Thursday, May 29, 2008

A Peace Perspective

Jesus convinces me that Martin Luther King was right to reject that view that believes mankind is so tragically bound by the starless midnight of racism and war that the daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never dawn. Even if that were true, my heritage within the context of Church of God teaching, as a follower of Christ, persuades me that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

Selfish interests destroy relationships and make the gospel easier to proclaim than to practice. Broken relationships leave Christians living in a demolition derby of political cross-fire. Ethnic warfare, racial strife, and special-interest groups poison the environment of our global landscape. Seeing the conditions, Jesus prayed that his disciples (us) live “in” the world, but be not “of“ the world.

Saint Paul, the first Christian missionary, came out of his rigid religious world where peacemakers were in short supply. As Saul of Tarsus, he terrorized Christians--in the name of God. His conversion, however, brought a change in his perspective and introduced him into a world of peacemakers. As a result, Paul regarded no one from a “worldly point of view” (2 Corinthians 5:16, NIV).

Among the dominant themes of Paul’s letter to the Ephesians were reconciliation and the church as the functioning Body of Christ. He challenged believers in Ephesus to model a barrier-free fellowship. He called on them to be a holy temple (God’s dwelling place) in the Lord (2:21), held together by the cornerstone Christ Jesus. He rallied these believers to confess-and-renew their calling in Christ (Eph. 4:1, 7, 26).

Paul’s encounter with Jesus redefined his views of humanity and added new dimensions to his life. It transformed him into an ambassador of Christ, commissioned to spread reconciliation and peace everywhere (2 Corinthians 5:16-21). His epitaph could easily have read, “as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

When Paul introduced the story of Jesus into Athens, he spoke first to the people out of their own tradition. After gaining an audience with them, he offered his resurrection perspective (Acts 17). He reflected on how God lives, moves, and has his being among all of humanity. When they heard his resurrection story of Jesus, they rejected his message.Holding no ill will, he left them, entrusting them to the sustenance and guidance of the Spirit of God.

From early on, Israel’s Prophets had reminded people to trust only in God. Paul recognized the infantile views of the Ephesians’ church and challenged them to a higher level of godliness--a mature spirituality of human equality. He invited them to enlist in the service of their Supreme Commander--God. He taught them to use their spiritual armor and challenged them to share with others the same grace God apportioned them (Ephesians 6:10; 4:14-16; 1:6-7).

Viewing each other from a human perspective comes naturally, but it allows hostile relationships to fester. On the other hand, Jesus’ final commandment reaffirmed our Great Commission--to spread everywhere His unifying love, forgiveness, and reconciliation (Matthew 28:19-20). Wars and rumors of wars repeat themselves. Peace comes from that Palestinian stable where Jesus was born, rather than the conference table. Serving in the “name of Jesus” prompts followers to share cups of cold water with strangers. Sometimes it leads former Presidents to mediate international crises as private citizens.1

“May the peace of God be with you, my brother.” That greeting met me one evening at our North American Convention, as I walked toward Warner Auditorium. It came from the lips of my dear black brother, Dr. James Earl Massey. It blessed my white-man’s heart, but it did something else. It caused me to consider how thoughtlessly we perform our rituals, like passing the peace. I remembered the promise of Jesus: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Therefore, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and . . . afraid” (John 14:27, NIV).

That greeting prompted me to personally reevaluate my behavior and take more seriously a theme that has long been a strand in the fabric of our Church of God heritage. It made me sensitive to consciously passing the peace--by intent.
May the peace of God be yours, and grace,
1 Marian V. Creekmore, Jr., A Moment of Crisis. New York: Public Affairs


Anonymous said...

Dear Brother,
Peace for the Christian is peace with God and others through faith in Jesus Christ. It also involves the outright explicit rejection of war for the disciple of Jesus. Why has the modern Church of God rejected the pacifism of Jesus, Paul, the Ante-Nicene Church, and the founder of the Church of God and the early CHOG Reformation movement?

It is a sin for a Christian to take a life for any reason: no abortion, no executions, and no war.

Peace in Jesus,
Brother Gary Cummings

Wayne said...

Gary: we are on the same page, but may I offer 2 quotes that frame the delemma of many (from Wm Lee Miller, Arguing About Slavery, Knopf, 1996): "Miller writes: David Potter argued that though the war "saved the Union and freed 4,000,000 slaves. . .it can hardly be argued that these immense values were gained at a bargain. For every six slaves who were freed, approximately one Yank or one Reb died" (504).
Now note from p.506: "The ending of slavery, and the formal affirmation of the equal rights of all citizens, without regard to race, within an unbroken continental unioon, was not only the necessary completion of the work of the founders in the past, but also the necessary anticipation of the world role and moral mission of the nation in the present and in the future."
Our national founders went part way in establishing a free nation, but when they could not agree within the Confederation of Colonies, they left the issue to be debated and Lincoln caught the short fall with the civil war. He compromised to save the Union, but agreed (as did others) to the civil war.
I hope you understand my delemma here as related to absolute pacifism.

Anonymous said...

Dear Wayne,
The Civil War was a national and moral tragedy. It only showed the hardness of the human heart. I guess emancipation had to be violent in this country due to the Founding Fathers refusal to face it at the very start.

That being said, emancipation in England was comparatively nonb-violent. It may have taken longer, but was more in line with the teaching of Christ. I grew up in the South during the 60's and am well aware of the Civil Rights Struggle. The blood of the protesters was the seed of freedom: those lynched, the little girls in the bombed out church, the assasinations led by the KKK. All of it done against those who wanted freedom. King and his moral pacifism won the day. It helped ocnvert my Southern heart to non-violence.

Kill for freedom? Kill for peace? Kill abortionists? Kill those who kill? Kill in self defence? Kil in war?

In the Name of Jesus, no to all.

Peace and love in Christ,

Anonymous said...

Dr Taylor teaches us how to attain deep inner peace - easily, simply, without drugs, anytime we want it. Forgive me for doing everything I can to be sure everyone reads this book and sees this video, but I think all of us benefit and in the larger sense, if everyone reads this, our world will benefit in a very large way.

Wayne said...

Dear anonymous: I hesitated to publish this comment, not being sure of your reference to Dr. Taylor. Pardon my ignorance, but what is the book to which you refere?