By Mark Noblitt
In 20 centuries of Christianity, it is counterintuitive that a faith centered on peace has been used as the excuse for so much war and violence. I’ve often wondered what the earliest Christians – or indeed the Prince of Peace himself – would think of our modern Christianity. What does it really mean to be a Christ-follower in our world? As the people “on whom his favor rests,” what is our responsibility to the world regarding peace?
Our word for “peace” originates from the Latin word pax and literally means the absence of conflict or the presence of harmony. The Romans used the term “Pax Romana” to describe the enforced – oftentimes by extraordinarily harsh means – passivity of a population. In our modern, complex world, the word “peace” may mean many things to different cultures. I think of small-letter “peace” as a time of quiet, a pause button for the noise of life. When I think of the big-letter “Peace,” the concepts get more troublesome to define.
One doesn’t have to spend much time looking at our world to find places that need Peace. For more than a decade now, groups of scholars have been exploring what Peace means in our world. Many of them have arrived at the conclusion that it is possible to build Peace consciously and deliberately by transforming conflicts. They have arrived at some important conclusions about peacebuilding, the first of which is the recognition that conflict is healthy and part of the natural evolution of a society/culture. Another is that conflict resolution is a long-term process that takes time to move forward. A third is that understanding and seeking to transform the root causes of the conflict is the only path to true Peace.
As Christ-followers and the representatives of the Prince of Peace on Earth, what do conflict transformation and peacebuilding mean for us? In his benediction, our pastor speaks of a world that is “too dangerous for anything but love.” In this season of peace, let us make room in our inn for the Prince of Peace by working to transform conflicts (action) by seeking to understand the root causes (listen) and then by working to find ways to be peacebuilders in our broken world. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God.” – Matthew 5:9