Blessed are the peacemakers
Andy Bryant reminds us that flexing military muscle has never been Jesus’ way of dealing with conflict.
It is a sobering thought that we once again stand at the brink of war in Europe, with Russian troops massed on the border with Ukraine. Diplomacy is on-going but there is also talk of invasion happening any day.
There is a delicate path being trod between sounding and acting tough and keeping the channels open that might yet prevent this attack. There seems little clarity about anyone’s real intentions.
Despite the supposed end of the Cold War with the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Western narrative has been to continue to paint Russia as the global bad guys. There is the unwritten assumption of the moral, economic and military superiority of the Western Nations and their allies that needs to, at the very least, contain the bullying empire tendencies of an aggressive Russia.
There is no doubt that there is much in the Russian state that should concern us in its suppression of opposition voices, the abuse of human rights and the cover it provides for hackers, traffickers, and organised crime. Yet the same could be said of many of the nations that we claim to be our allies and with whom we enjoy good trade and diplomatic ties. Nor should we forget that historically Russia has often proved to be an important ally from the Napoleonic wars to both world wars.
The simplistic division of the world into “the good guys” and the “bad guys” (plus those we simply ignore) can never be the path to lasting peace. Rather it is just a way of waiting for the next moment of international tension. We need rather to give more time and commitment to build bridges especially with those we struggle to get along with.
Yes, other nations will act in ways that we rightly must challenge, but it is surely better to do that in the context of an existing relationship than to do so hiding behind the latest deadly armaments.
We need to get to know those who seem most unlike us, to learn to hear their voice and understand their perspective. And this is a task too important to leave to politicians and diplomats. We need more twinning and friendship links, opportunities where the ordinary folk of each nation can mix and get to know each other – not always easy to arrange but always worth the effort.
There will always be nations (or their leaders) that will choose the path of bullying and aggression, so war cannot always be avoided; yet tragically too often in the ending of one war the seeds of the next are sown. This is why we need to engage more with those who seem different from us and build bridges and bonds of friendship that can then help the diplomacy when tensions and disagreements inevitably occur. For too long we have isolated Russia and not sought the bonds of friendship.
Jesus’ ministry is set in a time of international tension. His ministry takes place against the backdrop of an occupying army, and he faces the religious authorities that would seek to censor and silence him. Yet in his nomadic ministry he is always willing to reach out whether to the Roman Centurion, the Quisling Tax Collector, or the Samaritan. He willingly engages with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, even when he knows they have come to trick him. Relationships lie at the heart of Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God. It is the quality of our relationships one with another that builds up the path of peace.
Peace-making is a vital and challenging task. It involves the taking of risks the way of the cross, and in so doing makes us vulnerable. Peace is not about appeasing evil, but it is about creating the relationships that can help us to work together for the good of our shared home, Earth.
If we are to face up to the challenges of climate change, contain pandemics, overcome poverty and hunger, then we have learn to work together. We have to see in our differences not the things that will divide us, but the diversity that can help find the way to sustain our shared planet.
Blessed indeed are the peacemakers. May God make us peacemakers. May God make me a peacemaker.
The image above is by geralt on pixabay.com
The Revd Andrew Bryant is the Canon for Mission and Pastoral Care at Norwich Cathedral. He was previously Team Rector of Portishead, Bristol, in the Diocese of Bath and Wells, and has served in parishes in the Guildford and Lichfield Dioceses, as well as working for twelve years with Kaleidoscope Theatre, a charity promoting integration through theatre for young adults with Down’s Syndrome.
You can read Andrew's latest blog entry here and can follow him via his Twitter account @AndyBry3.
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