Jesus was born into a troubled, fractured, politically and ethnically divided world. We recognise from his life that he was the fulfilment of ancient prophecy that foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace. Throughout that life he taught about peace and lived a peaceful life whilst remaining aware and alert to those people and forces that sowed division, hatred and injustice. He said, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ and ‘if someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.’ Whilst being put to death as an innocent man he prayed forgiveness for his executioners.
We too live in a troubled, fractured, politically and ethnically dived world, ‘plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose’ we might say, recognising in the Paris atrocities, in Beirut, Sharm el Sheikh and elsewhere that for all our human progress, there is still so much that divides us, makes us hate and creates suffering.
There are many who see religion as the problem, and given recent events who can blame them. But in Jesus we have the antidote to the world’s ills. Jesus understood human nature, he understood that in each of us lie the seeds of violence and hatred, drawing attention not so much to the deed but the thoughts in our minds. He also recognised that evil had to be confronted and victims had to be comforted. In his life and death he gave us hope that peace would triumph. Later, Paul the apostle summed it up like this, ‘God has given us the task of reconciling people to him. For God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself.’
That’s our task in these troubled times, to be reconcilers. Any fool can point out what is wrong and who the people of violence are, but it takes courage and wisdom to be a reconciler. We are to reconcile people to God’s values of peace and reconcile one to another in the name of the Prince of Peace.
Christmas blessings and a peace-making 2016