IN SIXTH GRADE, I rode the bus home from middle school. I had been bullied a bit during elementary school, so I tried to keep to myself. I knew most of the kids but was not really friends with them.
One day, a new kid was being harassed as we got off the bus.
I watched from a distance as a fist fight broke out.
Before I knew it, this new kid’s nose was bleeding and lots of other kids were cheering on the bully. I remember I did nothing.
I didn’t stand up for the new kid and that has haunted me. I should have been his friend.
I should have been a peacemaker.
What comes to mind when you hear the word, “peacemaker?”
Maybe someone who helps end warring nations. Possibly someone who helps mediate a contentious legal battle.
Or perhaps the words of Jesus come to mind, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”
Anyone who has browsed through posts on social media has likely come across heated words, and all too often, there are things said which are bitter and unkind.
Elder Neil L. Andersen, an Apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, “In a world of social media and information superhighways, one person’s voice can be multiplied exponentially. That voice, whether true or false, whether fair or prejudicial, whether kind or cruel, moves instantly across the world.”
He went on to say, “Some of the attacks upon the Savior were so malicious that He said nothing. ‘And the chief priests and scribes … vehemently accused him … and mocked him,’ but Jesus ‘answered [them] nothing.’ There are times when being a peacemaker means that we resist the impulse to respond and instead, with dignity, remain quiet.”
Elder Andersen shared those words in April 2022 at General Conference, a worldwide gathering of friends and members of the Church which happens twice a year.
I’ve pondered what it means to be a peacemaker and how I can become more of a peacemaker in my life in my circles of influence.
Just last month at the April 2023 General Conference, the president of The Church, Russell M. Nelson, also shared a message about peacemakers.
He said, “As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others — especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people.”
There are more times than I would like to admit that I have not been a peacemaker at home, at work, with friends, with family and elsewhere. It takes considerable restraint to hold back rather than give in to contention.
Jesus taught love.
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
Jesus taught longsuffering.
“Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. For great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).
Jesus taught a holier way to behave.
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another” (John 13:34-35).
I will end with another quote from President Russell M. Nelson.
It’s advice that I wish I would have followed back in sixth grade at the bus stop. It’s counsel I strive to follow today.
“I invite you to remember Jesus Christ. Pray to have the courage and wisdom to say or do what He would. As we follow the Prince of Peace, we will become His peacemakers.”
Issues of Faith is a rotating column by religious leaders on the North Olympic Peninsula. Bishop Jason Bringhurst is the leader of the Mount Pleasant Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Port Angeles. His email is email@example.com.