At the very heart of the Gospel, the Mission of God and the Vision of the Kingdom is Peace – Shalom.
We are called to follow the Prince of Peace and to be peacemakers (Mt 5:9). We are told to love our enemies and pray for them (Mt 5:44). The teaching of peace permeates every part of the New Testament and Jesus demonstrates this clearly in his unconditional love leading to his ultimate sacrifice.
When Jesus was confronted by Pilate and asked if he was a King he affirmed it but clarified the distinctive response to his Kingdom in John 18:36 – if his Kingdom was like a kingdom of the world then his people would be fighting to free him. (One of his followers did try that by cutting off the ear of a soldier on Jesus’ arrest – but Jesus immediately stopped this and healed the ear – explicitly telling Peter to put his sword away). No, Jesus’ Kingdom is different – it is not like that of this world – it is a Kingdom of peace and reconciliation, of healing and restoration.
It is a ‘pagan’ assumption that the only way to win is through conquering your enemies. It is an ignorant and foolish response that simply escalates violence, with revenge upon revenge. This approach was “Christianised’ by Constantine in the 4th Century when he invited believers to share power and conquer the world in Jesus’ name. This is the exact opposite of what the Gospel is really about and you only have to follow Jesus’ life to see that clearly. Victory will never be won through conquering, through violence. It will only be won by loving our enemies, serving and blessing others – even to the point of sacrifice – for this is exactly what Jesus did and we are called to follow him.
Colossians 1:19 – God is reconciling all to himself in Jesus.
Why does the world not see this truth? The mind can never see what the heart is unwilling to obey. In fact, when our hearts rebel and disobey, our minds become clouded and we see only what we want to see, that which feeds pride, envy and selfishness.
When any nation feels under threat it seeks to unite by identifying a common enemy, a common threat – and calls everyone together to face this threat. The comradery in a military unit is strengthened by a unifying call to stand against an identified enemy. When this kind of unity is associated with patriotism and fanned into flame with fear, the possibility of peace decreases. Into this context Jesus calls us to love and not hate, to bless and not curse, to serve and seek nothing in return, to sacrifice and to not respond in violence.
As we remember the ultimate love and sacrifice that Jesus did for us all this Easter, may we earnestly give our lives over to seeking shalom, to being shalom bringers to our world.
For us to be peacemakers and reconcilers we first need to be at peace with God. We can never lead people to peace if we ourselves are not there.
Lord, search our hearts and minds, and show us each as individuals and as churches anything that is blocking us from being in the centre of your peace and presence.
Lord, as we seek to be reconcilers, help us to forgive unconditionally and seek forgiveness from one another so that we may be one.
Holy Spirit, we stand together and pray for those who use power to hurt, destroy and kill, we pray for those who exploit, abuse and steal, and we cry out for those who selfishly hold onto resources when others are in need – hear our prayer. Reveal you love through us to one another – your amazing, liberating, healing, life-giving love.
Come and heal Lord Jesus.
By Sheryl Haw