“Peace I give to you, my peace I leave with you.” (John 14:27) “I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
How are we supposed to align these two statements of Jesus? On the one hand he says he gives peace, on the other hand he says he does not. What we must remember is that there are more than one kinds of peace. The peace of Jesus’s day was the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome bought through the blood spilled by the Roman Legions.
In the Matthew passage, we remember that Jesus does not bring the peace of Rome. This is not a peace where the blood is on other people’s hands. That, in fact, is no peace. Jesus does not come to support the status quo or to replace the Romans with Jews and still win that victory on the blood of the barbarians.
The peace Jesus leaves with us is tied to God’s justice. God doesn’t call us to wash our hands so others will dirty theirs. Instead we are called to be a people of shalom. This is not a statement about the military or those serving or who have served around the world. What kind of people are we called to be and do we believe God has the power to make that possible?
It is an act of faith to be a people striving for peace, striving for justice, and freedom. These are words that are continually hollowed out by the ways many governments are run. They sound good but the decisions and actions necessary to make them last are hard. And ultimately, the Christian faith is not in our ability as peacemakers but God’s sovereignty over all creation. We are called to be witnesses to the victory Christ has won.
One of my teachers, a famous pacifist, was asked in class where is peace to be found in this world of violence. His answer was only slightly tongue-in-cheek: a baseball game. At a baseball game, people aren’t killing each other. May we be a church that is at least as peaceful as a baseball game, that is dedicated to peace and promoting reconciliation in our own neighborhoods and around the world. Another teacher who runs a gang rehabilitation ministry once described what he did as breaking up fights.
May we be a church that breaks up fights, that stands between people and points to the ultimate peacemaker, the one who sought peace so much he gave his life for us all that we may have hope.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.