For He is our peace; in His flesh He has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall; that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances; that He might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So He came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through Him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father. – Ephesians 2:14-18
I feel this passage represents the core of this chapter. It provides us with the theological foundation for peace. Christ is our peace. He has broken down the dividing walls to make one man, one body, one Church. And we, as His church, made in His likeness and living according to His example, are to both live in and live out His peace in a hostile world. But what does that peace look like? I believe that is what the author was trying to help us see. The picture is in no way complete, but bit by bit he gives us a picture of how this truth, practically applied, can bring peace to a world in conflict.
In order to discuss this, it is important to differentiate between the Church and the world. It is the church that lives in the reality of Christ’s “new humanity”. Regardless of our past, we live on as broken people who find common ground in the grace and power of Jesus. I am thankful that this book presents an image of the Church that experiences conflict, and one in which we are all broken. We’re just broken in different ways. The poor addict and the rich businessman stand on equal ground before God. We won’t always agree. We won’t always get along. We will hurt one another at times. The question then becomes, “What do we do about it?”. Our answer to that question is our testimony. We testify of our new humanity by lives of grace, reconciliation and generosity toward one another. It is something often incomprehensible to the world that is on the outside looking in. That said, as I look at this chapter this is only a small part of it. The bulk of the chapter focuses on how people living in Christ’s peace become people of peace to the world. Not only are we called to live in it, but we are called to share it.
But what does that look like?
The author, Mr. Hartgrove, gives us a few great practical examples. For me, two in particular were the most challenging. One is in regard to war as a whole. Personally, I hate war. I don’t know if there is ever a time that it is necessary. But in a time of wars and military actions throughout the world, how should I respond? Before I go further, I didn’t walk away from this reading with a perfect answer, but I at least have a few more ideas and a greater awareness of the problem than before.
The first example dealt with those who are at war who do not wish to be. These are people who choose the military as a career or to open doors to attend a college they can never afford. While I can easily say that there should be more options, saying it doesn’t make it so. Action is required. So, how can we as the Church provide scholarships and resources that give these students alternate options? What other options can we create for them? Our response is not only a help to them, it also has a direct impact on our countries resources to make war, especially where those wars are questionable. I believe those who fight should believe in what they are fighting for.
The second example began with community. Relationships with death row inmates and their families led to protest and multiple arrests. The protests were the last stand when everything else had failed. Ultimately, they had to stand before a judge for their actions. Actions for which they were judged guilty. However, the stand they took allowed them to proclaim peace and helped lead to an end to the death penalty in the state. Now, I am not sure I share their convictions about the death penalty, but that is not the only place in which we, as the church, are challenged to take a stand for God in the face of our country and culture. I am frustrated and often angry with my country these days. I have at times wondered if the people might one day respond violently to shift the balance of power. I know people dear to me who would likely take up arms to fight for their freedom as our founders did many years ago. That thought is a struggle for me, and I have wondered at times if I would join them, but even now as I think about it I am reminded of something that helps me think more clearly. This country is not my home. I am an ambassador for God’s kingdom who happens to dwell here for now. It reminds me that I have a different role. Some words corresponding to that role came to me earlier. They are found in James, chapter 3. It reads, “And the seed who’s fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” I apologize for a moment of thinking out loud, but this time I’m not going to edit it out for something more definitive and concise. Maybe that process will be of help to someone else thinking it out for themselves.
Anyway, I’ll close there. May the Church of God, being a people of peace, be a force for peace in the world. This I pray. Amen.