Sunday, 1 May 2016

Peace in our time

Christ leaves his disciples his peace (Jn 14.23-29) a peace that we say 'is past all understanding'.  This sort of peace is also found in the images of Revelation and the New Jerusalem that St John describes (Rev. 21.22-).  In the world around us we often fail to realise this sort of peace and more often then not we have situations that are the direct opposite of this Peace that Christ leaves for us and his disciples.

Whether you like him or not Donald Trump actually said something very interesting the other day when speaking about foreign affairs.  He made the point that a lot of the increasingly divided geo-politics of the Middle east is a result of the imposition of a form of government on people who were not looking for it.  There is perhaps some truth here or rather a discussion that we need to engage in to determine our own views and determine our actions from a Christian faith point of view.  Let us take a long view of Christian history and development to show that this point is essentially correct.  In doing this we need to go back to not only the beginning of the spread of the Christian message but can go back even further to see essentially the same or similar scenario developing within the human experience.  Put simply we can say that whenever a viewpoint has been forced upon another then there is a rise in conflict and distress within populations.  Let us look at the Jerusalem Synod with the discussions centred on circumcision or the later Trinitarian discussions.  Perhaps we can look at our early interactions with the Muslim faith and the Crusades, or perhaps the Inquisition.  Of course we can discern a somewhat similar pattern in the America's let alone the colonisation of countries and cultures.  Do we need to go on?

This is the continual to and fro between dualistic opposites that is reflective of our understanding of the world around us.  What then should the Christian and indeed what should be humanities outlook given this tendency to look at everything in a dualistic frame?  We always say that there are two sides to every problem without really understanding that although there may be two sides to the problem it takes a third to form the solution.  Instead of advocating for this side or that side, which is what the majority of us do, we need to be saying what could be done if it was this and that rather than this or that.  By imposing 'this' view on 'that', which produces a discord, as we have missed the opportunity presented to us that would bring harmony.  Look at the current situation in Syria, a peace process which is centred on bringing the various sides together is falling apart as each side is failing to accept a new way of looking at the whole.

Only by accepting some of the other in our selves do we come into harmony and peace.

Christ knew that any change within a society or a group will cause dissension and discord as the many views grate on each other.  Just look at some of the other phrases in this section of the Gospel that relate to persecution and disharmony whilst Christ prays for harmony.  The peace that Christ brings is the perspective of unity and harmony within our lives.  For us to attain this type of understanding we have to be rebellious and chuck out the main style of thinking that we have inherited, not just from the enlightenment period, but going back to Greek philosophy,  This is the challenge that the Christian community faces in the modern world.  So much of our thinking is based on opposing and polar opposites that we are unable to conceive of the alternative.

All good negotiations, whether in business or in politics or in the Church, must be prepared to find a win-win situation.  That is we must enable ourselves to give here in order to gain there so that the outcome, which may not be what we would like, is at least something that all can live with in harmony.  Looking at the once again growing crisis in Syria and on our borders with the closure of Manis Island, all I see is posturing and negative, divisive stances from both sides. Even I dare say it from those who are protesting.  The attitudes held are with regards to their own point of view, which may be extremely laudable, however what is needed here is the way to Christ's peace in the world.  A  way that leads to harmonious living that honours the other while not debasing our own view.

Having said all this the question arises: How do we manage this?  Dare I say it! We must be radical in our thinking and rid ourselves of the drive we have inherited to think in terms of opposites; man vs woman, lion vs lamb. black vs white.  The peace of Christ which passes all understanding comes from within ourselves as we seek to harmonise our thinking and feelings with those who are different from us in belief, colour, viewpoint, etc.  Christ accepted all and if we follow within the Christian tradition as Christ followers not as dogmaticians, institutionists, Churchers, but as CHRISTians.  That means swallowing our own instincts and moving in to a world view that encompasses all of creation and all of the diversity inherent in humanity as God's image.  Only by using both this and  that thinking as opposed to the accepted either this or that thinking will we achieve Christ's peace.  The place Christ's peace is to be found is in the empty space between this or that, a place that is beyond all understanding as we never go there.

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