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Posts Tagged ‘peacemaking’

The overarching theme of God’s story is shalōm. God created a Kingdom characterized by shalōm: complete-positive-peace. But, humans destroyed shalōm. The Old Testament provides an ongoing testimony to that destruction. Nevertheless, God promised a reign through which he would re-establish shalōm. He inaugurated this reign through Jesus of Nazareth, whom He made Lord and Christ. Christ accomplished this work by initiating the New Covenant. The New Covenant ushered in perpetual jubilee marked by reconciliation based on liberty from sin and oppression

God freely grants citizenship in this Kingdom—and the reconciliation it entails—apart from any merit. Instead it comes through the free and conscious exercise of faith in God on the basis of the Gospel: God’s promise of reconciliation through forgiveness and restoration.

Faith is ongoing trust or allegiance that necessarily includes repentance—departure from sin—and discipleship—following in all areas of life Christ’s example and teaching as well as the teaching of His apostles. It is made possible and required by the new birth, resulting in progressively knowing and resembling God.

Disciples have undivided allegiance to one king and to his one Kingdom. They are a holy nation that rejects all thoughts, words, and actions that would compromise this allegiance. For example, they neither seek to interfere with the affairs of earthly kingdoms nor do they seek protection or endorsement from those kingdoms.

However, they do seek to influence society prophetically: They proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom, welcome new citizens, nourish one another’s faith, and prophetically rebuke, by word and non-violent action, society’s values and actions which depart from those of the Kingdom.

These disciples assemble in counter-cultural communities characterized by love: unity, peace, and mutual commitment. They demonstrate this commitment primarily through good works, including instruction, encouragement, correction, discipline, and restoration. In addition, they share with one another their material resources, which is possible, since they live simply.

Assemblies regularly practice baptism and the Lord’s Supper. These signs represent and commemorate the Gospel, and, therefore, nourish the faith of participants and witnesses. In addition, they signify the believer’s identity with and commitment to the unified local body of believers.

Baptism, specifically, is the rite of initiation into discipleship and into covenantal membership with a local assembly of believers. It symbolizes and recalls the baptism of the Spirit believers experience at conversion. It also pictures cleansing, death, birth, and resurrection, resulting from the pledge believers make to Christ at conversion. Therefore, only those who have exercised voluntary faith in Christ are fit subjects for baptism.

The most prominent marks of discipleship include truth-telling, kingdom living, and peacemaking. First of all, one who follows Jesus practices and tells the Jesus, since Jesus is the Truth. Furthermore, Jesus commanded his disciples to speak the truth, a command profoundly emphasized by his forbidding oaths.

Kingdom living for disciples accords with the values of perpetual Jubilee: They make disciples. They also help and comfort the weak, needy, and helpless. Furthermore, they separate from evil, particularly worldliness—the desire, pursuit, acquisition, maintenance, and use of power in order to receive glory and praise.

Finally, peacemaking must characterize the disciple’s life. Peace is both the goal of disciples’ words and actions as well as the means whereby they achieve that goal. Therefore, they pursue peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness. They neither resist violence nor retaliate against its manifestations. Jesus’ actions and teaching, and those of his apostles, provide the basis for this life-style.

Jesus inaugurated God’s reign in order to re-establish shalōm, the complete-positive-peace which characterized his creation. This overarching theme of God’s story—shalōm—characterized the story of Christ, both his teaching and example: He taught and prayed that his disciples would live by love, peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and nonresistance, insisting that peacemaking and forgiveness are necessary components of faith and discipleship. In addition, he consistently practiced love, including loving His enemies and doing good for them. He also modeled nonresistance and non-retaliation. He did not punish His enemies; he loved them and did good for them—He died for them, whereby he obtained reconciliation and peace with God for all people.

Therefore, disciples love: They love one another, and they love their enemies and do good for them. They seek reconciliation, peace, and unity with one another and all people, even at the cost of personal suffering. For example, they do not settle their disputes in earthly courts, but they rely on the wisdom of the assembly. Furthermore, they alleviate human distress and suffering. But, they do not oppose violence with violence, despite whatever form of greater good the violence purports it will achieve. Specifically, disciples will not use lethal force in behalf of any kingdom such as a nation-state.

The preceding text is a summary of “Anabaptist Spiritual Formation Salvation History: Cosmic and Personal, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.”

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The Most Prominent Marks of Discipleship—Progressive Holiness—Include Truth-Telling, Kingdom Living, and Peacemaking. Truth-telling is the correspondence of one’s words and deeds. Jesus, the Truth (John 14:6), perfectly embodies this correspondence. One who follows Jesus, then, practices and tells the truth.

In addition, disciples seek to fulfill their obligations as citizens of Christ’s Kingdom and, therefore, as Christ’s servant and subject. These obligations correspond to the values and principles of Christ’s Kingdom, including perpetual Jubilee. First of all, then, they seek to obey Christ’s command to make disciples. They also strive to help and comfort the weak, needy, and helpless, especially those from these groups who are disciples. Furthermore, they separate from evil, particularly worldliness. Worldliness is especially clear in that set of behaviors which generally governs social relations: desiring, pursuing, acquiring, maintaining, and using power, for the purpose of receiving glory and praise.

Foremost of all, disciples make peace—they neither resist violence nor retaliate against its manifestations.

The Overarching Theme of God’s Story Is Shalōm. The same holds, then, for the story of Christ and the stories of his followers. Shalōm (complete-positive-peace) is the promise and goal of the messianic reign. Accordingly, peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, and forgiveness are central to the teaching and example of Christ.

Christ was foreseen as the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6). His advent was announced with an angelic blessing of peace (Luke 2:14). Immediately before His arrest and consequent death, Jesus prayed for peace and unity (John 17). During His earthly ministry, as did His apostles, Jesus taught love, peace, unity, justice, reconciliation, forgiveness, and nonresistance, which corresponded to his insistence that peacemaking and forgiveness are necessary components of faith and discipleship (Matt 5:9–10, 44–45; 6:12). In addition, he consistently practiced love, including loving His enemies and doing good for them. He also modeled nonresistance and non-retaliation, which finally led Him to death on a cross, whereby he obtained reconciliation and peace with God for all people (Rom 5:1, 9–10).

Jesus’ actions and teaching, and those of His apostles, provide the basis for disciples to live in love, including loving one’s enemies and doing good for them, as well as living in reconciliation, peace, and unity with one another and all people (1 Cor 7:15; Eph 2:13–16; Heb 12:14), even at the cost of personal suffering. Rather than punish His enemies, He loved them and did good for them—He died for them. Suffering and painful providences, therefore, are the disciple’s normal expectation (1 Peter 2:21–23; 4:12–13; 2 Tim 3:12).

Disciples, those who live out their stories in the story of the Kingdom, seek peace. It is both the goal of disciples’ words and actions as well as the means whereby they meet that goal. For example, disagreeing believers do not appeal to earthly courts to settle their disputes, but they rely on the wisdom of the church (1 Cor 6:1–11). Furthermore, believers seek to ease human distress and suffering, but they do not oppose violence with violence, whatever form the violence takes. Violent opposition to violence, especially lethal force performed in behalf of a king in competition with Christ, such as a secular nation-state, or in the name of a so-called “greater good,” is unjustified.

You may access Part 1 here, and you may access Part 2 here.

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Ten Truths Christians Need to Know About Enemies

  1. Everyone has enemies.
    The Bible takes enemies seriously. King David and Jesus had enemies. If having enemies weren’t a part of life, Jesus wouldn’t have had to tell his disciples to love their enemies.
    Matthew 5:43-44
  2. We either fight or run from them.
    Humans often respond to enemies in two ways: We either fight back or flee. Both are natural responses—our instinct is self-preservation. However, when we flee from our enemies, we can still carry them inside us. When we fight back, we take on the character of our enemies. If we strike back at our enemies, we might set off a downward spiral of attack and counterattack that quickly gets out of control.
  3. We want to curse our enemies.
    Many psalms that deal with enemies make Christians uncomfortable. The psalmist didn’t just pray for them or for his own protection. He often cursed his enemies, seeking bloodthirsty revenge. Instead of dismissing these psalms, we can use them as God-given words for dealing with our own feelings of fear and anger toward enemies. If we pray these words, we release our hate and hostility to God. Then we don’t need to act on our feelings of vulnerability and hostility. Then we can trust God to protect us from our enemies.
    Psalms 55-59; 137:7-9
  4. God loves them.
    Jesus taught us that God loves enemies and treats them justly: God “makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” God “is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.” Therefore, we too should “be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”
    Matthew 5:45b; Luke 6:35-36
  5. Jesus makes peace possible.
    Jesus didn’t just teach his disciples the way of peace. Jesus is our peace. The apostle Paul said that while we were warring against God, Christ died to make peace with us. Although we sinful human beings were at odds with God, God took initiative to make peace with us—through the life, death, and resurrection of his Son. Jesus has reconciled us to God in order to stop our warring madness with God and with each other.
    Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21; Ephesians 2:14, 17-18; Colossians 1:20
  6. God’s family makes peace.
    If God makes peace with enemies, then so do God’s children. As Jesus said in the Beatitudes: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Peacemaking is a family trait in God’s family. When God’s children work for peace, they are demonstrating a family likeness, just as children in human families show traits of their parents.  Matthew 5:9
  7. We disarm our enemies.
    Jesus taught his disciples to respond to enemies in unexpected ways—ways that sometimes “disarm” them. “If anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.” Jesus’ disciples respond in concrete ways to their enemies. They do not retaliate or seek revenge. They pray for their enemies. They do good to those who want to harm them.
    Matthew 5:39-41; Matthew 5:44; Luke 6:27; Romans 12:17-21
  8. Enemies can hurt us.
    “Disarming” actions do not guarantee that Christian disciples will win over enemies. In fact, Christians are still persecuted and even killed by their enemies. It is not an accident that Jesus linked the Beatitude about peacemakers with the one about persecution. But Jesus’ disciples believe there are worse things than dying. We would rather die than take another’s life, since we have hope for eternal life.
    Matthew 5:9-12; Matthew 10:28; 1 Corinthians 15; Philippians 1:21
  9. We “arm” ourselves against the real enemy.
    Christians are not fighting against flesh and blood. We are not struggling with Adolf Hitler or the latest terrorist, but with principalities and powers, dark and evil spiritual forces. Our weapons are not worldly ones but spiritual ones: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the Spirit, and the word of God.
    Ephesians 6:10-17
  10. We can learn from our enemies.
    Sometimes our enemies do us a service. Friends tend to accept or overlook our weaknesses, but enemies reflect back to us aspects of our personalities we don’t like. So we ought to listen to our enemies. What are they saying to us about who we are? What can we learn from them about ourselves? Can they make us better people? We cannot be reconciled with our enemies unless we’re able to see the situation from their perspective.

Taken from “Peace Blend: Introduction,” at the Third Way Café


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ONE: Peace is the will of God.
From the first chapter of Scripture, where God pronounced creation “good” (Gen 1:31), to the very last, in John’s vision of a tree “for the healing of the nations” (Rev 22:2), God pursues peace. Trust in God is contrasted with trust in the instruments of war (Isa 31:1; Psa 20:7; 33:16-17; Hos 1:7).

TWO: Peace was the mission of Jesus.
His role as “the Prince of Peace” was foretold by Isaiah (9:6). Angels announcing his birth declared “Glory to God” and “peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). Weeping over Jerusalem, Jesus prayed, “would that you knew the things that make for peace” (Luke 19:41-42).

THREE: The fruit of the Spirit is peace (Gal 5:22).
“Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” (Zech. 4:6). Prior to his death, Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you,” in reference to the coming of the Holy Spirit (John 14:25-27).

FOUR: Peace was the witness of the early church.
The new community created in Christ bore witness by its reconciled fellowship: “And all who believed were together and had all things in common” (Acts 2:44-47; 4:32-37). Paul urged that the church’s “feet” be “shod with the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15).

FIVE: Peace is more than the absence of war.
Peace – shalōm – occurs when captives are released (Luke 4:18), when outcasts are gathered (Zeph 3:19), and when the hungry have plenty to eat (Joel 2:19-26; Luke 1:53; 1 Sam 2:1-8).

SIX: The foundation of peace is justice.
“The effect of righteousness (justice) will be peace,” predicted Isaiah (32:17). “Righteousness and peace will kiss,” wrote the psalmist (Ps. 85:10). “Sowing justice” will result in peace, said Hosea (10:12-14).

SEVEN: Peace, like war, is waged.
Peacemakers are not passive, but active. Peter, echoing the psalmist, urges us to “seek peace, and to pursue it” (1 Peter 3:11; Psa 34:14). Jesus urged worshippers to take the initiative to settle disputes (Matt 5:23-24). Peace includes loving and feeding enemies (Luke 6:27; Rom 12:20).

EIGHT: Peacemakers sometimes cause trouble.
Jesus turned over the tables of oppressive money-changers (John 2:13-16). When he says, “I come not to bring peace, but division” (Luke 12:51), the “peace” of which he speaks merely disguises an order of injustice (see Jer 6:14-15). It was Jesus’ peacemaking mission which landed him on the cross (Col 1:20).

NINE: Peacemaking is rooted in grace.
In Jesus’ prayer, our “debts” are forgiven in the measure to which we forgive others (Matt 6:12). “Whoever is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). It is grace which frees us from fear (1 John 4:18) and empowers us to risk our lives for the sake of justice and peace.

TEN: Peace in Christ and peace in creation are linked.
Not only are divisions in the human community overcome “in Christ” (Galatians 3:28), but also in the whole created order. The knowledge of God and the healing of creation are parallel realities (Isa 11:3-9). The land itself mourns (Isa 33:9). “But ask the beasts . . . and the birds . . . or the plants, and they will teach you” of the ways of the Lord (Job 12:7-10).

ELEVEN: Peacemaking is not optional.
The separation between “preaching the Gospel” and “working for peace and justice” is a perversion of biblical truth. Jesus prayed, “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). We lie if we say we love God yet fail to assist neighbors in need (1 John 4:20). Loving enemies—whether close at hand or far away—is the way to become children of God (Matt 5:44-45).

TWELVE: God’s promised future is peace.
Though now living as “aliens” in a strange land, peacemakers have caught a glimpse of how the future will finally unfold. Both Isaiah and John’s Revelation speak of the coming “new heaven and new earth” (Isa 65:17-22; Rev 21:1). The day is coming, says Micah, when nations “shall beat their swords into ploughshares . . . and neither shall they learn war any more” (4:3-4). On that day, “creation itself—which ‘has been groaning in travail’—will be set free from its bondage to decay” (Rom. 8:19-24).

Source: Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America

See “Nonresistance and Peacemaking: A Brief Provisional Outline of Biblical Teaching.”

 

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Bainton, Roland H. Christian Attitudes toward War and Peace: A Historical Survey and Critical Re-evaluation. Nashville: Abingdon, 1960. [The standard book on the subject]

Yoder, John Howard. Christian Attitudes to War, Peace, and Revolution. Edited by Theodore J. Koontz and Andy Alexis-Baker. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Brazos Press, 2008. [Overlaps with and expands on Bainton]

Yoder, John Howard, with Joan Baez et al. What Would You Do? A Serious Answer to a Standard Question. Expanded ed. Scottdale, Pa.: Herald Press, 1992. [Addresses the following question and those similar to it: “What would you do if a criminal pulled a gun and threatened to kill your wife?”]

Yoder, Nathan E., and Carol A. Scheppard, eds. Exiles in the Empire: Believers Church Perspectives on Politics. Studies in the Believers Church Tradition, 5. Kitchener, Ont.: Pandora Press, 2006. [Addresses the arguably apparent paradox of “being committed to proclaiming and living the gospel authentically, while also being citizens in an imperial superpower.” (taken from the back cover of the book)]

Lewis, Ted, ed. Electing Not to Vote: Christian Reflections on Reasons for Not Voting. Eugene, Oregon: Cascade Books, 2008. [The title is self-explanatory.]

“Polls Apart: Why Believers Might Conscientiously Abstain from Voting,” by John D. Roth appears in both of the last two books (Exiles, 243 – 51; Electing, 1 – 9). A draft of this essay also may be found here.

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They will beat their swords into plowshares. Isaiah 2:4

Affirmation:

The Bible teaches non-resistance and peacemaking. This is the only conclusion at which one may arrive from a prima facie reading of the New Testament. For example, it is clearly taught by the life and teaching of Jesus and the teaching of the apostles.

Evidence:

Prophecy: Jesus is called the Prince of Peace in the prophecy of Isa 9:6.

The angelic announcement of Christ’s birth: It concludes with the benediction, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:1).

The example of Jesus: Jesus did not resist the violence to which he was subjected—beatings, lashing, and the cross—even though he could have called upon the armies of heaven to rescue Him (Matt 26:53). Furthermore, he did not retaliate in any way. Instead, he trusted God (1 Peter 2:21–23).

Selected teaching given by Jesus and His apostles:

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God (Matt 5:9).

Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.  Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven (Matt 5:39, 44, 45).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: It is mine to avenge; I will repay, says the Lord. On the contrary: If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:17–21).

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness (James 3:17–18).

Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult, but with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing. For, whoever would love life and see good days must  turn from evil and do good; he must seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:9–11).

Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (1 Peter 2:21, 23).

Selected examples of appeals for peace and unity made by Christ and His apostles:

Jesus’ prayer for unity: John 17

Paul’s appeal to unity based on the example of Jesus: Phil 2

The symbolism of the Lord’s Supper: 1 Cor 10

The purpose of the death of Christ: Reconciliation between God and people, in other words, the removal of enmity and the restoration of peace.

The consequence of the reconciliation of God and people: Peace and unity between people and people groups.

Conclusion:

Peacemaking and non-resistance seem to be the overriding characteristics of the story lived by those who are disciples of the Prince of Peace and children of His Father.

Brief Responses to Common Objections to the Biblical Teaching

What about war in the Old Testament? (more…)

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