Building Peace, Not “Peacekeepers”
Peace in the World
Rev. Dr. Ruby Wilson
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Reflection: The peace of God is nothing like the peace that the world understands and gives. Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives” (John 14:27). The peace that comes from the world, to pull from a Tracy Chapman song, calls “missiles — peacekeepers.” In crises, to some, police and military presence may provide a sense of comfort far more than the presence of a priest.
The world is dangerous. Our conflicting and competing loyalties keep us mired in combat, fighting to the death over our little pools, puddles and ponds. We guard them ferociously, lest anyone deign to believe they are entitled to any piece of them. Yeah, Tracy Chapman’s question is right: “Why are missiles called peacekeepers when they are aimed to kill?” That is “peace” as the world gives it; like the era of Pax Romana, “Roman peace,” where order was maintained by the vigilant efforts of a heavy military and police presence. It is in contrast with all this military might that Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9a).
Practicing peace in the world has absolutely nothing to do with having the strongest army, the most aggressive police force, or the bully brand name of superpower. God’s peace has nothing to do with ammunition or the manipulation and fabrication used to control creation. We are too finite to even attempt to comprehend God’s peace.
But we can learn to practice peace in a number of ways. One such practice comes from my mother, the late Mother Dovetta Wilson, who taught her nine children to “lend a hand whenever and wherever you can.” Another comes from my father, the late Deacon David Wilson, Sr., who taught us to “always give something back, to build health and strong people and communities.” A third practice for peace in the world is to remember that love is a verb. I believe the King James translators got it right when they translated the Greek word ἀγάπη (agape) as “charity” (1 Corinthians 13).
Love is not only something to feel. Practicing peace in the world through acts of charity, mercy and grace are all expressions of the love called for by our God. In a world full of domination and violence, these acts of love are radical. But oh, how sweet the loving communion when we are made right with God and have made peace with others! There is nothing that can compare.
Practice for Peacemakers: Listen to Tracy Chapman’s “Why?” and consider the radical changes in perspective that are needed to build peace. This week, be conscious of the times in which your language plays into the assumptions of military dominance and violent, so-called justice.
Prayer: Dear God, we know that our practicing of peace means a willingness to be made vulnerable by loving and being compassionate toward one another. We know that your peace surpasses our understanding of how the world works. Instead of violence and the supremacy of power, you offer love. Help us to cast away the worship of power, to keep ourselves from being polluted by the violence of the world, and instead to accept the religion to which you call us: to look after orphans and widows in their distress, to extend mercy and love to our “enemies,” and to acknowledge the grace that you extend to all. Amen
The Rev. Dr. Ruby Wilson is senior pastor of Safe Haven UCC, and was recently elected president of the UCC N.Y. Conference’s Metro Association. She serves on the New York Conference UCC Commission on Ecumenism and Interfaith Relations, and is also the founder and executive director of JasD’Jor: Emerging Philanthropists, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping families of special needs children and training children to use their gifts and talents for service to the world.
This year’s Season of Peace Resources are designed to help participants explore practices for building peace on every scale. From the personal level to global issues, these reflections and prayers will help grow the faith and witness of the whole church. Throughout the 29 days of the 2020 Season of Peace, we are invited to reflect upon:
Week 1 September 6–12: Peace Within
Week 2 September 13–19: Peace in Relationships
Week 3 September 20–26: Peace in Community
Week 4 September 27–October 3: Peace in the World
Final Day October 4: Holistic Peacemaking