Nearly everyone says they want peace, the question is how to get it. Mostly people believe that peace comes through security; that is we create bubbles of calm in this world when we secure our borders (however we define them) from those who threaten our peace (ie our enemies). The reference to borders and bubbles was unconsciously done, but it's true that most people imagine their peace is like a haven from the pandemic of violence that lies 'out there'.
Michael Gorman in his book Becoming the Gospel describes the way Rome (and every powerful nation?) thought about peace by drawing attention to a famous altar called the ara pacis (altar of peace). It was built during the reign of Rome's first Emperor, Augustus, and seeks to show how Augustus (and his family) have brought peace and prosperity to Rome. Most of the panels on the altar show life inside this bubble of peace, but one panel shows a female warrior (Roma?) sitting on a pile of weapons (see image). And that, of course, is how the Roman peace worked - by conquering and then suppressing the peoples of the Empire.
Gorman then offers a blunt picture of Paul's theology of the peace Jesus brings by summarizing Galatians 2.15-21: "If violence and war is the way to peace, then Rome was right, and Christ died for nothing". Jesus' way of peace was through enemy love and forgiveness. Needless to say, Rome's way is still preferred by most.
I don't however think that Paul thought of Christ's peace as only an absence of violence and flourishing of life. It is also connected to an inner confidence that one is loved and accepted by God and other people.
This week in NZ we've been hearing the victim impact statements from the survivors and families of the Christchurch terrorist attack on Muslim worshipers. Most impressive throughout the months following the attack has been one of the victims, Farid Ahmed. And again this week, when asked by journalists whether he intended to go to court and give an impact statement he said no. Instead, he said he'd like to talk with the terrorist once things have calmed down: "I do not expect a criminal to be an angel overnight,. I'm not delusional. But at the same time, I don't give up hope...I would just talk from my heart. If I can't understand, then maybe I can help to change the hate". (Dom Post 22.8.20).
He's a Muslim, but he clearly gets Jesus' recipe for peace: love your enemies.
So that's my challenge if I wan't to learn something from peacemakers like Farid Ahmed. Who are my enemies and what will it take for me to love them? Funnily enough, I suspect most of my enemies are people I've never met. I'll let you know how I get on.