A horrific attack in Istanbul, an arson attack outside a mosque in Perth… Recent news has elicited a harsh reminder about the devastating reality of hatred in the context of religion. How should we respond? Tanya Riches’ thoughts on peace beautifully frame a Christian stance in the face of hatred.
Peace On Earth
Today, in the wake of Brussels and Istanbul attacks, I can’t help but think about the virtue of peace. The Christian religion, despite all accusations from its detractors, advocates peace.
Romans 12:18 “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (NIV)
Hebrews 12:14 “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (NIV)
But religion does not always create peace, and this is one cost of faith commitment, which Jesus acknowledged to his disciples (Matt 10:34). Families may become divided by religious lines. And even Christians are divided – some will use Scripture to argue that Islam is the enemy of the God-fearing Christian and must be vanquished, but I think that is a mistake.
Why? The Bible brings me back to the broken body of Christ, the central Christian symbol that we remember every time Christians take communion together. Dying at the hands of his enemies, Christ revealed a power greater than retribution. God outworks justice in its fullest sense, not just its counterfeit, vengeance.
Whether it be a numbing effect of wealth or just our naiveté, those of us from “the West” often mistakenly believe we are entitled to peace, that we deserve to be safe at all times, while “the others” in the rest of the world experience constant terror of bomb threats and landmines, and may even run for their lives from the tatters of their village or city.
We often characterize it as fundamental difference – Western society is so good, so peaceful. But is it peace we are experiencing in the successfully hidden violent turmoil in families, in corporate greed, in the devastation of the environment, in racial segregation?
The West does not deserve peace because it is better than those in conflict zones. And the recent news shows us that we don’t have it yet either. No, peace must become our quest, as it is a quest in many parts of the world. It must be something we actively seek out. It must be pursued.
We must become peace-makers.
As we lament those affected by violence across many times and places, and even as we add to the list new cities affected by global terrorism, Christians must practice a Christianity suitable for times of war, as in much of the rest of the world.
Europe of all places understands violence. It is not new. But many of us with European heritage have forgotten how to turn conflict into the catalyst to strive towards something better.
Our grief must propel us towards practices which will embody the peace we so desire.
We are not entitled to it. No, instead it must become our quest. I will leave you with the quote that inspired my thought today:
It is clear the medieval conception of a quest is not … a search for something already adequately characterized, as miners search for gold or geologists for oil. It is in the course of the quest and only through encountering and coping with the various harms, dangers, temptations and distractions which provide any quest with its episodes and incidents that the goal of the quest is finally to be understood. A quest is always an education both to the character of that which is sought and in self-knowledge.
– Alasdair MacIntyre.