I declare peace on the world.
In fact, I declare total peace on the world.
I am choosing to wage peace in the world.
To wage peace would be to carry out or bear the burden of peace in world. I like that image. Making, bearing the burden of, or carrying out peace is work. A lot of my peacemaking over the last few years has been in the form of writing and teaching those who would rather wage war than wage peace. I have been challenging people to declare peace (as opposed to declaring war) and then to wage peace in and through relationships.
The peace that I am speaking of is not ‘the absence of war or conflict’. That’s a false peace. That’s the Pax Romana (peace of Rome), which was declared after each military victory in ancient Rome. Ending a war is not creating peace. No, the peace that I am speaking of is beyond tolerance, lack of conflict, or serenity. The peace that I am speaking of is one of restored relationships – between humans and God, humans and creation, and humans and other humans. It’s the shalom of God, in which all things are set to right, and all of creation experiences justice and righteousness in equity with each other.
There are many other ways to wage peace besides simply writing and teaching. One friend of mine, also named Jeff (which means ‘peaceful one’), waged peace in North Carolina by working with the Interfaith Youth Core and Habitat for Humanity to bring Christians, Muslims, and Jews together to build a Habitat House in their community. Another friend of mine, Basel (which means ‘courageous’), waged peace by organizing #Muslims4Lent this past Lenten season. He got together his friends and challenged them to participate in Lent by giving something up as an act of solidarity with Christians who were also practicing Lent. My friend Brian (his Hebrew name is Baruch meaning ‘blessed’) is currently waging peace in Amsterdam, where he is challenging Christians to replace fear with love towards Muslims in a country that is quite Islamophobic.
We need more peaceful, courageous, blessed one’s in our world. Jesus said that those who make peace are blessed, and they are the one’s to whom the Kingdom of God belongs. The difficulty with waging peace and participating in the peaceful Kingdom is not that we don’t know what to do. The difficulty is finding the courage to do something extraordinary and counter-cultural in a world that seems bent on waging war and destroying itself. Because waging peace brings division too – between those who would wage war and those who wage peace, between those who value security and those who value justice, between those whose allegiance lies with their national identity and those whose allegiance lies with the Kingdom of God.
The Christian Peacemaker Team in Palestine wages peace by walking Palestinian kids to school, because they are regularly harassed and questioned by Israeli guards at checkpoints. They wage peace by helping rebuild homes that are demolished in Palestine by bulldozers. No matter what you think about Israel/Palestine, you have to admit that this work takes immense courage. It truly is a burden, but that burden is aligned with the heart of the gospel.
The United States claims to be a peaceful nation, yet these stories are very difficult to find. Our news media regularly tells us stories of war and destruction. Our government has been engaged in war for almost the entire time we have been a nation. Not surprisingly there still is no peace. Because waging peace requires creativity, patience, courage, and love. And, war never leads to peace, as history has shown us. Waging peace is the only way towards peace.
Whether you are a Christian, a Muslim, or a Jew (or anything else), I invite you to walk along with me in the pathway of peace. I invite you to wage peace in our world. I invite you to be blessed, and to participate in the peaceful Kingdom of God which is already here and not yet fully seen. We have glimpses, and those glimpses should give us hope that shalom is possible. It won’t be easy, but it is necessary.