Such practice isn’t easy, I know. I am a proponent of peace by means of nonviolence, and yet, nothing I say or write stirs more vitriol from other Christians than this subject. Within seconds of giving a talk about Jesus’ way of peace or writing an article with God’s shalom as its subject matter, someone from the local First Church will be wagging a finger in my face while trembling with rage or lighting up my email box with scorn.
I understand. In my heart, I’m not really a lover of peace, and I resist shalom. Deep within, I am a violent, revenge taking person. But stuck with Jesus, what choice do I have but to give peace a chance? Jesus gives us no other option but the confession, “Let there be peace on earth; and let it begin with me.”
This confession doesn’t mean we won’t grow thirsty for revenge, that we won’t be afraid, or that our faith will not be put to the severest of tests. But if we believe that one day the lamb will lay down with the lion; that swords will be beaten into plowshares; that mercy and justice will flow down like the waters; then we must live that belief – we must put peace into action – now.
I know that practicing peace appears impractical. Practicing shalom is not like implementing a public policy that will automatically eliminate conflict. Still, this is the way of Jesus. This is the redemptive purpose of his Incarnation and this Advent season. And this way of peace is the very kingdom of God.
In the end, Longfellow knew this too. After lifting his head from the deep despair of a morally bankrupt world, he wrote a superb, often ignored line: “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;’ The Wrong shall fail, The Right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.” And yes, may that peace begin with me.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.