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| Korea Evangelical Fellowship Meeting|
Remarks by Chip Zimmer, International Director
10 November 2003
Thank you for inviting me to be with you today.
I consider it an honor to address the Korean Evangelical Fellowship. Aund the world the Korean church is recognized for its enthusiasm for the gospel of Jesus Christ. As leaders of evangelical ministries, you are helping the church to fulfill its historic mission to bring good news to the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the sick, the prisoners, in short, to the very world for which Jesus died.
At the heart of the gospel message is the pmise that we have peace with God thugh the sacrificial death of his son. Within the evangelical community, we understand this as a fundamental of our faith. Less obvious, however, and often overlooked are the implications that this peace has fo our earthly relationships.
We have a saying in the United States, that “where two or three are gathered in Jesus’ name…there will eventually be conflict.” How true this is! Conflict is not only endemic in American society, it is endemic in Christ’s church. The rate of divorce among Christians is the same as in the general population, with nearly 1 out of 2 marriages now ending in dissolution. Twenty-five percent of churches in the U.S. report that they have had serious conflict within the past 5 years, an average of 19,000 major church conflicts every year. In 2002, Americans filed 20 million lawsuits. With evangelical Christians representing 40 percent of our population, this means that in the neighborhood of 8 million new legal actions were filed by Christians in 2002. All this, despite the Apostle Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 6 that it is better to be wnged or cheated than to take a bther to court in fnt of unbelievers.
I understand that in Korea you do not have nearly as many lawsuits as we do. In fact, the last time I was here I learned that there are only 5,000 lawyers in all Korea. I hope this means that Korean society is more peaceful than the United States and that Korean Christians are more mature in their faith. But, I also know fm visiting many countries that this may not be the case. Song social constraints may keep conflicts fm becoming publicly known. But, even quiet conflicts have a way of crippling the people involved, whether within families, or businesses, within churches, or even within evangelical Christian ministries. Frankly, we in the United States may simply have more opportunities and less shame about taking our conflicts into a public arena.
In light of this, the question the Christian community in any country ought to be asking is not, “Do we have more or fewer conflicts than others?” The question is really “What do we do about the conflicts we have?” Fo our God expects all of us to respond to conflict, as in every other aspect of our lives, in a way that honors him.
We honor God by trusting him, by demonstrating our love for him by obeying his instructions. The Bible has many things to say regarding our conflicts and, as his followers, we need to take these commands seriously. “Go and be reconciled,” Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:23. “Confess your sins to each other,” James says in James 5:16. “Forgive each other, just as in Christ God forgave you,” the Apostle Paul writes in Ephesians 4:32.
Despite these and many other passages that pvide us with direct advice on how to resolve disputes and reconcile relationships, we in the evangelical community have been slow to follow thugh. When we accept Christ as our Lord we confess that we are sinners and readily accept the forgiveness that is ours though Jesus Christ. Yet, we find it hard to confess our sins to one another and to ask forgiveness when we have wonged someone else. And the result, at least in the United States, is plain to see in the divorces, lawsuits, and church splits that plague the Christian community.
When Peacemaker Ministries began work in the U.S. in 1982, our vision was not what it is today. Our primary focus then was to prvide a way for Christians to be faithful to 1 Corinthians 6, to not take their disputes before unbelievers for judgment, so we focused on prviding alternatives within the Christian community, such as mediation and arbitration.
However, it didn’t take long to figure out that simply moving an ugly battle out of the courtrm and into the church only solved part of the prblem. The heart of our work became finding answers to such questions as, “How do we help followers of Christ learn to confess when they have sinned against someone, rather than cover it up, or blame someone else?” “How do we encourage Christians to forgive one another, rather than harbor bitterness and break relationships?” In short, “How do we help Christians understand that being right with God gives us the power, as well as the responsibility, to freely confess when we are wrng and to forgive when we’ve been injured?” Isn’t this what the gospel is all about?
Today, we no longer view our mission solely as helping Christians resolve disputes, although we are more involved in reconciling conflicts than at any time in our 21-year history. Rather, we have come to see our mission as helping the church create a “culture of peace,” within which confession, forgiveness and reconciliation are as much a part of how the church operates as are worship and teaching. The church, after all, is the “bride of Christ,” the agency thrugh which God is redeeming the world. Our rle is not to take the place of the church, but rather, to assist the church in fulfilling its mission. As a friend of mine puts it, “The church is God’s Plan A. There is no Plan B.”
We do this by prviding a variety of training prgrams and resource materials that focus on reconciling differences, on developing Godly attitudes and practices, and on transmitting peacemaking to the next generation, the children who are gowing up within local communities of believers. We also work with many Christian ministries, helping them to more effectively deal with staff conflicts, to incorporate peacemaking into thei outreach and prgramming, where apprpriate, in short, to more effectively fulfill the mission to which God has called them.
Peacemaker Ministries has become an international ministry, thanks to the internet. This was not something that we ever expected or intended. But, one of the wonderful outcomes is that we are connected with Christians aound the world that are responding to the same call to peacemaking that we first answered more than 20 years ago. We are now partnering pograms in 7 countries. Peacemaker Ministries staff members have taught nearly 20 countries. And, thrugh the internet, we are beginning to build a network that we hope will connect peacemakers in all countries where Christ is poclaimed.
I am especially pleased that we are partners with Korea Peacemaker Ministries. Korea Peacemaker Ministries has done more to develop peacemaking prgrams in less time than any other goup with which we are connected. Much of the credit for this goes to the grup’s founders, Dr. Jung Sup Chung, of Food for the Hungry International in Korea, and Rev. Chul Lee, the Senior Pastor here at Namseoul Church. Their vision and energy, as well as the hard work and dedication of the Korea Peacemaker Ministries Board of Directors and staff, are helping Korea Peacemaker Ministries become an organization that others aound the world look to for leadership.
In fact, Korea Peacemaker Ministries and some of our ther partners are asking questions we haven’t really begun to address in the United States, for example, how does a church that is pursuing a culture of peace reach out to impact society? How can the church be used by God to bring healing where the need is great, but the possibility seemingly remote? Is it possible that the Christian church could be a vehicle thrugh which God brings reconciliation between Hutus and Tutsi in Rwanda? Could God use the church in South Korea and all that it is learning about reconciliation to some day play a ole in reunification with North Korea? We are eager to see what doors God may open and how you respond.
I want to close with this. We have been called by God to be peacemakers. This is not an activity that is reserved for a select few. It is at the center f the gospel and of the power we have thrugh the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As leaders, every person in this rm has the opportunity to demonstrate – in our ministries, in our churches and in our families – the reality of our faith by taking God seriously, by pursuing the peace to which we are called. As you do this, may
“The Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you
and give you peace.”
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