Only by spilling blood?
Humanity is a fix, one that it seems ill-equipped to fix.
There is hardly anyone who does not desire peace, yet dissension seems to be the way of life for the vast majority of us. Just look at what is happening in the world today! From relationships between nations to upholding basic human dignity, there isn't a single aspect of our lives that does not call the humaneness of humanity into question. No one is spared the agony of the conflicts without, or the strifes within.
There is not a soul that is not crying out for peace, yet the vast majority of humanity assumes the posture of a spectator as some play gladiator, and all of humanity is being reduced to a grotesque spectacle.
Is it possible that humans are yet to discover how to live peaceably? Or is there a better explanation for why our best efforts are proving to be woefully inadequate?
Yes, and yes!
Yes, it is possible that humans are yet to discover how to live peaceably. That is, humans are yet to come up with an ingenious approach to peace making that actually works for all, and will work for all time. Peace, today, seems nothing more than a stop-gap arrangement.
Our peace initiatives and agreements are at best a tattered garment barely able to hold society together.
And, yes, there is a better explanation. An explanation that both helps us appreciate our predicament and provides us with a remedy for our malady. But, sadly, it is not an explanation that will be accepted by many because it requires you be willing to make a few assumptions. This explanation is based on the assumption, for one, that humans are more than mannequins in motion. It assumes that humans are intentionally created by an intelligent creator, who created all things good. If that were not true, then the difference between peace and violence would be akin to differences between green and red to a person who is blind. It shouldn't matter. But it does!
Decrying violence makes sense only if violence is not meant to be part of who we are. If nature were red in tooth and claw, and humans are the crowning glory of natural selection, then we should be at home with violence, but we are not. Make no mistake, we are a violent species and there is more blood on our hands than the rest of nature combined. Even so, violence does not sit well with us. While it appears that we intuitively know that violence is wrong, we seem powerless against it. And, when we consider ourselves blessed as long as we are not being barbaric we ought to pause and ask 'why'!
Only when we grant that this is a good world gone bad can we conclude that violence is out of place, and more importantly, only then will be able to explain why despite our best efforts violence is the norm, and peace is the elusive exception.
If violence is a violation of who we are, then it stands to reason that the pursuit of peace will take more than what we do. In our common quest for peace we find good reason to affirm that God is central to human flourishing. Life without a Creator (God) who created humanity with a specific purpose will be reduced to personal preferences and private indulgences, incapable of satisfying the deep longings of the human heart. This is why, in our desperation to satisfy our cravings, we seek to please ourselves without restraint. This is also why peace-making is more than a project.
'Peace-making' involves things we do, but it is not just that. It is about becoming who we are created to be.
The Bible could not have painted a more accurate picture of humanity. Humans, the Bible tells us, are created by a God who is love, in love, and for love. Which is why our perspective of who God is will shape how we live. To suppress the truth of the knowledge of God and exchange it for a lie will only result in the treasuring of things and trashing people. Violence is not the problem, it is only the outcome.
Violence is sin’s firstborn and death is its birthright. Violence finds strength in the heart that relishes sin.
In a world where kindness will be taken advantage of as often as possible, and the meek and the merciful are always at risk, peacemaking is a tall order. So, when Jesus announced, among other things, “Blessed are the peacemakers” he was simultaneously affirming that we are more than what we do, and declaring that outside of becoming who we are created to be 'peace' will be an anomaly. In announcing ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ Jesus was painting a portrait, not presenting a program.
To Jesus, our identity as the people of God is intricately intertwined with a passionate pursuit for peace. Who we are ought to overflow into how we live, and why.
Did Jesus really believe that taking him at his word and carefully obeying all he taught was the answer to world peace? Was he actually inviting a world that is threatening to rip itself apart to come to him and find the help it needs to heal and enjoy lasting peace?
I believe so.
Peace-making is hard work, and being a peacemaker demands more than diligently pursuing peace. It demands that we choose peace, peacefully, all the time — especially when it’s not convenient.
It will take more than good intentions (and actions) to recover peace for all. It will take a worldview rooted and built-up in love.
Love demands that we be intentional in seeking the well being of the one being loved. Love does not seek to manipulate the other for personal gain. It does not coerce or control. The one who loves genuinely seeks the good of the other even at great cost to self, and in a world where violence is only one choice away, recovering love takes more than we are willing to give.
Recovering love demands forgiveness.
Forgiveness is what makes peace in a violent world possible, because forgiveness is what makes love in a broken world possible.
In a violent world peace is not possible without forgiveness, and forgiveness is not foundational to any worldview, save one. This should explain why the quest for peace will always be shadowed by a persistent, retributive, spilling of blood. And this will continue to be our lot until the shackles of unforgiveness are shattered by the gift of forgiveness. Which Jesus offers to all, fully and freely, when on the cross he uttered, 'Father Forgive'.
Let me be clear. Forgiveness is deemed desirable, even ascribed as noble in every worldview, but is central only to the Judeo-Christian worldview. At the very heart of the Christian story is the cross — the shedding of innocent blood by sin stained hands. A confluence that is simultaneously the vertex of violence and the pinnacle of peace proclaiming the message of forgiveness to the world that least deserves it, and offering the gift of peace to the world that least expects it.
Love is the only force powerful enough to overcome violence without being overwhelmed by violence and on the Cross Jesus did exactly that.
The cross of Jesus is the only place where violence will stop because it is stopped by the outstretched arms of love!
This is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is central to worldwide peace because only Jesus offers forgiveness freely to all, and only the truly forgiven can freely love. Humanity’s hope for peace is found in the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ; humanity’s help is found in listening to Jesus and obeying.
Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called sons (and daughters) of God. (Matt 5:9)