Today’s post is from Ben Sternke, 3DM’s Director of Content, who adapted this post from one he did awhile back on his old blog. This content was also included in our book Leading Missional Communities.)
Back when Deb and I were church planting, there was a season where we spent a lot of time talking with our leaders about evangelism, especially about the practice of identifying “People of Peace.” This is the strategy Jesus seems to lay out in Luke 9-10, when he sends his disciples out with his authority to do the same stuff he has been doing (you know, “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons…” Beginner stuff).
A Person of Peace is simply someone that God has prepared ahead of time to hear the message of the gospel through you. We recognize People of Peace as those who welcome us, like to be with us, are open to receiving from us, and attempt to serve us in some way. Which is all fine and good in theory, but as we've been working with people on this, we've noticed what we think is a key element to recognizing a person of peace, without which we will remain blind to what God is doing around us.
The key we've stumbled upon seems obvious in hindsight, but it has been important for us to articulate it. The specific key we've discovered to recognizing People of Peace is basically this: the willingness to risk meeting "People of Unpeace."
When Jesus sent them out he told them that they would experience welcome and rejection. He gave them instructions on what to do when they were welcomed and when they were not welcomed. He made it clear that to go out on this mission was to "out" yourself as a follower of Jesus, and see how people responded. Some will receive you. Others will reject you. Or worse. And until we're ready to face that, we won't find a Person of Peace.
Why is this? Because there is a difference between being sent out with the authority of Jesus and just "hanging out." Jesus' disciples weren't wandering into random towns pretending they were just travelers. They had been sent out by Jesus as those who were in relationship with him, to go to certain places in his name, representing him, with a specific message to proclaim and task to perform. Jesus didn't send them out as undercover agents. They were openly proclaiming that God's kingdom had come near in Jesus. There was nothing subtle about why they were in town.
If you go out representing Jesus (in his name, with his authority), then it's true when he says: "If they welcome you, they welcome me. If they reject you, they reject me." But if you are ashamed of Jesus or the gospel in any way, if we are unwilling to experience the same kind of scorn and opposition that Jesus faced, you won't be able to perceive the Person of Peace, because that person is primed and ready to receive Jesus, and you won't look like Jesus to them, because you are essentially going out "in your own name," not on behalf of Christ.
There is a line we must cross, a death we must die before we can see People of Peace. When we die to ourselves and embrace being identified as a "fool for Christ," we will find People of Peace, and we'll also find rejection and opposition, because you don't get one without the other. The good news, though, is that if we embrace this and truly go out in Christ's name, then it will be his authority that clothes us, and his power that protects us and flows through us.
So the question I am still asking myself and our community is this:
Are we willing to cross the line and risk the scorn of the world so we can recognize People of Peace and thus join Jesus in the restoration and healing of people's lives?