In a chaotic and uncertain world, firm paths can be hard to find. Join us for a seven-part devotional series on the Beatitudes for Lent as we walk the way of love in an upside-down world. Get the email series or the printed version (printed series available for a limited time).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9
This week James Montgomery shares how he’s walked the path of peace in his own life, and been witness to it in the work of Tearfund’s partners in some of the world’s most conflict-burdened places.
This reflection is adapted from a full-length interview with Joel McKerrow and Gracie Naoum, hosts of the podcast ‘An Upside-Down World’. This 8-part podcast has been created especially for Tearfund’s Lent 2022 series.
Views expressed by contributors are their own and do not necessarily reflect that of Tearfund.
My only answer for the suffering in this world is knowing that we have a God who has experienced that suffering himself. While we can't understand the suffering that goes on, we do know that Christ Himself has undergone unimaginable suffering. And in the upside-down world of God's kingdom, that suffering he endured was actually him defeating the power of death and sin and evil in this world. In the work that I'm doing, I see injustice and suffering in many of the countries where we work. It is so hard to comprehend how people can be living through that kind of turmoil for many years, but I do have great hope in knowing that God turns dark situations to good. And more than anything, I think we can see that in the cross: in the darkest moment in human history, three days later, there's the resurrection, and God has completely turned that around.
The question came up when I was first thinking about travelling to Afghanistan – should we even be supporting work in a country where I may potentially be kidnapped? But what I think about is, actually, if Tearfund decided to stop supporting work in that country because of the uncertainty and because of the potential risk, that would in effect, be heaping injustice upon injustice. For the people who have already endured over 40 years of conflict, and have seen so much injustice in their day to day lives, that is so counter to the good news of God's kingdom coming in this world.
Every time I travel to one of these places, I do feel a sense of anxiety about what might happen. But at the end of the day, I come back to God's sovereignty and this feeling that there is justice. The work that Tearfund does in hard places, in places where there is turmoil, I see that as the work of God's kingdom.
In experiencing peace myself in these uncertain aspects of my work, I always come back to prayer and meditating on God's word. It's been enormously helpful for me. Every time I travel to one of these places, I do feel a sense of anxiety about what might happen. But at the end of the day, I come back to God's sovereignty and this feeling that there is justice. The work that Tearfund does in hard places, in places where there is turmoil, I see that as the work of God's kingdom.
I met a man, let’s call him Ali, in Afghanistan in late 2019. He was in a community that had faced much upheaval and fighting over the years. He had 14 children, and had been part of a self-help group project that one of our partners in Afghanistan was implementing. In this program, which has been going on for about 15 years now, members share cows, passing on offspring to other families and generating income from milk and cheese. Ali received a cow and quite quickly managed to have income for his family. That meant that he and his 14 children were able to move out from his father's household, which was very cramped beforehand. But I'll actually read a quote from Ali: he said, “before I was reliant on the charity of others in my community. But now I am able to be generous with the milk, cheese and yoghurt that I'm able to produce from my cows. I have enough to feed my children, be generous to those in need and sell some in the market. I'm very glad to have this income. Many young men from this village end up working as security guards. We are illiterate, so there are no other options. But this is very dangerous work: three young men from this village were killed by a suicide bomber in this town nearby two days ago.”
I realised for someone like Ali, being involved in an income generating project that addressed his financial poverty actually resulted in him being apart from that conflict; he didn't have to go and get involved in the security forces, in the fighting that was going on nearby. And so even just addressing the material needs of someone in poverty can actually be a way of bringing about peace in a community.
Reflecting on the Beatitudes, we have the perfect example in Christ. Not only did he give us this amazing moral teaching, but he lived it out. Christ is the ultimate peacemaker. The way he brought peace through his death and resurrection was perfectly sacrificial. There was no pride, no trying to preserve his own position or stance. He completely gave himself to bring about peace for us with God.
If our goal is to win the argument, that is not love. Love is seeking to prioritise the relationship and the good of the other rather than being right. Seeking peace is remaining in conversation, seeking to listen to the point of view of the other, and to try and understand how they're feeling and what they're going through.
In the last two years I have never seen so much conflict in society, politically, with the pandemic. I have never known such a season of people being pushed into camps. I've been challenged to recognise that, with people in my life that I’ve had strong differences of opinion on, me just being silent wasn't peacemaking. For some people, silence can be really seen as a real act of aggression. Sometimes in conflict, one option is to just turn away, but actually, absence is a form of conflict in itself. Being present is how we seek reconciliation. If our goal is to win the argument, that is not love. Love is seeking to prioritise the relationship and the good of the other rather than being right. Seeking peace is remaining in conversation, seeking to listen to the point of view of the other, and to try and understand how they're feeling and what they're going through.
Thinking about peacemakers being called children of God, the verse that immediately comes to mind for me is John 1:12-13: “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. Children born not of natural descent or human decision or husbands will but born of God.” I find that such an encouraging thought that our God, the Creator of all things, who made us in His image, then calls us into His family through Jesus our older brother. We have hope for the future and purpose in this life through being called God's children. It's such a blessing that part of the work I get to do with Tearfund is seeing his kingdom come in this world, seeing justice for the poor, freedom for the oppressed. It’s a great blessing and encouragement every day.
Our Creator God, we thank you for the perfect example of a peacemaker that we have in our Lord Jesus. We thank you that through his work on the cross he has brought us perfect peace, defeating the power of sin and evil in his death and resurrection.
Father, help us to be people of Peace, to listen to the other in love when we face conflict. To remain present even when we don’t agree.
And Lord we ask that you would bring lasting peace to nations facing long-standing conflict, like Afghanistan. That you would comfort those facing uncertainty and provide for those in great need.
Children from marginalised backgrounds can struggle in school without solid foundations for learning. That’s why Tearfund’s partner Ethiopian Kale Heywet Church Development Commission has worked with local churches to establish over 100 pre-schools, helping kids like 7-year-old Radiet (pictured) enjoy a kick-start to their education! Pre-school helps young kids prepare to thrive in primary school and beyond, giving them the opportunities to socialise, build confidence, and start learning.
Each year, EKHCDC’s preschool program reaches over 6000 children, and many of their mothers are invited to participate in self-help groups, building economic and social empowerment. As local communities grow in their celebration and value of education, it’s helping to build a more hopeful and peaceful future, both for families and the nation as a whole.