Photo credit: Bryan_T, Creative Commons.
A few days into my trip to India we took a walk. We left the main road and wandered through a labyrinth of alleys, where only the rickshaws and the cows and the scampering children go. We passed the mamas selling paper kites for four cents, let the children teach us to fly them and crowd into the frames of our cameras. And we passed an old woman lying on a stone doorstep, flies nipping at her ankles and it stunned me because she could have been my grandmother. It stunned me, but I kept on walking. I wish I had been less of a tourist and less of an evangelist. I wish I had brought some peace to her.
I met a precious spiritual little sister while in college; a girl I mentored who taught me more than I taught her. She’s passionate about fighting human trafficking and she’s known for years that her calling is to practice law on behalf of those who have been exploited, to use her talents and her education to free them. She’s 19 and she’s taking action—informing and mobilizing college students, spreading the fervor and the urgency, loving Cambodian victims and working toward law school. She is already a mighty peacemaker. Eshet chayil.
Making peace is about showing kindness and bringing justice. Strengthening the weak knees and abolishing one human’s domination over another. Speaking blessings and speaking truth.
Dr. Mark Roberts points to the Old Testament link between shalom, justice, and righteousness. Righteousness in context, he says, was not limited to moral perfection, but encompassed living well in relationship. This is the part we so often forget—that we do not display righteousness by adhering piously to the law, we live righteously to the extent that we love God and our neighbors. This is vital to the Christian’s role as a peacemaker in the world. Why?
Because there is no righteousness in preaching hate to anyone who is far from God. There is no righteousness in focusing on the havoc ‘big sins’ are supposedly wreaking on our society while we gloss over our pride and greed and apathy. There is no righteousness in endlessly debating our theology and failing to live it. There is no righteousness in practicing our religious rituals and forgetting that true religion visits widows and orphans in their affliction. There is no peace in any of it.
And I am guilty most of all.
So let’s be alert to the opportunities we have to bring peace. Let’s focus more on tangible ways to give shalom and less on conversions and being right and triumphing. Let’s focus less on everything except love for God and the neighbors in our midst.