The Church and the conflict between violence and peace

SERMON # ONE JANUARY 2018 

Mark 1: 14 - 20

The Church and the conflict between violence and peace

 

“Challenges before us give us cause to fear,

Hate, distrust, division, tension

Everywhere,

We must follow Jesus, we must take

our stand,

In his strength we’ll spread his peace

throughout our land.”

 

Although we live in a society characterised by high levels of violence we long for peace. In short – we do violence and we do peace. We may find ourselves torn between violence and peace as appropriate responses to what is being done to us or in order to achieve our goals– a very real conflict for many people.

The proclamation of the kingdom of God has come into this conflict. The kingdom of God as embodied or made visible in Jesus’s life, teachings and death is present in this world and in our conflicts. The kingdom of God is a present reality.  The kingdom has come, is come (here) and will come.

We cannot, however, mentioned the coming of the kingdom of God into our conflicts without asking about the nature of the kingdom.  It is a kingdom of peace. This is very important. Certainly we can say that one of the goals of the kingdom is peace. See, for instance, Isaiah 2: 4 and Micah 4: 1-4. In Jesus’s life we see this as well – where Jesus tells Peter to put away his sword, when Jesus tells others to love their enemies.

The other important thing about the kingdom is that wherever it is proclaimed here is a call for followers. Jesus calls his very first disciples the moment he starts speaking about the kingdom.  He calls them to follow the way of the kingdom – this kingdom that is about peace – as Jesus follows the way of the kingdom – as Jesus embodies it.

The church, as the followers of Jesus – as those who follow the way of the kingdom is thus called to proclaim the kingdom of God which is about peace. When we have to deal with this conflict between violence and peace we, the church, has to choose peace.  However, two more things about this:

First, when we are asked to choose peace we have to leave behind that which is familiar. If we have grown accustomed to violence in any way – as a way to respond to others or as a way to ‘get our way’ we need to let go of it. A group of people went on a rampage – rioting and burning and looting but suddenly in the midst of all of this a woman – one of the leaders- stood still, turned around and facing the crowd, and thus in real danger of being killed, said: Stop this! Stop this! It is enough! I think that all of us, especially those of us who have grown accustomed to violence should have this moment of saying ‘enough!’ and leave behind our tendency to offer violence as a solution. The kingdom of God has come and is here so that we may have peace! Not just ‘out there’ in the world but also within ourselves!

Second, we need to realise that peace is never ‘just for ourselves,’ it is always for all. We cannot have peace to the detriment of others. That is not really peace as the kingdom of God sees it.  Sometimes when one is helping people, the help one offers is ‘thrown back into one’s face.’ This is because in order to have real peace for all we need to first listen to each other. What does peace mean for them? For us? For me?  Peace between people is only possible when the aspirations of all are taken into consideration. The invitation to become fishers of people is a clear indication that the followers of Jesus was never meant to be a group unto themselves but for the sake of others. The kingdom of God has come so that we may have peace.   

God, in God’s offering of peace to us has taken into account what it is we need to have peace. Jesus is, as someone said, God listening to us first so that God may give to us what is needed so that we may have peace: Peace between God and us, peace between people and peace within ourselves. Jesus is then God’s yes to our longing for peace for he himself overcame the need for violence through his self-giving, taking the violence handed out to him into his life and body by not retaliating in the same manner.   

Even if we should always react in or work for peaceful ways it does not mean that our lives will be free form violence – we do live in a world where violence are often seen to be to the best way to deal with things.  However, the harder we work for peace the less chance there is for violence to take root.

Prayer:

God of peace help us to overcome our tendency to do violence. Help us to be different than those who call for violence as a way to resolve issues. Help us to always call for peace. Let Jesus’s example and the power of the Holy Spirit set us free from the violence within ourselves so that we may work for peace.

Amen        

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