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Transforming Initiatives

The philosopher Spopenhauer once wrote:  “…we are a lot like porcupines—when we move too far apart we grow cold and yearn for the warmth of other porcupines.  But when we move together, our needles prick each other and we back off again.”

The Bible offers a pattern for dealing with interactions with each other as we “prick” eah other through life. This pattern will be called “transforming initiatives.” (This is the term used by my friend and former professor Flen Stasson in his book: Journey Into Peacemaking).

Words have meaning – so let’s look at these two words.

Initiative: proactive not reactive.  It requires taking the first postive step!

So often our relationships with others (good and bad) are reactionary, not proactive.  We respond, we don’t initiate. 

Transforming: This means that we makes room for the grace of God to work to work in the relationship!  There are no guarantees, no assurances, no promises.  Peacemaking is not an exact science.  There is not “quid-pro-quo” kind of deal where if we take a positive initiative forward that the other will respond.  We leave that in the hands of God.  We do that by placing ourselves in the hands of God.  We set aside our anger, resentment, hurt feelings, and feelings of being slighted.  We give God’s grace room to act in our lives – so that God’s grace has room to work in the relationship.

So, what are the initiatives? 

The first is PRAYER.

Jesus says, “…pray for those who persecute you.” 

Jesus says, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse.”

Who is our enemy?  Well, anyone is a potential enemy, right?

How does the world teach us to respond to enemies?  Vengeance!

What is a blessing?  A prayer for the wholeness of the other!

What if we did this in our own relationships?

How might we be transformed if we prayed blessings on those who have hurt us, persecuted us, done harm against us? 

How might this affect broken marriages?

How might this impact churches suffering through internal turmoil?

What might this do in our international relations if Christians actually practiced this command of Jesus and led our nation in praying for God to bless those people whom we feel attacked on 911?

The second biblical initiative is COMMUNICATE!

The Bible says, “Live in harmony with one another…If it is possible, insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with all people.”

After the next initiative is to “Make friends with the enemy!”

Now perhaps we can’t do that with Osama bin Laden.  He’s hiding in a cave somewhere.  But can we do that with the Muslim family that lives down the road or across the street? 

But this is not just about Muslims.  It’s about anyone.  As we follow the instructions and spirit of Jesus, we will develop friendships.  We will build bridges.  We will establish connections. 

How do we develop this friendship?  We “communicate!”

Two simple skills needed.  Speaking and listening! 

Speaking WITH the person, not about them or at them.  Listening to them – because they have a story, a side, feelings, emotions.  They are people like us.
The next initiative is LOVE!

Jesus says, “Love you enemies!”

He also says, “Return evil for evil to no one…But if the enemy is hungry feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink, for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon their heads.”

We love the enemy—NO MATTER WHAT!

If there are favorable response to our initiative—we love them!

If there are scornful response to our efforts to make peace—we love them!

Paul offers the same instructions in the book of Romans.  He says that such love will lead them to put “ash” (coals) on their forehead.  This implies that we allow the love of God to so flow through us that God’s grace MIGHT be about to bring the other to repentance.
The great chuch historian William Hull conducted a indepth research project into the renewal/revival movements in US history.  What he discovered was that spiritual renewal movements began with the restoration of broken relationships.

I wonder if the opposite is true – on our families, churches, politics, and international relations.

Could it be that the inability to PRAY, COMMUNICATE, & LOVE our enemies is hindering us from expriencing the renewal and revival we long for in our culture? 

Could it be that we are hindered from revival by an unwillingness to live in peace with one another?

Could spiritual renewal in our culture be impeded by our refusal to live by the Bible’s transforming initiatives?

If YES is the answer to that question, then the next question is this:

Which do you want to be – a catalyst or a hindrance to revival?
If you want to be a catalyst, then give attention in prayer to this simple question:

With whom must you take a transforming initiative?

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