The stillness of the quiet night was broken by the voices of millions upon millions of angelic beings singing, “Glory to God in the highest and peace upon people with whom he is well pleased.” The words echoed off the surrounding hillsides quieting with each repeated phrase until the stillness of the quiet night returned. But the world was not the same.
The one who brought the peace, which was sung by the angels, was born. By his birth, life, death and resurrection, Jesus reconciled—brought peace—between humankind and the One God, Yahweh. Through his words and actions Jesus also illuminated the path of peace between people and peace with all creation. Two millennia have passed since the angels sang and unfortunately the peace between God’s people has not been fully realized. We live in a world of bruised and broken relationships.
A Broken World
War continues to rage in Afghanistan and even with the proposed troop withdrawal military personnel will be there for years to come in order to ensure the peace. ISIS is fighting in Syria and Iraq and poses a threat not only abroad but also at home. The United States and North Korea are calling each other names again. There are, as the Bible says, wars and rumors of wars around the world. The list seems endless.
At home we have protests in all of our major cities over perceived police brutality. The protests began with the grand jury’s decision not to indict Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Shortly after that decision a grand jury failed to indict a police officer involved in the death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man. In Milwaukee a police officer was cleared in the shooting death of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed, mentally ill black man. There are also the shootings of twelve year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and Rumain Breston in Phoenix. The shootings continue and so do the protests.
There are no easy answers that would enable us to usher in a time of peace. Like the leaders of the world, I have no great insights about how to bring peace to a war torn world. I would, though, like to offer some thoughts (based on my understanding of the Bible) on what we can do to work on towards the peace—I think the Constitution called it “domestic tranquility”–within our boarders.
A Cause for Worry
What I have seen so far worries me and convinces me that we are not headed in the right direction. The lines have been drawn between the protesters and the authorities, between whites and blacks, and it appears that very few are willing to cross them. Posts have flown back and forth across the Social Media that take pot shots at the other side, but offer no real ideas for peace. The way that these posts have so quickly spread is cause for concern. Some posts offer statistics that are supposed to provide excuses or justification for the shootings. Without any context, such numbers are meaningless. Other posts talk about a double standard but portray whites as the victims, or at least the ones with the better manners. Whites don’t protest, riot and loot when we don’t get our way. These posts solidify the lines that have been drawn and hinder any type of intelligent conversation or exchange of ideas.
Where is Jesus?
For those of us who are white and/or in positions of authority and power, I think that it is important to realize which side of the protest lines Jesus would be on. Remember he was born in poverty. Most likely he was ostracized throughout his life because of his out of illegitimate birth. There is one story in the gospels where Jesus healed (or raised from the dead) the young daughter of a synagogue official named Jarius. Otherwise, Jesus is always on the side of the poor, marginalized and maligned people. Jesus would be among the peaceful protesters. No, he wouldn’t be ransacking and looting stores, but he would be standing with those who perceived themselves (whether right or wrong) as oppressed.
This is not to say that the protesters around the nation are right and the authorities are wrong. It is to say that the authorities have the power and it is legitimate to question the use of power. Whites and those in authority will claim that they are in the right. They may even claim that God is on their side, but it must be noted that siding with the powerful is not God’s default position. If Jesus would take seriously the claims of the protesters, then it would seem that at least those who claim to be Christian and followers of Jesus should also pay attention to what the protestors are saying.
A Christmas Lesson
This is the season of Christmas. At this time of the year, Christians celebrate that God became human. As it says in the gospel of John, the word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). Jesus took on our form in order to be one with us. He also took on our form so that he could clearly reveal the person and character of God to humankind. Jesus wasn’t above getting his hands dirty, getting to know the situation and then doing something about it. It might be wise for us to follow Jesus’ example. You know, a little WWJD.
It does no good to post images and sayings that express our anger and frustration, but do nothing to foster communication on the topic. It really doesn’t help, either, to discuss the topic over a cup of coffee with our friends. One of the characteristics that most of us appreciate in our friends is that they think like we do. Conversations with them would only harden our opinions and keep us away from the dialogue that needs to occur.
Certainly the authorities need to sit down with the protestors and talk. In many areas of the country the relationship between the police and the populace they have sworn to protect and to serve has broken down. Communication is a key element in restoring that relationship. At first glance, it appears that there are some valid issues that need to be discussed and resolved.
Steps Toward Peace
Those of us who are white and who are not in authority can take steps toward communication, building relationships and establishing the peace, also. Here are a few suggestions:
• Don’t shares posts that contribute more to the problem than to the solution.
• Read and study about these issues—and broaden your study beyond your usual news sources.
• Attend classes or public meetings that address these issues.
• Visit with police officers in your community and listen to their opinions and concerns.
• Visit with people of color and seek to understand their concerns and perceptions.
• Once others have had the opportunity to share than enter into a dialogue with them. and share your thoughts. Learn from the exchange of ideas.
• Share what you have learned with your elected officials, and if you have suggestions for possible actions make them.
Jesus came to bring peace on earth as he is the Prince of Peace. One of the titles that Jesus attaches to his followers is that of “Peacemakers.” Peace obviously is important in the eyes of God. With that in mind, let’s work to allow peace and justice to be experienced by everyone.