Last year, our church walked through the Gospel of Luke together. 2016 turned out to be an interesting year to hear the message of our most socially “woke” Gospel. When the U.S. election cycle was in full swing, we were all drowning in endless reports of political scandals, the corruption of power, illegal immigrants, building walls, political polarization, e-mail servers, and global terrorism. All around us was a message of division, fear, hostility, and hatred. And boy, we were feeling it within our church! Were you? Come to think of it, we STILL are feeling it! Are you?
In 2016, we’d hear all of this mess around us, and then come together and open up our Bibles each week. With Luke as our guide, we’d read about the radically inclusive and inviting ministry of Jesus. Jesus would hang out with tax collectors, sinners, “women of the city” (whatever that might mean!), Pharisees, Roman soldiers, religious Jews, fishermen, and pretty much anyone else. Jesus would tell us stories about how the enemy is actually the hero sometimes, and that a “neighbor” isn’t a category as much as “neighborliness” is an action (Luke 10:25-37). Jesus would point out how sometimes the last person you expect has the greatest faith (7:1-10). Jesus would start blessing the poor, the hungry, those who are weeping, the persecuted, reviled, excluded, and defamed. Then he’d start condemning the rich, the well-fed, the laughing, and the well-spoken-of (6:20-26). We weren’t too sure which side of that equation we were on, but it did make us squirm a bit.
Against a national backdrop of division and a focus on the things that tear us apart – week after week we were met with Jesus’s radical message of inclusive love. “You all are drowning in the things that tear you apart, but what about the things that bring us together?” he seemed to say.
One Scripture sticks out to me when I remember our series together last year. Jesus is coming up to Jerusalem, the capital city and the center of religious life. He knows he’s going toward his destiny of suffering, death, and ultimate vindication by God. But before all that, this happens:
As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” (Luke 19:41-42, NRSV)
Have we also forgotten “the things that make for peace”? Are they available to us, but hidden from our eyes? Have they already left the building? I mean … what are the things that make for peace?
This has become one of my personal quests – to discover, explore, and do “the things that make for peace.” If it’s okay with you, dear CHARIS reader, I hope I can use this space to reflect on my discoveries and explorations.
One more thing as we begin: I think “peace” for Jesus might mean something different than what we typically mean by “peace.” For Jesus, “peace” doesn’t seem to have much to do with an absence of conflict. In fact, Jesus consistently calls attention to the way his ministry causes conflict! Jesus says his ministry will cause conflict between families (Luke 12:52-53). He likens his ministry to the flood in the time of Noah and the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (17:28-30) – hardly a “peaceful” comparison! And let’s not forget that Jesus’s greatest “peacekeeping” act was the crucifixion. In order to make peace, Jesus steps right into the heart of the conflict.
“Peace” for Jesus is not an absence of conflict or hostility. It’s not an absence at all! “Peace” for Jesus is about the fullness of God’s kingdom being realized. And sometimes – when God’s peace breaks into the world – it can upset the apple cart of those who say, “Peace, peace!” when there really is no peace to be found (Jer 6:14).
So what are the things that make for peace? What are the things that usher in the fullness of God’s presence? Are they right in front of us, yet hidden from our eyes? Is it too late to find them? Join me here each month and let’s see what we discover together.
P.S. If you are discovering the things that make for peace in your life, ministry, and community and have a story you’d like to share with me, I’d love to hear it. Shoot me an e-mail at [email protected]
Ben has a passion for studying scripture, preaching, and prayer. His life’s work is leading others closer to God as he himself continues to grow. He earned a Masters of Divinity (2011) and a B.S. in Christian Ministry (2007), both from Abilene Christian University. Ben currently serves as the Senior Minister at the Meadowbrook Church of Christ in Jackson, MS. Ben is very thankful to the Churches of Christ, who have nurtured him in the faith and introduced him to Jesus. Ben and Laura – his wife, ministry partner, and best friend – have been married since December 2013.