Sunday, 16 December 2018

God's shalom...looking past war

We have binary vision. Yes, we have two eyes but that is not what I mean. We just think and view things from a binary perspective because this is what we are taught to do from an early stage. Everything must come with an either / or perspective and when we look at bigger picture issues we see it as either this solution or that solution. A classic example at the present, or rather two to ensure we understand what we are looking at. Either: coal and fossil fuels, these are inexpensive and therefore we should use them. It maintains jobs and employment. Don't forget it brings in finances to the few. Or renewable energy sources; there are no jobs in this sector, we cannot maintain the prices at a low level, we cannot reap the financial rewards. (Simplistic I know but the picture is there either coal (inexpensive etc) or renewables (too hard basket etc)). Immigration: Either they are all undesirables, do not belong, are terrorists, deserve to be locked up, do not come in the right way or they are just humans in need, we should find homes for them, they will contribute to the economy, etc (Again simplistic but summarises the either or situation).

Let's now talk about peace. Well we cannot have peace without the cessation of war. Either we have peace or we have war, in other words violence or no violence that is peace. Is it? or can we re-think our way out of the either / or situation? The direction in Philippians is "then the peace of God which is beyond all understanding..." following the understanding that God is near and not to be anxious (Phil. 3.6-7). This seems to me to bring a new meaning to shalom, a meaning that takes us beyond the binary of war and peace. The passage does not retain any sense of violence in the physical but rather harks back to the disintegration of Jacob's family. Just think of the familial troubles that are rooted in not knowing themselves and their own siblings (For more on this read: The Beginning of Desire by AG Zornberg). This then requires us to think a bit more laterally then normal and when we do this we have an entirely new understanding of God's shalom in our midst or the lack thereof. It is precisely because of this re-imagining of peace that we recognise that it is all beyond our understanding if and while we have binary vision.

The re-integration of ourselves brings peace

The direction is Philippians is a personal direction to the recipient "if you...". In other words it us the individual that is targeted not the collective. It is we who need to integrate ourselves into harmony that is the key to a greater peace with the wider community. If we think about this then we can see that this is ultimately the corrective that brings about God's shalom in the world. In our current age more and more of us are suffering from a disintegration of our selves. We are no longer whole. We rise to the least threat to ourselves and create violent solutions for our issues and solvable challenges. We only have to look at the rates of violence against women, children and the marginalised to see how true this is. We need only look at the continual challenges we face with road rage, king hits, etc as a result of a momentary breakdown of our social selves. Our jobs or the lack of jobs; our infantile responses to change climate or otherwise; our disintegration into challenge politics rather than listening and dialogue. All of these things point to our own self disintegration which ultimately leads to challenges at an international scale which results in violence and war i.e. the lack of our own peace and God's shalom.

In approaching the coming of the incarnate one we need to set our minds free of those things that divide us. This is an important aspect of our faith life together for in order for us to form a harmonious community we need to look to our own harmony. It is our shattered lives that are the root of disharmony and we cannot place the blame solely on the other. If we are to be light bringers we are also bringers of peace or God's shalom but we ourselves must be prepared to re-integrate ourselves into wholeness in the presence of God. We will continue to bear shattered lives if we do not look to ourselves for re-integration into the story of faith in our own lives before we bring the light of God's countenance into the lives of those around us.

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