The Biglife training offers a lot of useful advice on the characteristics and behaviour of a person of peace, as well as a list of actions that can be carried out by the sent ones. I genuinely can’t add too much to these lists, except to say that there is something very important that I believe has to happen in the life of the evangelist before they can go out looking for persons of peace.
My contribution to this conversation is basically that to recognise persons of peace we first have to be persons of peace.
As a small child, when someone called you an idiot or something worse you would often reply with the childish answer that: “it takes one to know one.” In a more positive sense, I think that to some extent, in the case of persons of peace, it really does take one to know one.
As I type this, I know that we may probably already be thinking of people who take the route of creating disruption and discomfort and effectively causing others to ask big questions about life and faith. It can be an effective strategy and is one that Jesus deployed fairly regularly with his troublesome parables about the upside-down nature of God’s Kingdom. Jesus did have the benefit, as we are reminded in John chapter 8, of having the Father testifying to the fact that He is the light of the world! His character and His actions supported His words at every stage of His ministry. That is why I would maintain that especially in the more intimate, relational sense of identifying and building relationships with persons of peace, the primary task of the evangelist is the evangelist him / herself.
1 Peter 3:15 is the ‘go-to’ verse for many evangelists and it encourages us to: “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” In our desire to give answers and to tell our story, it is easy to forget sometimes that the giving of an answer is only the middle part of the verse. Verse 15 begins with: “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord” and ends with: “But do this with gentleness and respect.”
My most successful recent encounter with persons of peace came when I was contacted via our church Facebook page by a woman who had a question about the Holy Spirit. Instead of writing her an answer I asked if I could visit her and her husband and have a chat with them. To cut a long story short the meeting went very well; I was able to understand a bit about their background and to get to know the people behind the questions. The woman was baptised fairly soon afterwards and a number of members of her extended family are now studying the Bible together, largely thanks to her influence.
None of the above would have happened if I had rushed into giving my testimony or telling my story. Ironically, had I messaged her a good answer and never heard from her again, I might still have congratulated myself on having responded well to the question or indeed, for having been asked a question in the first place!
So often, people don’t ask questions at all and though a detailed exploration of why that is would be outside the scope of this short piece, we should hear alarm bells ringing if we find ourselves in a culture that is no longer asking questions of the church or of individual followers of Jesus.
A heart that reveres Christ and is yielded to Him as Lord is more likely to produce behaviour that provokes questions. A heart that reveres Christ and is yielded to Him is more likely to see all people as dearly beloved potential children of God rather than objects to be evangelised. A heart that reveres Christ and is yielded to Him as Lord is likely to produce a peaceful character that both attracts and recognises persons of peace.
If your heart is set aside and totally committed to Christ, then your interactions with potential persons of peace will flow from a good, spiritual place. If you add on a healthy dose of gentleness and respect, then you set your story up perfectly to get a fair hearing. That is why I really do believe that to recognise persons of peace we first have to be persons of peace. It really does take one to know one.