As we learned last week, our Advent is a time when we try to be focused on the fact that what is of this world is incomplete and merely a glimpse of the glory that is with God. As we think of hope, we know that the hope we have is one that is far more than anything we could hope for in this world. The interesting thing with hopes is that within our society hopes are always ethereal. While they may become reality, we pretty much accept them as a “best case scenario” sort of a thing. While they are a desire, they are not necessarily something that people would die for in this world. This week we explore something millions and millions of people have died for, PEACE.
Unfortunately, this peace is laden with problems. As a Political Science professor once said “peace is in the eye of the winner”, a variation of “history is written by the winner.” His point was obvious, that in our world peace is often seen by the people in power. What is peaceful for me is not necessarily peaceful for someone else.
It reminds me of where I grew up. In the suburbs with my look, dress, and education I lived in Peace. I did not have to worry about harassment, beyond the normal teenage stuff; even at that I knew I was safe. But I had a friend. As an African-American, he was always frustrated with police following him when he drove constantly and being suspected of shoplifting when we went to the mall. Not the same peace!
I remember when we had an open forum with a police officer at school and he asked why this was ok, the police officer said “well, we want everyone to feel safe, and it is true that people of color cause more problems, if you’re not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about.” At the time I did not understand why he got up and left the classroom. I do now! What the police officer was talking about was not peace; it was societal comfort.
It is always important to make that distinction, but it also creates a confusion. If what I think is peace is not, what is peace anyway? And is peace as God promises even possible? Both great questions, but hard to answer.
First, we need to listen hard to the cries for peace. This is where I like to talk about discernment and invoking the “Rule of Paul.” The Rule of Paul is the lesson he teaches about how to recognize if someone is lifting up the church or taking advantage of it. If they are taking advantage of it they promise you comfort and things that are quite selfish in nature. If they are to be accepted and followed they are putting God first. If they are not, then you know what they really seek is power. Unfortunately, that is all too common in this world, we see it with superpowers fighting over territory, but we also see it at home with profiteering.
The reality of peace is that most calls for peace are not really calls for peace, they are calls for comfort. But when you think of it, that comfort is often done on the backs of the powerless or outcast. This is true in the United States as much as anywhere else. All we need to do is look at the prison and school systems. Those with access can live a fairly peaceful life; yes, they may find difficulties here and there, but they don’t have to live in constant fear. But those who do not have access, whether that be economic, cultural, ethnic, or sexuality, are often taken advantage of or have a difficult time overcoming their situation and are never able to find even a glimpse of peace.
It is important here to recognize that what we think of as peace is not the peace that God promises us. The Peace that God promises us is a peace where power, financial gain, class, or any division don’t really matter: it is a complete peace that lets us recognize equality and justice where all have equal access, and power is as unimportant as the most trivial thing.
So we lift up peace this week knowing that the peace we seek is a peace beyond this place or even our comprehension but is a Peace that is complete and just and more than we will ever know until Christ comes in his final Glory.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen