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Peace - not as the world gives

January 2, 2007

“Peace I leave with you

My peace I give to you

not as the world gives do I give to you.” John 14:27

We prepare our hearts these weeks for the advent of the Prince of Peace and we do so in a world that knows little of peace. War in …turmoil in and …floods and civil strife in …

Darfur .

I confess that the situation in Darfur fills me with futility and despair. Last year the despair sent me on a search for answers and I decided to do a diploma course in Peace and Reconciliation Studies at Coventry University . Coventry is a place that has known its own private war, having been devastated by bombs dropped by the Luftwaffe in November, 1940. The ruins of the original Coventry Cathedral stand as a monument to peace and forgiveness, in memory of the people of Coventry who chose to forgive rather than be consumed by hatred and bitterness.

I was fascinated by the concept of a city of reconciliation and so I was eager with my questions when the curator of the cathedral museum was the tutor for one of my lectures. “How does Coventry ’s being a city of reconciliation affect football hooliganism?”, I wondered. “How does it affect relationships with the Asian community?”

The tutor was puzzled. “Well, it doesn’t affect any of those things”, she confessed.

I want a more robust peace.

In a paper for another lecture, I told the story of the children of Nate Saint who was one of the five martyrs murdered by the Waodani in Ecuador in 1956. Years later, his children, Steve and Kathy Saint, returned to the Ecuadorian jungle to be baptized by one of the men who had murdered their father.

“Impossible!” protested the head of the department. “I don’t believe it. It can’t be true.” He had boundaries and limits for reconciliation and peace.

Close your eyes and imagine a scene of peace. When you think of the word “peace”, what comes to your mind?

Really. Close your eyes. Feel. See. “Peace.”

If you are like most people, the scene you imagined was one of nature. Maybe there was a sunset, a scene steeped in autumn hues. Or was your scene leafy green, with glints of blue peeking out between the branches and the soft gurgling of water over rocks?

I’ll wager that none of you imagined a busy street scene, raucous with traffic, blaring horns and shouting vendors.

I live in Istanbul , a city of perhaps 15-17 million people. On any given market day in my area of town, I will be jostled and shoved by what is essentially the equivalent of the entire population of . What we naturally think of as “peace” doesn’t exist in my city. What does peace mean in an urban environment? What does it mean in the Middle East ?

Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us. (Romans 5:1)

Scripture paints a different picture. We have peace with God because of the bloody, ripping, agonising, death of Jesus Christ. It’s not very pastoral...it’s not very green. The only hills hold jagged wooden crosses and instead of birds chirping, it is angels wailing and demons crowing.

We all saw it visually when we saw “The Passion.” Scenes so bloody that many theatre-goers had to turn their heads were scenes of peace – the cost and the purchase of peace through agonising death.

He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault.” (Colossians 1:20-22)

Colossians confirms this by giving us another translation of what God has done. He MADE peace …by means of Jesus’ blood on the cross. Put away definitions of peace as passsive – He MADE peace.

These verses also have changed my perspective of a passive Jesus hanging in obedience on a cross. Instead, think of a warring, crucified Commander in desperate battle to purchase those who belong to Him. We were his enemies, firmly entrenched on the losing side. But in love He enters into battle to bring us back to Him – a violent war and struggle with the forces of evil. He went into battle for us so that He could purchase peace.

For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. (Ephesians 2:14-16)

Peace as a noun usually also gathers adjectives around it that are commonly considered peaceful. Tranquil. Gentle. Hushed. Given the task of creating a list of verbs to go together with peace, creative writing students might come up with “flowed”, or “tiptoed.” Again, scripture differs in its portrayal. We’ve seen Jesus as a bloody warrior, a purchaser of peace. In these verses from Ephesians he breaks down the wall of hostility in bringing peace. He ends the system of law – and as creatures want to live under law rather than the Spirit, we know that this abolishment is challenged violently in many cultural contexts throughout the world.

The most poignant example of violent verbs of peace has to be in Romans 16:20 when Paul reassures the believers in Rome that “the God of peace will soon CRUSH SATAN under your feet!” The God of peace? Check the Greek for typos. Surely it must be the God of breakthrough…or God, the King of Kings, the Lord, strong in battle, will crush Satan under your feet.” But no, it is the God of peace.

One of my favourite hymns understands this concept. In “Crown Him with Many Crowns”, the third verse goes like this:

“Crown Him the Lord of peace

Whose power a scepter sways

From pole to pole that wars may cease

And all be prayer and praise.”

The Lord of peace, the Lord of power. The warrior who goes into battle to purchase peace.

Darfur needs this Lord of peace.

-- Pam Wilson

Pam Wilson (relief@mercy.se) lives in Istanbul and is the International Relief Coordinator for Operation Mercy, an NGO based in Orebro, . Operation Mercy’s vision is to positively impact the societies of North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus and Central Asia with compassion and integrity through relief and development ministries. Contact us at www.mercy.se