Friday, August 3, 2012

Arguing about peace

I didn’t mean to anger him, yet, as I spoke, I told him I would anger him. What I said just came naturally as a Christian and an evangelical. Sure, I believe peace can come to the Middle East when people try harder, when some Jewish settlements are removed, when the wall isn’t infringing on places that are harming Palestinian olive groves and other enterprises. When Arab governments such as Hamas recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish State, and militant Islamist quit sending rockets and suicide bombers into Israel. But he started the debate with me about divestment during a break in committee 15, and when I refused to accept his insistence that divestment was the only way to bring peace to the Middle East the liberal Rabbi asked what I thought would bring peace.

Never ask a Christian that question, not if you don’t want to hear their answer. For a Christian, there is an instinctive answer to that question. Jesus will bring peace. But I didn’t elaborate because he was extremely angry. But now I want to elaborate.

No, peace won’t come like some magic potion because of Christ. He can change lives, and changed lives can help with peace because believers are given peace and are called to live with love, kindness and compassion. Some families find peace after finding Jesus, and some enemies make peace. Saint Paul after all made peace with the Christians he had persecuted, after he made peace with Jesus. But we are all sinners; look at the awful problems that happened in Ireland where the two sides each called themselves Christian.

And really, believing in Jesus often causes horrible problems. In fact, Jesus himself said that he didn’t come to grant peace on earth but division. Instead of peace, families would turn against each other; some members even betraying others to death:

Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth I tell you no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law. (Luke 12:51-53)"

So what is that peace? First, there is the peace that Jesus gives to the believer. Jesus says that is a peace unlike the world's. (John 14: 27) That means Jesus’ peace has nothing to do with anything going on around us. It is a gift that has nothing to do with our circumstances but rather with Christ and his cross. We are lodged in his keeping; forgiven, cared for and full of the knowledge that we belong to him.

There is also the peace that is coming—the peace that a redeemed universe will know with the coming of Christ, the peace that comes with the final redemption of the Church. The time when the “already” overcomes the “not yet.”

But what I really wanted to say to the Rabbi, and to the fellow sitting beside him who said he was a Palestinian Christian, is that there is no conflict so big but that when Christ Jesus says it is enough, it will be enough—we can keep striving in our own puny way—keep trying with every ounce of our strength to bring peace—and we may bring some semblance of peace, we may, on the other hand, in the end, bring devastation and ruin, but when the King marches through the door there will be peace.


Henry Chambers said...

Doesn't the Old Testament show time and time again that the Promised Land is a land flowing of milk and honey only when the Chosen People honor and serve the God who saved them (and is turned into aweful place when they don't?
(See the listing of blessings and curses in Deuteromy 28 and the promise in Deuteronomy 30).
Can we really expect God's full blessing on the Chosen People in the Promised Land as long as they reject their Messiah?

Viola Larson said...

I say this very carefully—I believe we must make a distinction between the Jewish people and their covenant with God, which includes the Holy Land, and salvation which means eternal life. Never forget what Paul states in Roman’s, “From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable.” (Romans 11: 28-29)
On top of that we cannot know what God is doing with the Jewish people—having gone for almost 2000 years without their land and having their land now is surely God’s gift and grace. I am not a Christian Zionist but it is now their land and that in God’s providence.
On the other hand Jesus is the way, the fulfillment of God’s promises to the Jews and the Gentiles. There is no other way. I think we must keep those two biblical truths together.