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Does what we believe make a difference?
Or should what we believe make a difference?
Or rather, how do we believe what we believe?
And let me put it right out there, I mean belief especially about peace, as a Christian practice, as a way of faith, as being about Jesus. Is it? Do we believe it…or in it…or that’s it’s important?
And I suppose I’m coming at this from a few different angles. Firstly from a Heidelberg 1, “what is your only comfort” direction relating comfort not only to assurance but peace, probably the peace that passes understanding kind of peace. If we have this comfort—if we have this peace—is it also something that we are suppose to embody, to practice, to permeate? Another angle relates to last Sundays conversion narratives of Saul/Paul and I would include Peter. Saul goes from persecuting the early church to becoming one of them. He goes from practicing violence against them to participating in bearing the good news including practicing peace. Peter too. Although he knew Jesus before and he would then take up the sword to defend him, still he denied him three times. But in last Sunday’s gospel with the cookout breakfast on the seashore we have Peter experiencing a kind of conversion experience of letting go of his guilt and living into a new reality of feeding Jesus’ lambs and tending his sheep. Peter goes from taking up the sword to taking up lambs, from participating in violence to sharing in nurturing. This seems like a movement of discipleship in practicing peace.
I am also coming at this from the angle of whom I understand Christ to be and what the Holy Spirit enables. That he is the Prince of peace and that the Holy Spirit brings about peace.
So I’m trying to understand if this is so, do we believe in the way of peace?
I am fully aware that the Reformed tradition is not part of the historical “peace churches.” I am fully cognizant that there is both a history they espouse that we don’t directly share and a theology of just war that we lean upon. But all that still, aren’t we to be about peace? Not pie-in-the-sky-peace, or hippie-peace (no offense to hippies), but honest to goodness God commanded loving thy neighbor, Christ following, Spirit empowered peace?
I’m pondering this as North Korea is bellicose with intimidation and accusation and bombs have gone off in Boston and we as a nation are pandering to the gun lobby while we are droning and bombing enemies and communities on the other side of the world. And too, I’m irritable having not had my morning coffee. And I’m irritated at the state of the world. And I’m irritated at the response and presence of the Church. And I’m irritated with myself, because I don’t particularly see the way of peace in my own attitude quite often. I don’t find in myself—attitude and perspective, let alone practices—much peace being done.
So I ask, does what I/we believe about peace make a difference? Or should it? And how?
I lead to believe it does or should.
But I’m not really feelin’ it. So now what?
No, I'm not feeling it either, which sucks, and which, I guess, forces me to have not much other recourse than to believe in it as just about unbelievable. Once again, I'm believing in something largely because I desire what I believe in. My only proof is circular, that I want it.
Right now my son (5 years old) is asking to print pictures of bombs (he also wants to print pictures of other metal objects like bathtubs?). I don't think he's seen any coverage of Boston. Maybe he has. Either way, the "peace" part of me wants him to have no part of it. Then, another part of me doesn't want to draw attention to it and make a big deal so that I don't make him obsessed with bombs. That other part of me realizes that I played with guns and played cowboys and Indians when I was young and now I'm a pacifist and see a lot of injustice in history that I'm older. Is that because Jesus took hold of me? Most definitely. I'm not saying I'd be carrying a gun around with me. I think I wouldn't care.
The point is I'm not sure how to work peace out in my life or with my kids. So, I practice. I trust that it's what Jesus wants. That's why we call it faith. So, my son and I will work it out. I with a lot of fear and trembling. He with a lot of frustration (because I don't think I'll let him print out bombs).
As I read this "peace piece" this morning, I thought of one of my favorite quotations from Henri Nouwen. Here it is: "We can be joyful or sad, optimistic or pessimistic, tranquil or angry, but the solid stream of God's presence moves deeper than the small waves of our minds and hearts." (from "A Cry for Mercy")
Learning to "find" and "rest" in the peace of that solid stream is always a challenge–for me, at least. But I do believe it's there–not just because I hope it's there, but because I have experienced it now and then and because I trust the faith experience of others, like Nouwen.
Thanks for a thoughtful piece.