Disciples and Peacebuilders

Integral mission and theologyPeacebuilding

In the last post, we looked at peacebuilding as an essential part of God’s mission and using scripture to help us participate in that mission. This week, we’re going to look in a little more depth at discipleship and the way that we, who are Jesus’ disciples, are transformed to become peacebuilders.

Photo: Ben White/Unsplash
Photo: Ben White/Unsplash

‘Offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind… Honour one another above yourselves.... Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.’ (Romans 12:1-2; 9-21) 

This is what Paul writes to the Romans, describing worship as living in a way that shows they have been transformed – and in ways that promote peace and reconciliation. However, it is important to think about how we are able to be transformed in this way. This is the work of the Holy Spirit – but we also have to give the Spirit room to act. 

The most important step in making this space and in our lives as disciples is literally the first step: responding to the call of Jesus to, ‘Come, follow me…’ (Mark 1:17). The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes this as an act of obedience rather than a confession of faith, one made possible by the gift of grace. So, the Spirit moves us, and our response gives the Spirit room to act as we grow in our new relationship with Jesus.

‘Of critical importance to peacebuilding, is the celebration of communion’

In the growth of this relationship and our formation as disciples, activities that we often think of as worship or the stuff of church services are essential. Prayer, praise, study and reflection all make space for us to connect with God and enable us to embed ourselves in Christ’s life of righteousness and shalom. 

The traditional church service takes the following form: we are welcomed, confess our sins, are forgiven, praise, listen to the word, share the peace, take communion and are sent out into the world again. This reminds us of the story of our relationship with Jesus every week – we are welcomed, confess, are forgiven, learn from God, and are united as the body of Christ, before being sent out again to make disciples and bear witness to the kingdom of God 1. At the centre of this worship, and of critical importance to peacebuilding, is the celebration of communion, for it is here that the many diverse members of the body of Christ become one body, in Christ. 

In this way, our faith becomes more than a set of beliefs that we say we hold – it becomes something that changes us and the way we live. Becoming more like Christ brings with it and brings out certain characteristics or attitudes in us, shaping our character and our ways of being so that we engage with the world in Christ-like ways. We’ll look at some of the characteristics that are important to peacebuilding in the next post. 

1 If you want to learn more about this, we recommend reading Desiring the Kingdom by James K A Smith, Desiring the Kingdom (Baker Academic, 2009)

You can read Hannah’s introduction to the Peacebuilding blog series and her post on Peacebuilding as a part of God’s mission here.

Hannah Swithinbank
Hannah Swithinbank is Tearfund’s Theology & Network Engagement Manager.