Athlete, Face the Feud
Matthew 5:9 (NIV)
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
There was a rift between baseball and football players when I went to college. I was a baseball and basketball player and lived with baseball players. The beef started with one of my outspoken friend’s hatred for a fraternity which many football players belonged to.
Like a lot of rivalries, the perception of the feud made it more real than it really was.
The feud climaxed when we threw things out of our dorm window at the fraternity below, as they were doing rush week activities by a pond. That led to a meeting with the dean of students, and my suitemates and I were under close watch the rest of the year.
When the beef started, I was friends with a football player, Brian, in the fraternity. But neither of us wanted to challenge the biases of our group by maintaining our friendship.
I hated it, but when I saw Brian on campus I’d walk a different direction, because I didn’t want to be seen walking with him. If we made eye contact in the cafeteria, I literally turned my face from him.
In the mid-1990s, there was beef in the hip-hop world between the East Coast and West Coast. When both sides were in New York City for the MTV awards they congregated in Bryant Park.
There were several guys from each side and no one knew what was going to happen. They had guns and were ready for whatever. Imagine the tension as their two generals, Tupac from the West, and Nas from the East, stepped toward each other.
Then, imagine the letup in their bodies and the change in their demeanor toward each other when Tupac and Nas shook hands and embraced.
Tragically, we didn’t get to see the fruition of their reconciliation, because Tupac was killed before they reconnected.
When Tupac and Nas stepped toward each other, and went face to face, they faced the beef head on. When they did that, each of them was vulnerable to attack. It was a risk for them. It could’ve gone wrong.
But they did it anyway. The literal physical move into the heart of the beef is what peacemaking looks like.
Now, think of God diffusing the beef and making peace with humanity. In the incarnation and crucifixion, God made the biggest possible physical move into the heart of the beef.
So what do we know about peacemaking?
Peacemaking isn’t avoidant. It doesn’t walk the other way and look away, like I did with Brian. Peacemaking is inherently good and right, irrespective of how receptive someone is to it.
Peacemaking requires facing wrongs which have been held as rights, which is often unpopular, and ironically, seems like making war.
Peacemaking is brave, but that doesn’t mean there’s no fear and trembling. Peacemaking dissolves and diffuses bitterness and blame, which means it can leave people who are comfortable in bitterness and blame uncomfortable.
Peacemaking dismantles actual and perceived walls. Peacemaking is contagious.
Peacemaking – making peace – is an act of creation and a step toward new creation. But the effect of one act of peacemaking can’t always be traced back to its origin, so the results can’t be measured.
Peacemaking requires putting one’s very self on the line and making oneself vulnerable to attack.
Peacemaking, since we are made in the image of the ultimate peacemaker, is not an elective Christian activity. It’s who we are.