Friday, October 26, 2012

Peace on Earth? Chapter 2



“Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin:
The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.”[1]

Whose fault?
We have made the case that Christians should be a peaceful people, but those around us might not be so quick to label us as peace loving.  That may not be our fault at all.  It may lie at the feet of a handful of highly visible “Christian Leaders.”  But even if that is true, to the extent that we follow these leaders, echo their war cries, forward their accusatory emails, and link to their trouble-making web pages, we are contributing to the view that Christian people are indeed looking to make trouble rather than to bring peace.

What do outsiders think of us?  Those who know us well may think we are soft-headed nice people with good hearts.  Maybe they have heard of our mission trips and our generosity.  Perhaps they like us okay, but think we are a little strange and they have determined to just stay away from religious conversation with us.

Are we “the religious right”?
Others though draw their conclusions from what they have seen in the news and read on-line.   They see us first as wrong-headed about the social issues of the day and then as vicious fighters for what we see as right.   The issues from their view are largely about individuals’ rights and personal freedoms - the founding principles of our nation.  And they believe our attacks on those rights are an affront to the fundamental foundations of our society.  They see us as unfriendly because we want to use the government to limit citizens’ civil liberties and control things like who you can marry, what you can do with your body and whether you can even live in our country.

Our positions on abortion, gay rights, immigration, even war and homeland security have become confused in their minds with the positions of the Republican Party or the Tea Party.  The vocal ranting of party leaders, bloggers and pundits, often using Christian arguments, are all lumped in their minds as the mistaken and evil intentioned tirades of what they call the “religious right.”  Bear with me now.  If you throw the book away at this point, you may just be proving their point.

To the extent that we have identified with the ravings of people who are not willing to have a discussion with the other side, people who talk like they have all the answers and see their mission as shouting down the “evil opposition,” we do severe damage to the picture of us as peacemakers that Jesus was trying to paint.   We need to distinguish ourselves from these folks. 

Jesus did not commission his disciples to “Go into all the world and enforce a moral code on every creature, regardless of whether they are believers or not.”[2]  Remember the Colt Peacemaker revolver.

He did say that if we love him we will keep his commandments.[3]   We get people to do that by telling them the good news.  We are to teach them about Jesus’ love for them and we are to coach them into a love for Jesus.  Then they will keep his commandments.[4] 

Do you see the difference?  On the one hand we are making laws to get people to act in moral ways, whether they are inclined that way or not.  Keeping a moral code because the government will punish us if we don’t is not the New Testament goal.

On the other hand if we are telling people about Jesus and are holding up his standards as the proper goal for Godly people, we will be able to bring about willing adherence to the moral codes of the Bible.

Being a peaceful people
How do we make ourselves known as a peaceful people in the midst of all this disagreement about how much authority the government should have to regulate the lives of its citizens?  I really don’t like this answer, but it seems to be the truth.  We do it one conversation at a time.  Just as Jesus sent us out to teach the good news to people, we have to show the same people that we are a loving people and are a people of peace.  That is a demonstration that is most effectively given one on one. 

And to the extent that we have a larger audience, say our church group, our family, or a blog readership, we can make our peaceful nature known there.  This, though, is a tricky endeavor.  Not carefully done, it can come across as “I am a peace loving person and you are not and if you don’t straighten up I will punch you in the nose.”  Entering the argument to tell both quarrelers that they are wrong and we are right and they need to listen to us will only make the situation worse.

Peace wins by being peaceful.  The peace that we have is an attractive trait.  Many people will want to know more about it.  Some will want to know how to acquire it.  That is the course we need to take.  And as more of us take that path, our influence will grow. 

There are so many angry people around today, it is hard to imagine that a handful of peaceful people can make a difference, but what else can work?  We need to be assertive peace makers, in your face peacemakers, interveners who will step in to cut off a loud disagreement and encourage people to at least listen to each other.  Micro-interventions repeated again and again eventually turn into macro-interventions.

Oh, and take the time to encourage anyone you see who is being an active peace maker.

[1]Words: Edward H Bickersteth, 1875; Music: George T Caldbeck, 1877
[2] Mark 16:15
[3] John 14:15
[4] 1 John 2:3-6

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