Peace with God. Who should be included in the circle? What are my limits?
One of the discoveries I’ve made in this journey of peacemaking (both in Israel/Palestine conflict and in Christian/Muslim bridge building) is the trap we sometimes fall into thinking God’s peace is all about me, or by extension about us, our tribe. That may be a harsh assessment but I bump into it all the time. Many even in churches I visit seem to fall into the idea of this narrow scope of God’s love. One of my favorite gospel tracts in my early eager evangelical days was “Steps to Peace with God.” God knows I still need His peace in my life. But there’s a subtle trap here if we stop with our own journey. And it really resembles the conversation another religious person had with Jesus that serves as the introduction to the parable of The Good Samaritan. It’s very relevant to the work of peacemaking. I’d even go so far as to say its foundational to what it means to follow Christ. Read the discussion Jesus had with the “expert in the law” (Luke 10:25-37). When he asked “who is my neighbor” he was essentially saying there ARE limits to who we should love, and how far from our own haven of peace we should venture. Think about it.
How far are you willing to take “the Gospel of Peace?” (Ephesians 6:15) (Gospel literally means “good news”). Many of us think only about the front door to the Kingdom (peace with God), or to our community of faith, whether Christian or some other community we are a part of. We miss the Holy Spirit calling us to exit the back door as well in order to step out into places, circles of people, that are strangers to “peace with God!” In point of fact I believe if we don’t take that step, if we only focus on our personal “peace with God,” I truly believe we’ve missed the entire message of Jesus. I truly believe that “peace for ME without peace for you” is simply heresy.
Gladly Buechner comes to my aid here.
“Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it’s like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” Wishful Thinking – A Theological ABC. Frederick Buechner