Nicky Cruz remembers the David Wilkerson he met on the streets of New York in the 1950s—the “skinny preacher” who walked a message of Jesus’ love into gang-owned neighborhoods that police were afraid to enter and faced, without flinching, people most gangs didn’t dare mess with; people like Cruz, who back then led the feared Mau Maus of Brooklyn.
“David reminded me of Jesus,” Cruz said. “Two precious things that fascinate me about Christ: That he had active eyes, and always was there, looking at the needs of the people. Dave had this heart of compassion just like Jesus.” 1
Today we will look at two apparently contradictory statements of Jesus. During his sermon on the mount, Jesus reminded his disciples,
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9)
Yet later on during his ministry, he said,
“Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” (Luke 12:51)
A true disciple is one who loves and promotes peace. We are surrounded by constant provocation. Demeaning comment, malicious behavior, lack of respect, etc. are accompaniments of life’s interactions. The natural response of man is retaliate, with peace being the casualty. A disciple, on the other hand, is inspired by Jesus’ life and his words to forgive and entrust himself to God, the just judge. In doing so he becomes a peacemaker.
When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. (1Peter 2:23)
The pursuit of peace requires forgiveness and faith. The one who has received forgiveness in his life from God finds strength to forgive others. Doing so is always at a personal cost, at least of one’s ego. Faith is essential for a man to be able to trust God rather than respond to all provocation.
A disciple also engages in the promotion of peace around him in his community. Often, it is a Christian presence that makes it possible to broker peace between warring people or communities. The inspiring modern day story of the preacher Wilkerson and the gangster, Cruz, being touched by Jesus, does reveal how true peace comes from Christ and how his disciples can promote that peace in the most unlikely of neighborhoods.
Yet this lasting peace, that comes from Christ often is initiated by a phase of disruption. Imagine the disruption that Wilkerson would have caused when he took the gospel of Christ to Cruz’ neighborhood. When a Christian is thrust into a community that has found equilibrium with the sinful patterns of this world, his message often causes disruption and divisiveness. This can happen in families, societies, churches and nations. Yes, even churches and Christian groups that have become comfortable with tradition, patterns, pet philosophies and petty politics often find themselves being confronted by a disciple of Christ who brings not peace but disruption. Interestingly, when Christ’s disciples are called to disrupt, they again do so at a personal cost.
Yes, peace with God and peace with men is God’s ultimate desire for men. Often however, this can be achieved only by a disruption of peace.
- BLOOD MOONS AND THE END