Bless the peacemakers of the world
December 20 2002 by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor

Bless the peacemakers of the world | Friday, Dec. 20, 2002

Friday, Dec. 20, 2002

Bless the peacemakers of the world

By Tony W. Cartledge BR Editor

Our recollection of the biblical Christmas story inevitably focuses on the manger where Jesus was born, but there are other memorable scenes. Foremost among them, in my mind, is the open field where shepherds who set out to watch their flocks of sheep found themselves watching a sky full of angels.

Of all the good tidings I've ever heard, few things compare with the song of the heavenly host: "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace, good will toward men" (Luke 2:14, KJV).

I remember being disappointed when I learned enough Greek to understand that the latter part of that should probably be translated as something like "peace among men with whom He is pleased," "peace among those He favors," or even "peace among men of goodwill."

But, the clear message of scripture in any translation is that God loves all the people of His creation, and wants them to live in peace.

Isaiah prophesied that the coming Messiah would be called "the Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6), and Jesus grew up to proclaim, "blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God" (Matt. 5:9).

The blessing was not simply for people who love peace or prefer peace or hope for peace - but for those who work to make peace, and that's no easy task.

I can't think of anyone in my lifetime who has worked harder to bring peace to our world than former president Jimmy Carter, who makes me proud to be both Baptist and a native of Georgia.

The Nobel Peace Prize committee finally granted its prestigious award to Carter this year, though he should have won the prize 25 years ago and every year since.

Carter learned the virtues of hard work as he grew up on a peanut farm in South Georgia, walking barefoot behind the mules as he plowed the fields. He learned the values of human dignity and justice from good parents and a good church. He practiced those values as president, and he has labored mightily to cultivate worldwide peace and justice since leaving office.

The Nobel award carries a prize of more than $1 million, but Carter will donate the money to the Carter Center in Atlanta, a non-profit organization he founded to make the world a better place.

I first met Jimmy Carter in the spring of 1969, when he was still governor of Georgia and I was a high school senior in Lincolnton, Ga. The state had a "Star Student" program for the student from each school who scored highest on the SAT exam, and one of the perks was a trip to Atlanta for a fancy banquet and a chance to meet the governor.

I wasn't particularly interested in politics, but I knew Carter's signature was on my driver's license, and I was very interested in that. When we arrived at the golden-domed capital building, I knew we were walking in high cotton - or tall peanuts, as the case may be.

I was a bit intimidated, but the first thing I noticed when Carter extended his hand in greeting is that it was covered with freckles. He spoke with an accent a lot like mine, and he looked me in the eye when he spoke. He was so genuine and down-to-earth that he put us all at ease.

I think that has been one of Carter's secrets of success in peace negotiations through the years. He is an honest and earnest man of good will who truly cares about people, and that tends to inspire sincerity in others.

One of his great disappointments, I heard him say, was that he tried to effect some reconciliation among moderate and conservative Baptists, but to no avail. In 1998, he brought together 25 representative leaders in search of common ground, "but not much came of it," he said.

Carter, now 78, could sit back and live the good life with no thought for the poor or the disenfranchised, but at any time you're likely to find him promoting a project in some far corner of the globe, nailing shingles on a house for Habitat for Humanity, or teaching Sunday School at Maranatha Baptist Church.

I've never known a politician who is a more genuine Christian, a more authentic Baptist or a more devoted public servant than Jimmy Carter.

My prayer, as we approach the beginning of a new year, is that his tribe will increase.

Blessed are the peacemakers, indeed.

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12/20/2002 12:00:00 AM by Tony W. Cartledge , BR Editor | with 0 comments
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