Reinventing Peace

We live in a broken and hurting world. It cannot be ignored that division is the norm for Western society. The fractured nature of humanity is not new—it has been recorded throughout history for many millennia. The goal of peace theology is to bring reconciliation to a broken world—this is the message of the gospel. Christ’s love for his creation is an invitation to be reconciled to him. This extends to reconciling his creation unto itself, with a goal of seeing his kingdom manifest on earth.

Unfortunately, peace theology can be more divisive than many realize. I have seen this issue from a unique perspective. I grew up in an evangelical Christian tradition that did not espouse peace theology. As I have written about before, I nearly joined the military out of a sense of patriotic devotion. In a gradual crisis of faith, I began to understand the Gospels anew. After several years of wrestling with my faith, I determined that an Anabaptist understanding of Christianity made the most sense for me. However, for several years I continued to work in the denomination in which I had been raised. I also attended a Wesleyan university for both undergraduate and graduate studies. Having also worked in several Anabaptist organizations, I have encountered a variety of perspectives related to the issue of peace theology.

I recently came across a meaningful quote that has inspired me to think about the issue the peacemaking in light of a divided world.

“For the Brethren in Christ, having the pursuit of peace as a core value also means trying to reinvent our commitment to peacemaking and reconciliation in ways that are relevant to the age and culture in which we live.”[1]

This statement reminded me that our value of peacemaking does not have room for us to reject people who have different views on this issue. However, I have come across Anabaptists who cannot understand people who do not espouse pacifism. At the same time, I have encountered other Christians who cannot understand how people can espouse pacifism. In the 21st century, I believe that reinventing our commitment to peacemaking means being able to make peace with people who see the world differently than we do.

The reality is that so many people are suffering in this world. There is physical suffering, mental suffering, emotional suffering, spiritual suffering, relational suffering, etc. The root of our peace theology must be found in a desire to empathize with the suffering people around us. Sometimes this means recognizing suffering in ways that are not nearly as obvious as we might expect.

“…we need to listen to and identify with those who suffer. Our willing embrace of suffering, rather than agreeing to cause harm to others, unites us with those who are under yokes of oppression.”[2]

I admit that it can be very difficult to listen to and accept people who share different opinions than ourselves. It can become easy to shut down and return to our circle of friends. But how can we extend peace to the world when we only remain among the people who think just like we do? We have convinced ourselves that everyone else is as close-minded as we assumed them to be. However, we need to overcome these assumptions and believe that the Holy Spirit can and will penetrate the barriers we create.

“No one believed South Africa could be transformed without violence, or that the Berlin Wall would come crashing down without a fight. The power of the Holy Spirit is a constant challenge to transcend the present order and to win the victories, large and small that are actually possible.”[3]

We put too little faith in the power of the Holy Spirit—myself included. Taking action to make peace is essential, but it cannot be done without relying on God’s strength.

We must find ways to resolve differences among our own circles, while also being willing to agree to disagree and love other people who see the world differently than we do. We are invited to embrace the way of the cross, which calls us to action which may not always be received well:

“A Christian pacifist cannot promise that the way of the cross will be effective in any given situation. He cannot assume that his position will be widely accepted. He does live in faith that the way of the cross is the right response and that, if tried, it ultimately would be best for all.”[4]

John the Evangelist reminds us what living in this light looks like for us. This light is found in one’s action of loving a brother or sister. It is out of our love for others that the light of Christ can shine into the darkness that engulfs the world around us.

“Whoever loves a brother or sister lives in the light, and in such a person there is no cause for stumbling. But whoever hates another believer is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know the way to go, because the darkness has brought on blindness.” — I John 2:10–11, NRSV

References
[1] Harriet Sider Bicksler, “Pursuing Peace,” Focusing our faith: Brethren in Christ core values, ed. Terry L. Brensinger (Nappanee, Ind.: Evangel Pub. House, 2000), 140.
[2] Gerald Shenk, “Global Conflict,” Making peace with conflict: practical skills for conflict transformation, ed. Carolyn Schrock-Shenk and Lawrence Ressler (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1999), 191.
[3] Walter Wink, Jesus and nonviolence: a third way (Minneapolis, Minn.: Fortress Press, 2003), 90.
[4] Dale W. Brown, “Why not add a bit,” What would you do?, ed. John Howard. Yoder (Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1992), 71.

Photo
Hart, William McDougal. Peace and Plenty. 1855. New Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, Conn. June 27, 2013. Accessed March 18, 2017. https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Peace_and_Plenty_by_William_McDougal_Hart,_1855,_oil_on_canvas_-_New_Britain_Museum_of_American_Art_-_DSC09208.JPG

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s