honesty of peace

One look at life...

One look at relationships...

One look at church...

One look at a city...

One look at a country...

One look at the world…

Considering all these areas of our lives - what we should value, who we should value, how we should act - we intuitively know our task is to seek peace (shalom) as the ancients prophets urged (Jer. 29:7). Yet if we’re honest and look around we know our task (peace) is far from easy.

We know this personally. We have countless internal struggles to live well. Whether it’s dealing with clients as we run our businesses, parenting young children, or passing our city’s homeless camp one more time, we face the absence and opportunity of peace daily. Friendships and marriages are defined by the dance of give and take, where peace is more a process of relating than a reality we achieve.  I like how one ethicist summarizes this personal struggle:

“I’ve finally realized that in this area of my life (ethics), while there is plenty of good advice, it can’t be summed up in once snappy formula, captured in a neat slogan that can be inscribed in a fortune cookie or on a bumper sticker…Ethics is hard.  It needn’t be weakness or fuzzy thinking that stands in the way of knowing the right thing to do, or the proper goals to strive for. We are right to be puzzled by the moral complexity we find in our lives. While we might yearn for clarity and simplicity, this wish for easy answers is bound to be repeatedly frustrated.” (Russ Shafer-Landau)

We also know this globally. Debate over responding to the dreadful violence and injustice in Syria is the latest in a global history mired in violence. And there are no easy answers. For Christians, followers of the Prince of Peace - the one who called us to “love our enemies,” our response should be anything but simple. While I shudder to think of how many times Christians have supported or even led the charge of violence, I also realize my convictions for peace ring hollow typed on my laptop as I lounge and sip coffee on a peaceful morning. I must also face reality. I resonate with the honesty of my friend Ryan as he reflected on these matters recently:

Am I a pacifist?  Well, yeah, I guess so.  But what does it even mean for me—a middle-class white Canadian whose experience has never even remotely been affected by war—to say this?  I am anti-war.  OK, fine.  I am also anti-cancer, anti-poverty, anti-racism, and, well, just generically ­anti-bad-things-happening-in-the-world.  So what?  Who cares about my shiny ideological artifacts shaped and preserved in a vacuum of privilege?

I do think there are ways we can address the complexity of peace both in our personal lives and in this world. And no doubt personal and corporate sacrifice on the part of the privileged (me!) will be central - peace always has a cost.

Yet before we seek solutions, we need to seek honesty. Beyond the ideal, we need to know and accept that living well - living for peace - is hard. Such honesty of peace can be a way towards peace.


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