Blessed are the peacemakers
I have been doing a lot of pondering here on the lee side of the mountains. The Presidential campaign has been going on for several years now (ugh!) and like labor, the last part seems to be the most painful. It seems the tactic most frequently employed to persuade is fear. If you succeed in touching someone where they are most afraid, they will vote for you because they’ll believe that those other guys will end our world as we know it.
In the midst of all this I have been thinking a lot about what is uniquely Christian. Many have assumed a posture that says that our stance on moral issues is the way that we must show up and make an impact in society, that moral issues are what define us. I remember being taught that we are like the frog in the pot of water that eventually boils to death because it doesn’t notice the gradual increase in temperature. If we don’t pay attention to the gradual erosion of values in society, we will die in the pot. As a result, we have become almost frantic about our moral stances. These are important of course, but it’s also important that we embrace all moral issues rather than be defined by just a few. The sanctity of all life, how we deal with the poor, how we handle the economy, how we handle enemies – or even those we simply disagree with- are all moral issues. But even these things are not uniquely Christian. Moral issues are wrestled with and valued by many creeds and societies.
Perhaps it’s time that we own our own moral failures (stats show that we are no different in divorce, sexual perversions or addictions than anyone else), stop projecting them outward and lean into the God who loves us as we are. The struggles we face within us are not because of “those out there”. We are responsible for our own behavior. I suggest that when we compromise with the “world” and take on their values, what we lose is grace. Grace is uniquely Christian, uniquely us. When we lose grace, we become like those with no hope; we measure, judge, become afraid, punish, jostle for position, draw dividing lines, exclude, yell, and demand. We forget that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. We lose our ability to look upon “those out there” with the same eyes of grace through which we have been seen and loved. We lose trust; this nation is devoid of trust. We leave the promise of the Kingdom and enter back into the world of dualism- ins and outs, black and white, superior and inferior, touchable and untouchable. We become Pharisees, well-meaning and sure of being “right”, but blind to the God who is right before our eyes.
My daughter showed me this quote by Florence Nightingale: People talk about imitating Christ, and imitate Him in the little trifling formal things, such as washing the feet, saying His prayer, and so on; but if anyone attempts the real imitation of Him, there are no bounds to the outcry with which the presumption of that person is condemned.
Now I love the “formal things” that we have been given and I find deep and nourishing meaning in them, but I understand her frustration. We go through the motions and even take in Christ, our manna from heaven at the Table, but to offer the radical grace reflected there to those who offend us, to those who are sinners (wait, isn’t that us?) and or those who are in any way different is often to invite condemnation from our own. And I am convinced that the bitterness that is shown toward Christians in this country is because we have offered the letter of the law, not grace. Imagine instead what we’d look like if any condemnation we received from “those out there” would be because of offering the radical love shown by Jesus? Something beautiful can flow from our new identity in Christ.
I am thinking that this grace has something to do with how we can become the peacemakers that Jesus talked about, and then, how we become those who live in and invite others to a society of shalom. (Quoting my husband, “Shalom is a loaded word in the Old Testament. Peace doesn’t even begin to describe its meaning. It is a beautiful word – and it carries the idea of fullness, wholeness, rightness, well-being-ness, health, safety, prosperity, completeness. It’s the sense of “all being right in the world.”) I’d love to hear from others about what it might look like to create a society of shalom. It’s the Kingdom, of course. My first thought is we need to get out of the way. Shalom is here – it’s Jesus and the grace he brings – if we have eyes to see and the humility to embrace it. Let’s remember the One (not just the party) to whom we truly belong. He offers a whole new paradigm.