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Are you for peace?
Do you like peace?
Seems like rather silly questions. If you’re reading this, whatever brings you to The Twelve regularly or even for the fist time, I imagine that you may have an inkling of Christianity about you. And with that religious orientation—or contaminant even—interest, etc., I would think that maybe peace is part of it. Shalom we of the Judeo-Christian tradition like to through around. We often identify Jesus as the Prince of Peace even. Go Jesus!
So I know its an incredibly basic assumption I begin with, that peace is part and parcel with the message of the Gospel, but it bears some clarification. Are you for peace? Do you like it?
I’m thinking about peace because the truth is I’m not all that peaceful. Sure, I’m generally a mild mannered sort. I try to be kind, and generous, quick with encouragement, yada yada yada, all that other stuff. But get me behind the wheel of a vehicle, I become much more Mad Max-ish. My type A comes out. I’m demanding. Aggressive even. I expect all the other fools on the road to work with me and drive appropriately. And if you don’t, the language flows rather effortlessly and effusively from me. I should never drive a church youth van. But If I were ever to change my vocation, I could make a good New York City taxi driver.
Now, the above way in which I describe myself, I’m mostly ok with. So be it. I’m not a jerk or unsafe. I may be particularly emotive, but not usually overly emotional. I just take the adage of defensive driving and click it up a notch, so that I’m on the offense, like a point guard headed to the basket. I only want you to work with me team.
There is an element of my disposition, however, that I have found unbecoming. When my more high spiritedness becomes something greater and my emotions grow to anger which can easily evolve into rage. I don’t get road rage but I can certainly see how it can happen. I can also see how road rage could so easily become violence. The tragic story of two men in Michigan who experience road rage and shot one another is more than a cautionary tale.
All this is to say that violence comes easily. Peace doesn’t. Violence is just below the surface. Peace takes work. And while this is anecdotal, I believe it to be representative enough of our species.
A few days following Veterans’ Day/Remembrance Day/Armistice Day, I’m also thinking about peace as it relates to war and the violence experienced by the brave men and women who serve our nation. I felt such incongruity seeing all the facebook messages on Monday showing support for our armed service personnel while also hearing how “research shows suicide is high among military veterans. The Veterans Administration estimates 22 veterans kill themselves each day.” Every day!?
I think a lot about peace and the various ways that violence has woven itself into our existence. I ponder the questions I began with: Do you like peace? Are you for peace? And then the more important one: So what? How am I learning from Jesus about peace? How am I following Jesus as the Prince of Peace?
Recently, a popular evangelical pastor preached about God and violence and said:
“Those who want to portray Jesus as a pansy or a pacifist are prone to be very selective in the parts of the Bible they quote. But the God of the bloody Old Testament is Jesus Christ. When he became a man, he walked the earth as a working-class carpenter. The European, long-haired, dress-wearing, hippie Jesus is a bad myth from a bad artist who mistook Jesus for a community college humanities professor.”
I agree that Jesus wasn’t a pansy or a pacifist, but generally find the rest of this writer’s message sad and very off base. Jesus does teach another way, and it’s not one of the world’s violence.
I appreciate Christian pacifist. In many ways, I believe the Anabaptist tradition and the peace churches have much to teach the wider church about peace and non-violence. While my own tradition is not pacifism and acknowledges times when the power of the sword may be used, it does so not celebrating or embracing violence freely. (Some weeks ago, Steve Mathonnet-VanderWell did an excellent post about just war from a Reformed Christian perspective and is well worth a re-read.)
Are you for peace? Do you like peace?
If peace is something that matter in our faith, it has to be something practiced. I get that it won’t be perfect, but still, it must be a discipline. I don’t buy into the violence of the world and of Christ’s followers giving in so easily to it. If you could answer yes to my opening questions I’d like to encourage an answer to the third, so what…
As I have shared here before I am part of an amazing group of people who are attempting to practice the peace that we believe Christ teaches, Christian Peacemaker Teams, CPT. Some years ago a group of CRC and RCA folks went on a CPT delegation to Palestine. We experienced the work of peace in the midst of violence. There is currently some discussion about going again. You can find of more info here. I encourage you, join a team.
But I also like to encourage you in one other way, to contribute and support CPT, the CRC’s Hope Equals, or other peacemaking action.