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Peace Making in a Broken World
What does it mean to be a peacemaker in our world today? Our faith in Jesus should be more than positive thinking or rote recitations. With the ongoing strife around the world how can our salvation speak to peace in those areas of conflict? So many peoples are fighting over ancestral lands, resources, or power. Why is one country condemned when it goes to war and another is cheered on?
To such deep questions my heart fails at the enormity of the task. Since Roman times Christian theologians have struggled with obeying Jesus’ call to love and pray for our neighbors and enemies (like turn the other cheek), and the need for peoples to defend and assert themselves against others. You might have heard of “Just War Theory” which began as Christian qualification to kill. Today people use it to justify when war is appropriate. Unfortunately, the conventions of who is more “justified” is never clear.
Jesus was no stranger to facing unethical and unjust power. Raw power is ultimately the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t take a genius to know the stronger kid normally wins the fight, regardless of ethics. Jesus faced both the Jewish Sanhedrin and Roman Empire who had their own “just” reasons for murdering Jesus. But in Jesus’ response we see that raw, earthly, power is not the lowest common denominator after all. There is another option.
A Christian theologian named Dr. Stassen developed a “Just Peacemaking” model that we can use instead of war. Peacemaking is intentional efforts to reduce and resolve conflicts without violence. These are not limited to peace marches like Martin Luther King Jr. (though he is a great example) but in creating equity and parity among people, reducing threats and building up responsible partnerships so that all can benefit and conflict is reduced. Dr. Stassen sees ways Christians can promote peace in a violent world as Jesus did—without violence.
So, how can little-old-me be a peacemaker? Easy, first, vocally promote non-violent responses instead of violence. Jesus used his dying words to offer forgiveness, not vengeance. We can also bring peace to situations by helping heal places of hurt. It’s hard but necessary to do this for people we don’t like. Jesus also spent time listening to and healing the outcasts. We can buy a meal for someone, share our resources, support an international group that promotes peace in other countries. This supports the dignity and needs of others to build trust and encourage peace.
Finally, we need to look in the mirror and admit that sometimes we provoke others and take joy in retaliation. We should repent when we promote revenge since Jesus had every opportunity to use physical force against his enemies, but never did.
War and fighting are inevitable. But the more we promote peaceful responses in our own lives, the more we can advocate for peace on larger scales. Peacemaking makes more room Christ to be at work. Ultimately, Jesus gave his life for non-violent peacemaking. I pray we too may be so bold to follow our Peacemaker today.
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