Finding a person of peace has one of the topics that has kept coming up in missional circles over the 10 years. But what does it really mean?
A person of peace is from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out his followers. He tells them to look for peaceful people who accept their message in the towns they enter. And then, stay with them while the opportunity is there.
So, what is a person of peace?
They welcome and serve the messenger. They accept the message and are a gateway to their community. Missional thinkers use the term this way.
We are encouraged to seek out these people. Sometimes it sounds like a whole neighborhood will (almost magically) come to faith if we could just find the right person.
And so we search for a person of peace.
I don’t mind the person of the peace idea, but sometimes I wonder if we focus on the wrong thing.
What if we stopped looking for a person of peace and started looking for a person of peace?
Karen & Mike
Karen worked at the self-serve checkout of my local Target. I got to know her from passing through the register over a few years on my way to work in the local library, or when shopping with my kids. She got to know my kids and what they were up to. I’d help the person next to me at the register if they needed a hand, and she was busy.
One morning as I passed through the checkout, a co-worker approached and started a conversation with Karen. I could tell it was intense.
I intentionally went to the store the next day.
Karen apologized with tears in her eyes. She felt bad because I saw the conversation, but ok because I was the only customer.
I didn’t mind. I was there to make sure she was ok.
Karen told me about her husband, Mike. He had an inoperable brain tumor. They only just found out and there was nothing else that could be done. Doctors believed he’d only survive a matter of months.
I wanted to say a platitude, to get rid of the moment’s discomfort, but I chose to stay there. Keeping aware of customers and co-workers, I asked Karen if she wanted to talk about him.
She started telling me about him and their family, the dreams they were never going to realize, their hopes and disappointments. Her extended leave would start in a couple of weeks and they were hoping to enjoy a final holiday. But she was dreading the prospect of Christmas without him.
After she had finished talking, I asked if she would like me, and others in my church, to pray for Mike. Karen wasn’t religious. She wanted me to pray because I wasn’t like ‘other Christians.’
That day ended up being Karen’s last shift. She began her extended leave the following day. I never shared with her how much privileged I feel to have been part of that conversation. I’ve never told her we prayed for her and Mike. Karen just vanished.
Or, that is, for at least four years. I was walking into Target with two of my children when I saw Karen, standing by the entrance, working. Her hand went to her mouth when she recognized me, and she hugged me as we greeted.
Mike was still alive even though the doctors had given him a less than 5% chance of living. He still had cancer, but every day was a bonus. Karen was so thankful I prayed, and still remembered Mike’s name.
The Person of Peace
To know what a person of peace looks like shouldn’t we look to the one who was called the Prince of Peace — the embodiment of peace, so much so that he lay down his life on a cross to bring peace between God and humanity. Shouldn’t we look to the one who gives us the task of being bearers of his peace into our communities, and the one who will bring God’s all-consuming, all-redeeming kingdom?
Trying to see where the person of peace, Jesus, was working in my community led me to talk and pray for Karen and Mike. But I doubt I would have noticed her if my focus was on finding a person of peace.
This is where the problem lies, it’s far too easy to put my trust in a technique. I tend to miss seeing places where Jesus is working when I focus on techniques. I get so fixed on my own goals.
But when I ask God to help see where Jesus is at work around me I see opportunities join him, and he even will show those people who will welcome, accept and share the message too.
So, what do you think is better, to look for a person of peace, or for Jesus?
I am a pastor, blogger and speaker. I help ordinary people connect with an extraordinary God, so they can follow Jesus in their everyday life.