thoughts for sunday
Blessed are the peace makers…for they will be called children of God
When I was wee, if I wanted to call a truce with my family I’d say: Pax? How I learned the Latin word for peace in 1970’s Possilpark is a mystery. I probably picked it up from Asterix the Gaul, something about Roman legions enforcing the peace of Rome – Pax Romana.
If Rome couldn’t seduce you with their culture then they would bludgeon you with their military – Pax Romana. That’s how they secured peace. Nothing much has changed. Today we have our own versions of democratised and totalitarian Pax Romana around the world.
But that’s a very different peace from the one described in scripture. The biblical experience of peace has an eye on what was described as Shalom. Shalom was the Hebrew word for peace. Shalom was a sense of well being between my neighbour, myself, God and the whole created world. That kind of peace couldn’t be imposed by a galadius and legions. Shalom was a gift of right relationship.
Here is how Isaiah imagines it’s coming:
He will judge between the nationsIsaiah 2
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into ploughshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.
The wolf will live with the lamb,Isaiah 11.
the leopard will lie down with the goat,
the calf and the lion and the yearling together;
and a little child will lead them…
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea.
Shalom: Peace is a way of being that grows out of good relationship. And God is at the heart of peace. Because the being of God is always relational.
Pax. Shalom. Two words for peace that need translation into English. But sometimes peace itself needs translated into our experience, because there can’t be many lives that don’t have some shipwrecked relationship on the coastline of living. A friendship you thought would last. A family estranged by something said or done.
Blessed are the rivalrous…
…for they shall bear a grudge. There are ways of being in the world were what I have, who I am, and think I’m due, is in competition with you for the same things. We can live as if there is a finite amount of good, a limited amount of respect, a restricted amount of positive attention to go round. In this view, whatever is given to someone else can’t help but subtract from whats due to me. I was good at…but you are recognised as being good at… suddenly my sense of self esteem is now at risk in this zero sum game.
We are frightened of not being loved, not being valued, not being respected. Other people become competitors for these same things. There can’t be enough to go round can there? This anxious way of relating to myself, my neighbour and the world can leave us envious, bitter, angry and grudging. It’s the opposite of peace. It’s also the way most of us live in our national, social and individual human being. In this way of living our neighbour is a fellow competitor, chasing the same commodity, so that my self esteem is always under threat. Not much room for Shalom there.
My peace I give…
In John’s gospel Jesus tells his disciples:
” Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”John 14
No sooner are these words out of Jesus’ mouth, than he is deserted by his closest friends, tried by a kangaroo court and held over to Pax Romana’s wood and nails. What happens to Jesus peace then? Is Jesus peace a zen like calm that, untouched, hovers above all that’s going on around him? No I don’t think it’s that. The peace of Christ is not immune from suffering. Peace is not a sedative. It’s not a suit of armour.
Jesus peace is a refusal to be anything other than who he is: The beloved son of God. His relationship with God is his peace. He knows who he is and no one and nothing can take that from him. Jesus finds peace in the relationship he has with God the father. His life is fully given over to God the father in love and God the father is fully given to him in love.
Peace be with…
This is the source of Jesus’ peace. A love happening were nothing is held back. There is a mutual self giving love between God the father and God the son. But it is not a possesive or exclusive love. It’s a love that wants to move outwards and share itself. Jesus refuses to treat anyone as a competitor to be defeated. He refuses to be less that what it is: a self understanding that doesn’t rely on others, but is given by God. As Jane williams writes:
only God will define Jesus, and under all circumstances, Jesus will be what God says he is: the beloved son, wanting and needing nothing else.Jane Williams, the merciful humilty of God
Jesus knows who he is. And who he is is not dependant on anything other than God’s description of who he is: beloved. He is free to help others enter into his love for God and God’s love for him. The gift of the Holy Spirit is the welcome embrace of who we are into that love.
So the peace of Christ can have everything stripped away until there is nothing left but death. It’s a peace that death can’t extinguish because there is nothing more real than the love of God shared between father and son. God finds his way back into the world. The risen Jesus arrives in a locked room with those who are hiding from what happened to him, and their own part in it all, and he tells them:
Peace be with you…John 21
The peace of our Lord Jesus Christ is not threatened by others, not destroyed by what happens to him. Because the care and love of God isn’t hamstrung by human capacity to deny it.
Jesus’ peace proves itself deeper and more resiliant than whatever challenges his relationship with God.
The shalom of Jesus…
Jesus doesn’t just show us the peace of God – he is the peace of God to us.
We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you. How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.Second Corinthians 5: 20-21
Jesus is God’s peace. The peace God makes with the world. The peace that the world cannot give. Because the world’s peace is based on winners and losers, worthy and undeserving, posession and competition. That’s always a fragile peace that needs protecting, makes scapegoats and ends in violence. Peace made on the cross.
Children of God…
Jesus makes known how every single person is uniquely precious to God. No one is superior. No one is inferior. All are welcome and given a love unique to them. Our peace comes when we let we allow ourselves to be embraced into the beloved-ness Jesus brngs.
Letting God tell us who we are means we are no longer at the mercy of the worlds opinion. Peace makers become the children of God by recieving their belovedness. We don’t have to compete. We are gifted who we are: beloved.
Peacemakers begin to understand how no one can love God with my love. No one can love God through my life. I can’t love God through your life. I can’t give God what only you can – your love. We are made to give God something no one else in the universe can – the love that’s ours alone to give. That is the most incredible thing when you think about it. There is only something you can give God – no one else. Your love. And Jesus has made that possible for us. That’s how we become children of God. Children of our father. Peacemakers. Who find our peace in Jesus.
Is peace then learning to make peace with myself: receiving the gift of my life, what I’ve lived and learned and offering that up to God with gratitude. Offering the love that only I can give. Receiving the love that only I can receive. Is peace learning to make peace with my neighbour: no longer grudging or seeing them as a rival. Is my task helping another see how unique and irreplacible they are to God. Then my task is to help others receive that gift of peace. Is that not what children of the father do?
Jesus is the presence of God’s peace in my life. This kind of peace knows there is no need for me to hold onto a grudge, because the love of God is moving us towards a full and final reconcilliation: the Shalom that Isaiah imagined. Jesus is our peace. In Christ we make peace with ourself, peace with our neighbour, peace with our world as he brings us into his endless eternal relationship with God.
the wee song above was written a few years back from the perspective of two people trying to let go their grudges.