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Peace in an Age of Empire

There’s a good piece by Pastor Ryan Bell over at the new Religious Liberty blog. It was started by Michael D. Peabody, esq, and already has some interesting content.

Ryan writes:

As the church continually reevaluates and reconsiders its role in God’s plan, this Beatitude, or blessing, of Jesus must not be taken lightly. It would be incorrect to see peacemaking as a minor part God’s plan to restore creation. What I have tried to show in this very brief overview is that God’s shalom is perhaps the central theme of God’s creation restoring work; the central metaphor throughout scripture for the complete wholeness of creation, which God is restoring.

The messengers of God’s shalom – those described in Isaiah 52:7 – are God’s precious co-laborers. Look again at this prophetic text.

How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!” (Isa 52:7)

What is the English word for “those who bring good news?” Evangelist. An evangelist is one who proclaims the evangel, or good news.

And what is the content of the good news that these evangelists are proclaiming? Peace. Shalom. Salvation from all her enemies. The reign of God!

So, peacemaking – announcing and enacting peace in our world – is evangelism. It is bearing the good news to a world awash in violence, war, poverty, disease and every other injustice. The good news of God’s kingdom envisioned by the prophets (Isaiah most notably), incarnate in the person of Jesus and taught by him in passages like the Beatitudes, is a good news of God’s shalom gaining the upper hand in the world.

But how does God’s peace gain the upper hand in the world? And what is the role of peacemaking in all this?

Jesus’ way of achieving this peace is not the world’s way. In Jesus day, the Pax Romana – Peace of Rome – was widely heralded as the salvation of mankind. The Roman Empire proclaimed peace for the entire world. But it was a peace that came at the end of a sword. It was peace achieved by violence. The Pax Romana turned out to be an illusion, because peace cannot ultimately be achieved through violence.

Jesus taught a different way. The peace of God’s reign would come on a cross – from the greatest display of self-giving love. On the cross Jesus put into practice the teaching of his Sermon: love your enemies, do good to those who spitefully use you and persecute you, turn the other cheek, etc.

Rome’s way was peace through violence, or peace through victory. Jesus way is peace through justice. The two are radically different.[1] Rome’s way says that peace will finally come when all foes are vanquished and the way you accomplish this is through military might. Jesus eschewed this kind of violence and militarism. Jesus taught that peace would finally come when righteousness, or justice, was the order of the day.

All here.

I just posted the following comment.

I always appreciate how you ground your witness/works/actions in the example of Christ. Growing up Adventist for the last twenty-some years, I heard, “Be Like Christ,” or “Walk in His Footsteps,” “Do Unto Others. . .” from pastors and teachers, but it always seemed nebulous and ill-defined. The best that they could do to firm it up was some sort of personal politeness morality. What I dig about the message above is that you make it real by grounding our public witness of Christ in our larger world, beyond the church, in our public life as members of all communities, family, church, civic, globe.

This adds the necessary elements of responsibility and works to the usual rhetoric of having a relationship with Christ. Or as I like to say: a relationship through Christ to all creation. Thus, looking to the Creator of All provides me with the ethical model on which to ground my existential meaning and moral actions.

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