For a Lion to lie down with the lamb, the Lion has to be self-restrained, and the lamb has to have the courage to trust that the lion will not bite! Think about that for a moment when we talk about peace, because at the heart of any discussion of peace we start at a place where both sides admit that they have to go against every instinct they have to pursue a greater good. As you might have guessed, this Sunday the theme of advent is peace. This is reflected in the scripture, which I talk about in the Sermon Prep article.
Peace is an interesting thing, because in many ways it is counterintuitive. We have to admit that it is better to get along than be right, and for peace to be fully realized both sides have to be fully committed to making the peace work. This means that we have to do something that goes against our very nature, and that is to be vulnerable.
Unfortunately, when we seek peace, often people can take advantage of us. Look at the political system and the “peace agreements” that are often made. Most of the time you can pick out a winner or loser in that one group chose to take advantage in some way over the other. This is often the problem in the current Middle-East peace negotiations. It is often not a peace that is being sought, but a means to survival. The problem is that this means to survival really has little to do with peace and has everything to do with power.
When power or money is involved the image of peace is often distorted to become one of comfort rather then one of mutual respect and love. Think about how peace is described by people by various groups and look how they used it. In Nazi Germany, the “peace” that they promised was one that allowed for them to create a culture that said we will attain peace when everyone is like us and subscribes to our ways. That is not peace, nor could it ever be, because that is about conformity and power, not Peace.
I think about when I was a kid; actually, I was reminded of it while watching the movie Bully back in September. Another boy in the playground hit a young boy and the principal was trying to have them make up. Neither boy wanted to, but the “bully” quickly threw his hand out to make the gesture and the kid who was being bullied did not want to. While he did not use the words, he recognizes that the peace that the principal was going for was empty, while the bullied kid might have been open, he realized that the bully really was not in that place. Peace could not be achieved because one or both sides were unwilling to truly be open to the other side.
What is true about peace is what is true about most of faith. It starts with us. If we want peace, we have to look inward and ask ourselves what we are doing to achieve it. Are we listening to others? Are we allowing others to come into our heart? Are we accepting that our way may not be the only way? These are serious things, because if we want to experience Christ, we have to first start with the most basic question of whether or not we are willing to accept his peace, opening ourselves up to each other, even when it is uncomfortable.
It is very interesting that the bible gives the image of peace being a Lion with a lamb because on the most primal level their instincts know it is un-natural, even wrong. But the image suggests that here is something more to peace then comfort, it takes mutual effort and sacrifice in order to achieve. It takes admitting that we are not always in control and to be able to trust in God that when we become vulnerable, God will be there and when we let others into our hearts, setting aside our stubborn ways, we stand a better change of finding the peace we so long for.
Rev. Dr. Bryan James Franzen