical evidence for this. The commands to “pursue peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14) and to “love our enemies” (Matthew 5:44) indicate that there can be peace with those outside of the Christian community. And it’s our duty to help make it happen.
So yes, we believe it really is possible for Christians to live in peace with Muslims!
What does it mean to be an evangelical peacemaker? For many, this is an oxymoron. How can you be a true peacemaker and at the same time be a faithful evangelical? We get criticisms from both Muslims and Christians about this. Some Muslims accuse us of doing peacemaking only as a means to evangelize. Some Christians believe that peacemaking without evangelizing is meaningless.
As followers of Jesus, we must love our neighbor (the great commandment) and share our faith (the great commission). So how do we do this practically? We believe the great commandment governs the great commission. In other words, we need to love our neighbor with no strings attached – whether they want to hear the gospel or not.
When someone wants to join Peace Catalyst, we question them thoroughly about their motives. We make it clear that too many evangelicals love their neighbor or do peacemaking only in order to bear witness (or try to convert people). We call this ‘bait-and-switch.’ In this case we recommend that people find another organization that better suits them. God commands us to love our neighbor without an ulterior motive or another agenda. We like and live by the slogan of the Duluth Vineyard: "Love God. Love people. Period."
As a Jesus-centered organization, we speak about Jesus as the Prince of Peace. We pursue peace and share the “gospel of peace.” In fact, the gospel is described as "the gospel of peace" five times in the New Testament (Acts 10:36; Ephesians 2:13-17; 6:15; Colossians 1:20 and Romans 5:1). We believe that sharing the gospel is part of the work of peacemaking. So we joyfully share our faith.
But we are a peacemaking community, not a missionary organization. Our unique calling and focus is on peacemaking, not evangelizing.
When Peace Catalyst was just starting, Pastor Tyler Johnson of Redemption Church encouraged us with these wise words: “Evangelical peacemaking is like evangelical relief and development. Groups like World Vision commit themselves to quality relief and development in the name of Christ. Of course they want to bear witness to Christ. But they want to do their work with excellence, unto to the Lord, whether someone comes to Christ or not. Evangelical peacemaking is like evangelical relief and development.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). In other words, God’s children make peace. Jesus also commanded us to let our lights shine before others, so that they would see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16). So peacemaking without evangelizing is not meaningless. The good deed of peacemaking glorifies God!
We often hear statements like this: “You shouldn’t work for peace, because the Bible teaches that there will never truly be peace on this earth (particularly in the Middle East). What you are trying to do is futile according to Scripture. The Bible teaches that the end times will be an age of horrendous persecution and spiritual darkness. So your efforts are useless!”
Yes, the Bible is full of statements about future darkness and persecution. It makes important predictions about the end times. The books of Daniel and Revelation reveal the future return of Christ in rich symbolism and mind-boggling imagery.
Some pastors and teachers weave together complex prophetic schemes about the end times. They give the impression that they understand all the details, and many believe that their interpretation describes what is going on in our world today. They tend to make these prophetic interpretations, rather than the hope of Christ’s return, central to our faith.
But these “end times experts” often break the basic rules of biblical interpretation. We are supposed to interpret the unclear texts in light of the clear texts. John Wimber (the founder of the Vineyard Association of Churches) used to say, "The main things are the plain things, and the plain things are the main things."
And here is what is plain about the teaching of the book of Revelation: God wins! That much is crystal clear. What is not clear are the details of how or when it will happen. We need to show a little humility when it comes to the details of the end times.
In fact, an over-emphasis on the end times can actually hurt our discipleship. This doomsday message about the future paralyzes present engagement with a broken world. It produces a siege mentality and an attitude of hostility. It leads to fear and becomes an excuse not to obey Jesus in the present.
Moses had some important insight for us: "The LORD our God has secrets known to no one. We are not accountable for them, but we and our children are accountable forever for all that He has revealed to us, so that we may obey all the terms of these instructions” (Deuteronomy 29:29 NLT).
We are accountable for what God has clearly revealed to us. So let’s stop speculating about the end times and start obeying what Jesus calls us to do right now: love our neighbors, pursue peace, and make disciples.
Peacemakers are not always peace-achievers. But our efforts are not useless. In fact, one of the purposes of end times teaching is to give hope and encourage people to persevere in good deeds - like peacemaking!
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9) AND “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). How do we reconcile these two famous peace passages?
- Does this sword verse affirm the inevitability of violence in our interaction with non-Christians?
- Does it imply that our relationships with non-Christians will always be characterized by conflict?
- Does it override other verses in Scripture about peacemaking?
The context of this verse about Jesus bringing a sword is him commissioning his disciples to extend the Kingdom. First, he tells them to go in peace: "If the house is worthy, give it your blessing of peace. But if it is not worthy, take back your blessing of peace” (Matt 10:13 NASB). Later, when Jesus sent out the seventy disciples, he described this process in a slightly different way: "Whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace be to this house.' If a person of peace is there, your peace will rest on them; but if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10:5-6 literal translation). This passage implies that in some sense those on mission are bearers of peace (John 14:27), whose fruitfulness depends on the discernment of peace in evangelistic contexts. It also implies that there are people of peace in the world who may or may not respond to the gospel.
The second mention of peace in Matthew 10 relates to persecution and suffering brought about because of fruitful evangelism: "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn 'a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-38 NIV).
Jesus’ followers are peacemaker-evangelists who speak the blessing of peace on families where they stay. Nevertheless, response to the message of the Kingdom will be mixed: some will accept the message and others will reject it. Because of this, families will be divided, conflict will ensue. Thus, in the sword passage Jesus reminds his followers of his supreme worth and the need to follow him regardless of the negative fallout. In a parallel passage, Luke describes the metaphor of the sword in terms of division, not violence: “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division” (Luke 12:51). Thus, Jesus did not use the metaphor of the sword to depict any form of violence or belligerence on the part of his followers but rather the divisive fallout that sometimes accompanies evangelistic outreach.
Among Evangelicals, Matthew 10:34-38 (“I came to bring a sword”) seems to provide the dominant perspective regarding peace and evangelism in the New Testament, rather than Matthew 5:9 (“Blessed are the peacemakers”). In other words, there is the assumption that conflict is inevitable. With this assumption governing our mindset, could it be that we then communicate (whether intentionally or not) in a way that promotes conflict? Could it be that this mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy?
So how do we reconcile Matthew 10:34-38 with Matthew 5:9? At the very least we need to affirm both truths, since the Bible does. Walter Kaiser, in Hard Sayings of the Bible, gives wise guidance: “When Jesus said that he had come to bring 'not peace but a sword,' he meant that this would be the effect of his coming, not that it was the purpose of his coming” (page 378).[i] The metaphor of the sword describes how unbelievers may respond to the gospel, not how we communicate it! As children of God, our purpose is to represent the Prince of Peace, regardless of the effect it has.
[i] Kaiser, W. C., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce. Hard sayings of the Bible. (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity, 1996) 378.
Many of us who love Muslims or make peace with Muslims are often accused of compromising our faith. Some people even claim we are teaching “Chrislam,” a syncretistic blending of Christianity and Islam.
But NO, we are not teaching Chrislam. Rather, we are being both faithful evangelicals and fruitful peacemakers.
In the early days of Peace Catalyst International (PCI) we co-authored Seven Resolutions Against Prejudice, Hatred and Discrimination. We affirmed publically with other Christians, Muslims, and Jews that, “Our commitment to partnering for peace does not mean we dissolve our distinctive, historic beliefs into an imaginary ‘One World Religion.’ Rather, it means each community seeks to be authentically faithful to their historic beliefs and finds within those beliefs the resources to reach out to one another in love and respect.”
No Chrislam here. Simply an effort to be faithful and loving.
We are Jesus-centered peacemakers who take Jesus seriously. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no person comes to the Father but through me” (John 14:6). Jesus also taught that our eternal destiny depends on how we respond to him (John 3:16). So we believe Jesus’ exclusive truth claims.
Jesus also hung out with the 'wrong' crowd. He loved the marginalized and was even called the friend of sinners (Matthew 11:19). Moreover, he commanded us to love our neighbors and our enemies (Matthew 22:9; Matthew 5:44). Thus Jesus also taught and modeled inclusive love aims.
The strong both-and nature of this radical Jesus unnerves many people. Many evangelicals zealously uphold the truth claims but do poorly in practicing the love aims. Many liberal Christians do the opposite. We confess it is sometimes hard to embrace both.
One reason we are accused of teaching Chrislam is that people see us living out Jesus’ inclusive love aims and assume we have denied his exclusive truth claims. But the fact is that true followers of Jesus must both declare truth and model love. To deny either truth or love is to deny Jesus.
Finally, the book Grace and Truth: Toward Christlike Relationships with Muslims is a core text for PCI. In this book we have outlined areas of theological agreement and disagreement with Muslims as follows:
Most Muslims would agree with us on the following important beliefs:
- There is One Almighty God, who created the heavens and the earth.
- God has given us commands and laws and will judge us at the Last Day. Human beings are sinful and need God’s forgiveness and mercy.
- Jesus is God’s Messiah who was miraculously born of his virgin mother, Mary. He is the Word of God. During his life on earth Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead. Jesus is an infallible Prophet (Acts 3:22,23).
- The Torah, the Psalms (which Muslims call the Zabūr) and the New Testament (which Muslims call the Injīl or Gospel) were (in their original manuscripts) the verbally inspired, inerrant word of God.
Most Muslims would disagree with Christians on the following important beliefs:
- The One God is revealed in Scripture to be triune.
- Jesus Christ, the Word of God, is with God and is God. He is rightly referred to as the Son of God (most Muslims understand this title in a literal, carnal sense).
- Jesus died on the cross and rose from the dead. His death atones for our sin.
- The biblical manuscripts are entirely trustworthy, and the Bible which we read today is reliable. It has not been changed.
So no, we at Peace Catalyst do not teach or practice Chrislam; rather, a Jesus-centered faith that is both orthodox in theology and evangelical in conviction. A faith that is full of both grace and truth.
We rejoice that conflict resolution and peacemaking have become major fields of study in colleges and universities. We have learned much from secular research and will continue to engage with scholars and practitioners in this field. Nevertheless, we are Jesus-centered in our approach. Here are five truths that define what Jesus-centered peacemaking means to us:
1. The Person of Christ
The Bible teaches that Jesus’ very person is peace. Old Testament prophecies said he would be called the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) and that he would be our peace (Micah 5:2-5). The New Testament says Jesus himself is our peace (Ephesians 2:13-14). And since he is our peace, we can’t help but talk about him!
2. The Teaching of Christ
Peacemaking is a central theme in Jesus’ teaching. He commanded us to go and be reconciled (Matthew 5:24). To first take the log out of our own eye (Matthew 7:5 NRS). To forgive those who sin against us (Luke 17:3-4). To love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22:39). And to love our enemy (Matthew 5:44). So we are committed to both the methods and mandate for peacemaking in Jesus’ teaching.
3. The Example of Christ
When Jesus preached the gospel, healed the sick, loved the marginalized, forgave sinners, and fed the hungry, he was demonstrating what the kingdom is like. He was a shalom maker.
Jesus was also a nonviolent activist.
He said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm“ (John 18:36). Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all those who take up the sword shall perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52).
However, Jesus was not a hippy-like peacenik of the 60’s and 70’s. He was also a peace disturber! He cleansed the temple – attacking religious corruption. He called out hypocrites and challenged the status quo. How is this an example of peacemaking? True peace demands a pure heart. True peace includes justice for all. Perhaps the best modern example of a peace disturber is Martin Luther King Jr. He confronted white hypocrisy, racism and injustice. But his goal was not to defeat white America; rather, he sought reconciliation between races.
So we pursue shalom non-violently and sometimes we disturb the status quo to work towards true peace.
4. The Cross of Christ
At the cross Jesus cries out, “Father forgive them for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). In so doing, Jesus demonstrates enemy love – a key to making peace and an important part of the gospel (Romans 5:10; Colossians 1:21). In fact, the gospel is referred to as the gospel of peace five times in the New Testament (Acts 10:36; Romans 5:1; Ephesians 2:13-17; Ephesians 6:15; Colossians 1:20). For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him [Jesus] and through him to reconcile to himself all things… by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Colossians 1:19-20).
5. The Second Coming of Christ
Finally, prophecies of Christ’s return make it clear that God’s end game is peace.
He shall judge between many peoples.… they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid (Micah 4:3-4 NRS).
My servant David will be king over them, and they will all have one shepherd.… I will make a covenant of peace with them; it will be an everlasting covenant (Ezekiel 37:24-27).
So as Jesus-centered peacemakers we follow the person of Christ. We obey the teaching of Christ. We imitate the example of Christ. We believe and share the cross of Christ, and we long for the return of Christ.
Many people love talking about freedom of religion as long as you are talking about their religion. Christians speak out against persecution of Christians, but few also speak out against the persecution of other faiths. Here are five reasons we promote religious freedom for all.
1. Freedom of religion is based on the creation story.
God gave Adam and Eve freedom to either obey or not obey His commands (Genesis 1–3). Because God wanted them to choose to love and obey Him, He gave them freedom of choice. True relationship demands freedom to choose. We need to imitate God by giving people freedom to choose.
2. Freedom of religion is based on the life of Christ.
Jesus repeatedly called people to follow him. But he gave people freedom to choose. Some followed him and others didn’t. In one of the most poignant moments in the Gospels, the writer records that Jesus felt love for the rich young ruler who decided he would not follow Jesus (Mark 10:21). Jesus demonstrated a love that gave people freedom to accept or reject him. We need to imitate Jesus by giving people freedom to choose.
3. Freedom of religion is based on the Golden Rule.
Jesus said, “In everything, do to others as you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12). Surely everyone wants freedom to follow their conscience without coercion. We must grant to everyone the same thing that we desire.
4. Freedom of religion is based on the love command.
Jesus said one of the greatest commands is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). The standard for love in this command is the phrase “as yourself.” In other words, love means that I treat my neighbors just how I want to be treated. I want the freedom and protection to worship. This, then, is what I should also want for my neighbor.
5. Freedom of religion is based on justice.
The Old Testament frequently defines justice in terms of protecting the rights of the poor and needy:
- Give justice to the poor and the orphan; uphold the rights of the oppressed and the destitute (Psalm 82:3 NLT).
- Learn to do good. Seek justice. Help the oppressed. Defend the cause of orphans. Fight for the rights of widows (Isaiah 1:17 NLT).
- They deprive the poor of justice and deny the rights of the needy among my people. They prey on widows and take advantage of orphans (Isaiah 10:2 NLT).
Religious freedom is not about “just us,” it’s about justice! Therefore we promote it and protect it for all.