How to Be a Messenger of Peace on Earth

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Isaiah 2:1-5 NRSV

[1] The word that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. [2] In days to come the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; all the nations shall stream to it. [3] Many peoples shall come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [4] 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. [5] O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD!

Angle »

We speak of “peace on earth” in purely sentimental, abstract terms. We’ve come to believe peace is purely a promise from God reserved for an unseeable future apocalyptic moment. But God’s vision for the world is that we move toward peacefulness here and now, and all who follow Jesus as Messiah are invited to be agents of that peace.

Anchor »

Is peace even possible?

Our modern Christian reasoning usually goes something like this:

    1. Peace among men is impossible without God. (True.)
    2. God will make everything peaceful someday. (Also true.)
    3. For now, we can’t do anything about the chaos and might as well remain a part of it while we wait for God to fix everything. (Not exactly.)

Yes, sinful men will always seek to have power over one another. It’s what we do in a world in which our sin separates us from God’s everpresent influence.

And yes, the Bible is filled with promises that God will make everything right at some unpredictable point in the far-off future.

But does that mean we simply abandon all hope for any kind of peace in the meantime?

Not if we follow the One who taught us how to bring peace to our chaotic world.

In this portion of Isaiah, the message is two-fold.

    1. Jerusalem is in trouble and everyone needs to repent.
    2. It won’t always be this way.

The prophecy points toward a new vision for the world and for the affairs of mankind. God isn’t content to settle for the lost state of things. He will move us beyond the wreckage and ruin and violence of our power struggles as people and will include anyone who wants his peace to freely have it through the work accomplished by his Messiah, his Son, Jesus Christ.

And in the meantime, any of us who claim to follow Jesus have asserted that…

1. We take Jesus’ teachings seriously.

So when Jesus talks about turning the other cheek, walking a second mile when we shouldn’t have to do so, or praying for our enemies, we don’t spiritualize those teachings. We believe them.

Jesus’ message is radically difficult to live out, but that’s the commitment Christians make.

2. We will follow Jesus’ example closely.

When Jesus speaks of taking up our crosses and following him, he didn’t mean that we would simply go through difficulty. Rather, he called us to face all corrupt power with love and self-sacrifice. He challenges us to overcome violence through nonviolence. He expects us to refrain from judgment and instead to identify ourselves with the most broken.

3. We will adopt Jesus’ Kingdom vision personally.

When Isaiah speaks of “days to come” when the nations (all ethnic groups, with all of their cultural and socio-political differences) stream into the family of God, we believe we get to be part of that right now as we share the good news about Jesus with our lives and with our lips.

When Isaiah predicts that God will reveal himself to all who want to receive his word, we believe that there will always be those who are hungry for the truth that leads to ultimate freedom.

When Isaiah portrays a future in which weapons of war have become obsolete and are therefore turned into tools for cultivating food for everyone to have, we embrace our individual role in that kind of world. We lay down our presupposed right to claim the earth by violence and instead protect and share it freely with everyone.

God’s vision of the future of earth is always better than our vision, and he invites us to embrace his vision and to carry out the mission of taking Jesus’ story, teachings, and values to the ends of the earth for the salvation and good of all people.

 

Application »

Following Jesus is about more than simply believing that he will restore and renew our broken world. It’s also about seeing our role and finding our place in carrying his love, his message, and his radically different way of life to everyone who will listen.

It also sometimes means abdicating the “rights” we believe we ought to have as humans in order to do what is best for others and for the whole of humanity.

Artwork »

Ban, Shigeru, 1957-. “Cardboard Cathedral,” transitional Christchurch Cathedral, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN.

 

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