God, mom and American violence

Published 10:32 am Saturday, May 12, 2018

“Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace.”— Martin Luther

by Nathan Decker

When my father came home from working midnights on the railroad, mom would scoot us outside so that he could have some “peace and quiet.” When my parents built a house in which to retire, they added a security system for “peace of mind.” Peace seems always to be just out of our grasp. The United States is 242 years old. My history professor in college noted that out of those years we have been at war or in military conflict with ourselves or with other nations (including Native American nations) all but 10 of those years. We have a history and a reputation as a violent nation.

We want peace, but often we are not willing to pay the price for peace. Externally, we are not willing to look one another in the eye, speak love, live love. Internally, we are not willing to admit to the darkness of our own soul, receive forgiveness, experience transformation. We want peace to be an enemy we conquer or a terrorist we eliminate. We want peace to be a product we purchase or a status we achieve. Peace is less a status to be posted or tweeted and more than simply the absence of conflict.

Jesus spoke of peace as a gift we receive. “My peace I give you,” he said, “I give not as the world gives.” This gift is more than resting in the arms of God’s grace. C.S. Lewis said, “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Like all gifts God gives us, peace is meant to be nourished, developed and used, not put on the shelf like a trinket.

Peace comes when we see every human being we interact as a sacred soul. Empathy and Christ’s love overwhelm broken self-centered and self-enabling ways. We think about the who’s behind the cheap products we purchase at the big box store. We look at those in authority as well as those challenging authority as sisters and brothers connecting with one another for a better tomorrow. We define living just or righteous as empowering one another and lifting each other up. As one preacher expressed, “You can either treat people as a ladder rung to climb on, or you can be lifted up by lifting them up.”

Peace also comes from deep self-awareness and self-reflection. One of the sins we commit is acting without forethought, afterthought or any thought. Before we can make peace outside of our skin, we must find comfort living in it. Bravely, we ask God (and others) to critically show us who we are to empower true change in our living. Peace in our hearts comes from being at peace with ourselves and living in peace with the world. We are called to take time in solitude and prayer to ask God who we are and who we are becoming in Christ.

Peace requires sacrifice. Peace requires action. Peace sometimes even requires we lay down our own lives for the lives of others. The Cross and the Resurrection remind us of this. When we not only comprehend this but act, our world is reshaped by peace. After all, it’s what Jesus would do.

“The Lord lift up his face to you and grant you peace.”
— Numbers 6:26

NATHAN DECKER is the pastor of High Street United Methodist Church. Contact him at 562-3367.