We live in violent times.
This past month, the world was stunned as Christians in Sri Lanka were targeted as they arose to worship on Easter Sunday. The country’s defense minister issued a statement shortly afterward reporting that Islamic extremist groups had claimed that these bombings were in retaliation for the shootings at Mosques in Christchurch New Zealand in March. These are just the latest examples of the violence that continues around the world. How do we respond to such violence? It would be easy to respond with anger and an escalation of violence. Is there another way?
True peace must begin with an examination of our own hearts and motivations.
We can not hope to accomplish peace while we hold bitterness in our hearts against another. How then can we act justly while demonstrating the love and grace that we see in Christ? Jesus didn’t leave the disciples without instruction on this issue. Not only did Jesus teach his disciples that they should be peacemakers (Mt 5:9), but he also provides the perfect example in his life as he turned the other cheek and endured the violence of the cross. The Bible makes it clear that justice is an inseparable companion of peace (Isaiah 32:17; James 3:18). We hear the prophet’s call “let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!” (Amos 5:24)
Perfect peace with justice has only ever been fully met at the cross.
Through the cross the punishment for human sin was fully absorbed in the divine love of Jesus. He obediently endured the humiliation of the cross because he knew that God would accomplish a deep and lasting reconciliation with human-ity through his death. Paul explains this reconciliation at the cross saying:
“For He himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Eph 4:14-16).”
For Christians the cross is the model of true reconciliation with one another.
Rther than insisting on retribution, we are called to pursue love, forgiveness, and non-violence. The way to find peace is to conform to the image of the cross. As we pursue Christ’s peace with others we bear witness to the power of the cross to overcome the barriers of hostility, hate, and violence. We stand in the hope that through Christ all things can be made new.