By Steven R, Kaufman, MD, Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)
Many people equate peacemaking with pacifism, but there are problems with this approach.
Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” and indeed one of the main reasons many of us feel a sense of anticipation during the Advent season is that we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Prince of Peace. I think that an important component of being a disciple of the Prince of Peace involves striving to become peacemakers ourselves.
Many people equate peacemaking with pacifism, but there are problems with this approach. Even if one were willing to be a victim oneself rather than harm another individual, what should one do when innocent individuals are threatened? To do nothing can be tantamount to acquiescence with violence and injustice. Violent people have no quarrel with pacifists, who, from the perspective of violent people, idly stand by and do not interfere with their nefarious plans.
I think that peacemaking is an active process. Sometimes it involves standing between those bent on violence and the intended victims, and sometimes it requires using force to prevent victimization. A fundamental problem is discerning between the use of force – perhaps even lethal force – to prevent harm to innocent individuals, and the use of force to benefit ourselves.
Humans have remarkable capacities for self-deception, particularly when it comes to convincing ourselves that self-serving actions are being done with the best of intentions. I think we can get helpful insight if we honestly look at our feelings. We are more likely to be true peacemakers if we don’t benefit from our actions in terms of wealth or power, if we are genuinely saddened by any harm we might do, if we are constantly searching for nonviolent methods to procure justice, and if we seek to reconcile everyone at the earliest opportunity.