Person of Peace

9 04 2012

In Luke 10, Jesus is sending out His disciples with some instructions. He said in verse 6, “And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.” Jesus is essentially saying that as we enter a new place (I think that “culture” also fits the principle) we are to be looking for those people that can serve as bridges to that place, people, tribe, or culture. Within modern-day missions, we call those “bridges” persons of peace. Paul Heibert, Chairman of the Department of Mission and Evangelism and Professor of Mission and Anthropology at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, calls them bicultural bridges. Whatever you call them, they are essential to the clear communication of the gospel to the targeted people group.

There are a couple of misunderstandings about the person of peace. First of all, the person of peace is not necessarily a believer. This person simply serves as a bridge to the new people or culture. When I served in Tanzania, we went to a particular village where our person of peace was an elderly Muslim man. He never accepted Christ and has not as far as I know, but there is a church meeting in one of his homes with many of his family in attendance. He would invite me into his home, and we would drink tea and talk, but he would never accept Jesus. Yet he gave us permission to share Christ with his village and family. He allowed us to host an evangelistic meeting and show the Jesus film in his front yard. Although he is not a believer yet, God has used him to bring salvation to many people in his village.

The other misunderstanding is that the first person from the village that comes to you is the person of peace. This can sometimes be the case, but more often than not that first person is not a person of peace. Usually that first person is a young man that is already Western-leaning and seeks to be your friend since you are from American. In many instances, missionaries will share the gospel with this young man and he will “accept” Jesus because he sees Christianity as being a Western religion and he wants to wear blue jeans and have lots of money. The problem is that because this young man is already seen as someone outside the culture, you have alienated Christianity. You have basically put a Western stamp on Christianity in front of the entire tribe. This is controversial, but many missionaries when going into a new area will intentionally not share the gospel with this very first wave of Western-leaning young men. Instead they will seek audience with the elders of the village or tribe, praying that a person of peace will be found among them. If and when these elders accept Jesus, the whole village accepts Jesus – including the young men bypassed in the beginning.

The principle of the person of peace does not just apply to overseas missions, but applies also to our neighborhoods, businesses, and societal structures right here in America. We need to be constantly seeking those people that are persons of peace that will help us to build bridges to lost people so that the gospel can be presented clearly.


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