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Peace-Makers

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

               Today’s scripture is often referred to as ‘the love chapter’ because relentlessly emphasizes the supreme importance of love.  And for this reason, it’s a favorite passage to read at weddings.  However, Paul was not writing this letter to engaged couples or newlyweds.  In fact, if you’ll remember, Paul spends a good portion of 1 Corinthians recommending celibacy and singleness as the preferred, happier path, for Jesus people –if they can master their passions (funny how we never read those chapters at weddings).  Instead, this chapter on love is being addressed very specifically and emphatically at a church community in crisis.  For the past two months we’ve shared a few of the many problems this baby-church of mostly-gentiles was facing.  And here in this chapter we see the response: the healing balm.  The one thing this community needs to bring healing to its divisions and confusion is love.  Please read with me, the 13th chapter of 1 Corinthians.  Here is our greatest calling, and the greatest give we have to share.

13 If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. We know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become a man, I’ve put an end to childish things. 12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 13 Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.

               Today we are looking at the last of the 9 types on the Enneagram.  And just as a reminder, we have been exploring this spiritual tool, alongside 1 Corinthians, to help us recognize our own unique gifts and needs, so that we can grow in our compassion and overcome our insecurity.  And we’re focusing on the Enneagram because it very specifically helps us to recognize what’s moving us: our desires and our fears.  And the final desire –the final type- that we’ll be looking at is the desire for inner stability, or ‘peace of mind.’  And the personality type that is most driven by that desire is type 9, which is called “The Peacemaker.”

               [Slide]

               Nines are accepting, trusting, and stable. They are usually creative, optimistic, and supportive, but can also be too willing to go along with others to keep the peace. They want everything to go smoothly and be without conflict, but they can also tend to be complacent, simplifying problems and minimizing anything upsetting. They typically have problems with inertia and stubbornness.

 At their Best: [9s are] indomitable and all-embracing, they are able to bring people together and heal conflicts.

               9s are among the most difficult types to identify, because they can have the strengths and characteristics of any of the other numbers; but here is a list of statements that tend to hold true for most 9:

  • “Being ‘comfortable’ in every sense of the word appeals to me a lot.”
  • “I would rather give someone else their way than create a scene.”
  • “You’ve got to take what life brings, since there’s not much you can do about it anyway!”
  • “I believe in emphasizing the positive rather than dwelling on the negative.”

Now the gift of the peace-makers is in their name: they can be powerful agents of peace in the world.  And in my readings, 9s are sometimes referred to as ‘the crown of the enneagram’ not only because 9 sits at the top of the symbol, but also because 9s are uniquely able to adopt on the positive traits and characteristics of the other number-types. They can be adventurous with the 7s, be empathetic with the 2s, think deeply with the 5s, and all around the circle.  And what allows for this kind of versatile power is their deep desire for inner stability: their wisdom shows them that one way to create a sense of peace is by living into the gifts and goodness of others.  Being almost naturally optimistic, 9s focus on what’s positive in their circumstance and in other people, and that’s where tend to invest their attention and energy.

               But of course the pressing question for 9s –and for anyone who desires peace- quickly becomes: what do we do with all of the unpleasantries of life and the real world? When there’s conflict, and tension, and hurt feelings, how do we respond?  How do we make peace, when we don’t have it?

               Again, this is a question for all of us, because all of us desire peace. And the Enneagram helps us to see that people approach peace and conflict differently.  Last week, for example, we saw how 8s –‘the Challengers’ tend to step up in moments of conflict and try to take charge.  They are people of action who don’t want to be controlled, so they will use their power and resources to do what they can to change the situation.  9s could not be more different.  The authors of The Wisdom of the Enneagram put it this way:

Nines demonstrate the universal temptation to ignore the disturbing aspects of life and to seek some degree of peace and comfort by “numbing out.” They respond to pain and suffering by attempting to live in a state of premature peacefulness, whether it is in a state of false spiritual attainment, or in more gross denial. More than any other type, Nines demonstrate the tendency to run away from the paradoxes and tensions of life by attempting to transcend them or by seeking to find simple and painless solutions to their problems.[1]

 Imagine you’re sitting down with your extended family at Thanksgiving: the turkey has just been served and the gravy boat is being passed when Uncle Tommy brings up the latest report he had heard on Fox News.  At which point, your niece Sierra, an 8 who just graduated with a degree in gender studies, chimes in with a contradictory report she had recently heard on NPR, and concludes by calling Uncle Tommy a modern-day cave man. They’re going back and forth and the volume of their voices starts to rise.  (Some of us don’t have to imagine this, right?)  If grandma enters before anyone has even made it through their mashed potatoes, carrying a dessert in each hand to frantically announce: “yes but we can all agree that we love pie! Who wants some?” –then it might be a safe guess that Grandma is a 9.

               Now I don’t want to go on too long about 9s or pick on them too much; but they can help to illustrate for all of us the grey, uncertain territory that most of us live in between peace-making and peace-faking.  Because while things like pie and football might go a long way in dampening the family tensions around the table and TV for the span of a single-day celebration, they won’t be able to really heal the politically-charged rift that exists between the values of our hearts.

               According to the Enneagram, the only way for 9s to authentically function as peace-makers out in the world, as opposed to peace-fakers, is to integrate with the other aspects of their personality.  They have to draw together the strength of their will, their joy, their commitment, their discernment, their particularity, their potential to achieve, their compassionate service, and their integrity.  Real peace requires wholeness and connectedness. 

               Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians, has a similar message: for the church to fulfill its holy mission, it must utilize every unique spiritual gift offered by a diversity of people and personalities.  But beyond all of that, it also requires one spiritual gift that everyone must possess and share –it’s the rug that holds the spiritual room together, so to speak.  Paul calls it love.  Love is the power that supports our purpose, wisdom, faith, identity, and the blessings we can share. ‘If we don’t have love,’ Paul tells us, ‘we have nothing.’

               Probably all of us have heard at some time or another a long sermon about the true nature of Christian love –what it is and how it works and the means for gaining it.  Maybe you’ve even heard someone share with you the three different words that they had in Greek for love –and how each had their own unique nuance.  And I bet you’ve had someone tell you how holy love, biblical love is so very distinct, and so much higher and more intensely demanding and rewarding than ‘ordinary,’ everyday American love.  And I don’t necessarily want to contradict any of that; but I do want to point out that Paul’s description of the nature of love is startlingly short and rather simplistic.  He tells us love is patient, kind, and happy with the truth. It puts up with all things, trusts all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. And that it never fails.   And that’s it.  The rest of the chapter is about the importance of love, and what love is not, and the fullness of where a mature love will take us.

               Indeed, when I did my research on the Greek word Paul spends a chapter emphasizing, I was surprised to discover how ordinary its meaning was.  From everything I could dig up, the Greek word ‘agape’ which we translate as love, was in the original language simply an expression of preference. So in that context, if you go to Perkins and consistently opt for the blueberry muffin, you could accurately call that love. And in the same way, if you want to shake up the way you express your affections for your spouse –instead of saying ‘I love you,’ try out: ‘I prefer you.’  Because, apparently, it means the same thing. In this way, every expression of preference is a sign of love.  Call it a revelation of the heart.

               But the difference in Christian love is that our preferences should align with God’s preferences, right? That is the great call of our tradition: move your heart to be with God’s heart. And God has not simply preferred blueberry muffins, your spouse, and your circle of friends. No, no, no!  Instead, God’s preferences have extended much further and more deeply: because God prefers all of it.  We know this, because it is!  God has preferred a world with flowers, and mountains, and mosquitoes. God prefers all of the personality types represented on the Enneagram, because they’re all there. God prefers diversity and interdependence –we know this because we see it.  God’s heart is revealed through everything that is.  Because the whole of reality is an expression of God’s preference –God’s love. 

               And Paul tells us: “when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end.”  This too is an expression of God’s preference (God’s love): it is a movement toward wholeness. We become peace-makers when we expand our preferences to include that which is not currently a part of us.  God’s love calls us to leave the comfort of where we are so that we can connect with the people and places that our preferences don’t yet reach.  In other words, our love must grow out if we’re ever going to find the peace our hearts crave. 

               Before we close, I wanted to share a few practical tips for spiritual growth for the 9s in all of us:

 

  • Don’t be afraid to have opinions and express them. (that’s your love!)
  • Resist the urge to fall back on passive-aggressive behaviors like procrastination and avoidance. If you feel angry, be honest and open.
  • Realize that your tendency to merge with others can be a beautiful gift if directed toward God. But don’t miss the chance to be you.

Let us all work to grow to become peace-makers.

  • [1] Riso, Don, and Russ Hudson. Chap .15in The Wisdom of the Enneagram. New York: Bantam: 1999, 317.

 

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