He shall judge between the nations and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat
their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation;
neither shall they learn war any more.
Isaiah 2:4 (NRSV)
This Scripture is inscribed into a wall across the street from the United Nations headquarters in New York. It presents an image of a world without war and in which weapons and violence can be transformed into something more constructive.
I want to call attention to the word beat. It is active, not passive. It implies that not only words, but physical action is required to transform a sword into a plowshare. Additionally, to take one thing and turn it into something else requires both creativity and imagination. Further, if every sword and spear is to be transformed, it is not something one can do alone. It is a process that requires all of us.
Yet, when we think of peacemaking, we often mistake it as being a passive activity. If someone is mean to us, we’ll sit there and take it. We’ll turn the other cheek. When something bad happens in our world, our primary response is with prayers. But true, nonviolent peacemaking is an action that is spiritual, physical and done in community.
Therefore, peace is not simply the absence of conflict or violence. It is an activity that we choose to engage in every day with our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits. May we be courageous and creative enough to engage in it.
Action: Do something creative such as making a piece of art or music. Consider how it can it be used as part of your peacemaking witness or advocacy work and how it can be done collaboratively with others in your community.
Prayer: Loving God, we pray for peace in your world, for nonviolent resolutions to conflicts among your children. May we remember that we are not alone in seeking peace and that Jesus provides us with the ultimate example of seeking change through nonviolence. Amen.
Simon Doong is the associate for Peacemaking with the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. He oversees the development and updating of select congregational resources, both print and digital. He coordinated the webinar series on how faith communities can address gun violence, Standing Our Holy Ground; oversaw the development of the Companion Guide to the Commitment to Peacemaking; co-hosts A Matter of Faith: A Presby Podcast; and interfaces with Presbyterians on specific topics such as gun violence and peace church discernment.
This year’s Path of Peace reflections are designed to help participants explore peacemaking efforts addressing some of the major issues of our time. The theme for the 29 days of the 2022 A Season of Peace is Led Forth in Peace: Critical Areas of Engagement for Peacemakers. With these daily reflections, we are invited to reflect upon ways to practice peace by engaging the following critical areas:
- Climate change
- The intersection of poverty and racism