February 2021 Newsletter: Amazing Stories of God’s Work in the Arab World
February 12, 2021
And So, the Journey Continues: An Update on Some of Our Students
January 15, 2021

Reshaping and being Reshaped by Peacemaking at ABTS

Bassem Melki
Dean of Faculty
February 12, 2021
Chapter eight

When I think of Isaiah’s words, “And he will be called … Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end.” (Is 9:6-7), I wonder how much this peace is truly present in our churches and the surrounding community today.

When I think of Paul’s words “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding” (Phil. 4:7), I think to myself, where is that peace that transcends worldly understanding?

How do we handle and bring change to power struggles? Should we revisit our theology of martyrdom and its manifestation? What kind of power do we have as Christians? These are some of the questions our churches should be asking today.

In the past few chapters, we described how the new direction at ABTS is steering our approach to leadership formation in a way that serves the growing needs of the Arab Church. In this chapter, I want to focus on how we are changing our approach to peacemaking and shifting it to where it belongs, at the heart of ABTS.

Our IMES-led peace initiatives have impacted the Lebanese community for the past several years, especially with regards to Christian-Muslim relations, and they have taught us many lessons at ABTS. Today, as part of our new direction, we are taking peacemaking to two other places; first, the ABTS community, and second, the local evangelical churches, in preparation to impact the Arab world in the years to come.

Before expounding on these two points, I would like to dwell on the wider concept of peacemaking in the Bible.

Peacemaking according to the Bible, by its very nature, conflicts with dominant culture and human nature. None of us, human beings, have a natural inclination to obey Christ's commandments, to love our enemies, to admit mistakes, to confront others with love, to seek the benefit of others, and to forgive those who offend us. Our natural instinct in a time of conflict is to do the opposite of what God calls us to do.

The solution is the Gospel, and the good news is that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and make us children who reflect His image, by paying the price for our sins with His death and resurrection. He came to revive us with the Holy Spirit and by the power of His word (and its obedience) which is God's power for salvation. When we believe this, we put our trust in Christ Jesus and His ability to complete His work to perfection. We learn how to respond to tension and conflict constructively and overcome our innate weaknesses.

This wonderful news can radically change the way we respond to conflict. The Lord, through the Gospel, enables us to become peacemakers like Christ. As we stand in amazement at His unparalleled grace, we find more joy in glorifying and obeying God than in our pursuit of selfish ends.

It is also necessary to note that the Bible's concept of peace touches, embraces, and energizes every possible relationship. We are created to live in peace with God, with every human being, with the entire natural world (living and inanimate) and with ourselves.

The biblical picture is quite clear: The kingdom of God is the kingdom of peace. It is evidenced by the presence of peace, and peace appears in all its aspects and qualities. Peace is the earthly expression of all the attributes of God's heavenly abode. “Because the kingdom of God is ... righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom 14:17)

God is a peace-loving God, and a peacemaking God. The whole history of redemption, climaxing in the death and resurrection of Jesus, is God’s strategy to bring about a just and lasting peace between people and Himself, and then between an individual and another individual.

God’s children ought to have the character of their Father. What He loves, they ought to love. What He pursues, they ought to pursue. What He desires, they ought to desire. They ought to seek first the kingdom of God and its righteousness.

That is why, at ABTS, we want to challenge our students, faculty, staff, leadership, board, and partners, to walk the talk. Every member at ABTS becomes a peacemaker. We need to work on restoring a culture of love, a culture of unity, and a culture of peace. Peace “making” is what the children of God are best at doing or should be doing. Peacemakers change the world, mend relationships, reconcile, destroy enmity and racism, heal wounds, and restore families, communities, and nations. Peacemakers are at the front lines while the enemy, Satan, destroys relations and builds walls of hatred, fear, and enmity. We are asking God to use us as His weapon for healing, restoring, and reconciling.

So, we pray, and we take whatever practical initiatives we can to make peace, beginning with something as simple as loving the other. Although we might not always succeed, we long for peace, work for peace, and sacrifice for peace. But we know that the full attainment of peace may not come. We do peacemaking because of who we are in Christ, because of our identity, not because of whether the other deserves it or not, and not depending on whether it will succeed or not. We are bringing peacemaking to the core of ABTS; peacemaking and the Gospel go hand in hand.

The second thing we are doing at ABTS is researching and seeing where we have fallen short, as Arab local churches, in glorifying God as we face all kinds of conflict. The purpose of this is to raise awareness and engage in workshops asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand and act according to the Heavenly Father’s will for humanity.

We will take this experience to serve and walk alongside our local churches. Peacemaking is not only about reconciliation, but also about bringing a community into a healthier state. Peacemaking becomes any action, training or teaching that unlocks the potential of a person or community to act and be more like Christ. The Church then becomes a model for peacemaking and a force for change by the power of the Holy Spirit, dealing with epidemic cultural and national issues. We will be documenting and reporting stories and identifying gaps that need reshaping, testing out modified models of peacemaking initiatives. As we learn, this data will continuously impact our curriculum in order to produce peacemaking students that impact the rest of the world through their local communities.

One person told me that Christians are a dying breed in the Middle East. I thought, if Christianity, as an institution, is indeed dying in the Middle East, Christ followers certainly are not a dying breed. The Gospel is reaching new levels of engagement in the Arab world, and the Church is more of a peacemaker than it ever was. Let us then grow and show our love and faith mightily.