BLOG 5/25/18. THE DISRUPTIVE GOSPEL OF PEACE
I am increasing fascinated by the New Testament designation of the message of Jesus Christ as the gospel of peace. In Paul’s word of caution to the church about the ever-present malice of wiles of the devil, he tells them (among other pieces of the armor of God) to put be putting their feet the gospel of peace. Remember, that the references to God’s purpose in making peace run deep in scripture. An early prophecy about the future messiah was that he would be called: the prince of peace. Later in that prophecy (Isaiah 11:6 in loc) is the description of the peaceable kingdom where all would be in perfect harmony with God’s design for creation and humanity.
Jesus is portrayed as that one who made peace by the blood of his cross. The writer of the letter to the Hebrews describes God, as the God of peace: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus … equip you with every good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight.” … So it is too convenient to rush mindlessly right over the implications of that, or to fail to understand how all-consuming that peace is to be, or even what that peace is.
Or, how incredibly unrealistic it is to repeat St. Francis’ prayer that we be instruments of God’s peace, and then enter into some spiritual never-never-land as we ask to be just such amidst hatred, injury, doubt, despair, darkness, sadness, and with those who need consolation, understanding, love, pardon, and hope when dying, … all of this in our fractured world so torn with idolatrous nationalism, political, ethnic, cultural, and religious tribalism, environmental spoilage … globally. It is all too convenient to retreat into our safe institutional form of Christian faith, and even there not to probe deeply into the radical social and cultural values in the teachings of Jesus and the Biblical writers.
Do you recall that Jesus said things like: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you, not as the world gives, let not your heart be troubled?” Or, “I do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth, but a sword.” If we stop and probe into that we are brought face to face with the fact that Jesus came to disrupt the systems of darkness which are our daily experience. There are ‘principalities and powers’ that are complex and do not respond to challenges to their sovereignty passively.
But our gospel of peace looks beyond what is, to what is God’s sovereign intent for his creation, and that intent is to be incarnated by his followers in a dominion of darkness. God’s tomorrow has invaded our today … which is disruptive. One has only to read the news in this election season, or read the news from other nations, or look at the human tragedies (school shootings!) that cry out for God’s true peace, … while so many are agents of those destructive powers political self-promotion, greed, prejudice, and violent solutions.
At the threshold of our Christian profession is the command to repent, and repentance is a whole radical new frame of reference that is formed by God’s gospel of peace, and all too much of (what Bonhoeffer called) ‘religious Christianity’ is not ‘up to’ (responsive)such radical new creation. There are no easy or simplistic formulae for being those who wear the gospel of peace as a garment. So, I, for one was heartened by the voices of Episcopal Bishop Michael Curry, social justice advocate and editor,Jim Wallis and others who have used their visibility and influence to sponsor a declaration, entitled: “Reclaiming Jesus: A Confession of Faith in a Time of Crisis.” Yes, and Amen. But in the ongoing battle between God’s tomorrow and the principalities and powers of today, the scripture teaches us that we overcome by the word of our testimony, the blood of the Lamb, … but that it may well cost us our lives! (Rev. 12:11). May the peace of God be with you, my readers.