Peace. Peace among nations of the world. Peace in our cities and neighborhoods. Peace is not only the wish of beauty queens, it's also the dream of prophets.
In our war torn world and our bitterly divided nation, it is easy and popular to be cynical about any hopes for peace that go beyond the dominion of our own private emotions. I heard it all from other Christians while I was waiting to vote. The anger, division, the cynicism even among the body of Christ. The Bible does not endorse or even accept such cynicism.
In one sense, peace has always been an impossible dream - but a dream the prophets dared to imagine anyway. The first mention of peace among the prophets is when the prophet Isaiah speaks of a Prince of Peace.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. 7 Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9:6-7 (NIV)
Ever since Cain rose up in the field against Abel, the world has not been a very peaceful place. Human history is written in blood and is largely the record of where, when, and why blood was spilled.
But still the prophets dream. They dream of swords that become plowshares, and spears that become pruning hooks. In a modern world, they would dream of tanks becoming tractors and missile silos becoming grain silos. The cold, hard pragmatist will dismiss their dreams as utterly incongruent with the way the real world runs. But this is the role of the prophet to give a minority report based on prophetic imagination. In their wild, impractical, impossible, God-breathed poems they mount a challenge to brutal tyranny of pragmatism. And I say God bless them.
We need an alternative vision. We need a dream that isn't censored by the status quo. We need an imagination that transcends the dominant script. We need the poems of the prophets because we live in a world where peace is treated as an unwelcome vagrant by those who have placed their faith in the game the way it has always been played.
"We live in a political world
Where peace is not welcome it all.
It is turned away from the door to wander some more
or put up against the wall."
-- Kevin Gerard May and Michael Lynch
So instead of surrendering to the assumption that the world, as is, is the way it must be, the prophets fly in the face of convention and insist there must be a better way.
The prophets are incapable of shrugging their shoulders at massive injustice in saying “it is what it is” in a world where every day the nations spend three billion dollars on military defense while 17,000 children die of hunger, the prophets will not embrace the status quo as either acceptable or inevitable.
The prophets are the burr under the saddle of those committed to end the transient paradigm. If the Hebrew prophets were daring in their dreams the Christian apostles are even bolder in their speech. They not only endorsed the dream of the prophets the dream that God would someday govern the race of the Son whom he would give but they also dared to announce that the government of the Son of God had actually begun! It is a government that produces peace.
It is undeniable that peace is one of the prominent themes of the gospel. Peter and Paul and the rest of the apostles believed they were proclaiming something profoundly important pertaining to peace. Although the peace of Christ includes personal, inner peace, we must not so privatize the gospel to make peace only a matter of private mental and spiritual health.
As the Apostle Paul writes about the accomplishments of Christ concerning peace in his letter to the Ephesians, his primary emphasis is not a private inner peace but a peace between ethnic groups who have had a long history of bitter enmity.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. Ephesians 2:14-17 (NIV)
May God grant peace between us, our enemies abroad, in our country and in the voting booth next to ours.