How the Gospel Compels a Peaceable Spirit 

On a recent flight from East Asia back to the US, I passed some of the twelve-hour trip time watching The 15:17 to Paris.

The film remains largely true to the events of August 21, 2015 when three childhood friends from Sacramento thwarted a terrorist attack aboard a French passenger train.

Director Clint Eastwood employed the heroes themselves to portray the main characters in the film. Central to the story is Spencer Stone. Eastwood tracks his life leading up to his extraordinary intervention along with his buddies.

Stone attended Christian school as a youth, somewhere along the line picking up St. Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer Lord, Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace. At one point the film shows Stone kneeling beside his bed praying the prayer.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

The film’s emphasis reminded me of Paul’s words in Titus 3:1-2:
Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men (NIV).
The book of Titus champions devotion to good works (Titus 3:8) as a demonstration of the gospel’s grip on our lives in the church (chapter one), in the home (chapter two), and in the world (chapter three).

After prescribing appropriate behavior towards governing officials in 3:1, Paul then piles up a series of descriptors in v. 2 best characterized by a spirit of perfect courtesy.

The word for “peaceable” is the Greek word “amacho.” Look familiar? We get our English word “macho” from it. “Amacho” means “not macho.” Humility, courtesy, gentleness, meekness–the opposite of machismo–should characterize the believer’s social discourse.

I had opportunity to apply this truth while making a connecting flight in San Francisco. Following the marathon trans-Pacific crossing, Jan and I waited several hours before boarding the next leg of our trip back to Boise.

When it came time for zone one to board, the Delta attendant skipped us, inviting zone two to enter the jetway. Trying to hide my irritation I protested with my preacher voice: “What happened to zone one?!”

She paused and immediately apologized for the mistake, even thanking me for pointing out the error.

As I approached the podium, I sensed her disappointment with herself. It showed on her countenance. Time to put Titus 3:2 into play.

“Not bad for your first mistake of 2018,” I offered with as big a smile my tired self could muster.

You should have seen her face brighten.  “I’ll go with that!” she beamed.

Then Jan suggested we offer to check our carryon bags to ease the full-flight burden and aid her job performance. She thanked us profusely.

Heroic action in the face of terrorist extremism? No, just a small opportunity to manifest the gospel as an instrument of peace.

Perhaps we can all take a page from Spencer Stone’s playbook and pray regularly, “Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.”



Something for Which To Be Well Known

So there I am last Monday morning. I show up at the hospital for a 9:00 AM appointment. Time for a “swallow study.” Gotta love the consequences of a jaw do-over.

Reading my hurry-up-and-wait book, I overhear a nearby conversation. A radiology tech apologizes profusely to an elderly couple. “They scheduled him for the wrong procedure. What he needs is a swallow study.”


Oops, Young Person Made a Mistake

Forget about the book.  What’s the deal here? Administrative mistake apparently. Let’s just say Mama three seats over was not happy.

Exit the tech. Ten minutes later the same young lady returns calling my name. I follow her into radiology. Thinking to make light of things I ask, “You’ve got me down for a swallow study, right?” She stops dead in her tracks. “Ah, no, an esophagram.” Terrific. Murphy lives.

Now I come to a halt. “My doctor ordered a swallow study.” Apparently he didn’t. It takes us the better part of 90 minutes to get to the bottom of things, but somebody messed up somewhere, no doubt about it.

Now I face a peacemaker’s decision–go off on the poor girl for something she had nothing to do with–or I can choose the Philippians 4:5 way. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”

Talk about an interesting Greek word! That term translated “reasonableness” shows up only five times in the New Testament. One resource unpacks it this way:

The word signifies a humble, patient steadfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it (Fritz Rienecker, A Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, 2:214).

Wow. There’s a challenge. A favorite cross reference of mine using the same Greek term is Titus 3:2–show perfect courtesy to all people. No exceptions. The gospel way is the sweet reasonable way . . . WITH EVERYONE.

I want to be known for that. Do you?