I shared with a group of seniors last Sunday about an upcoming ministry I’ll be engaging in Israel and the West Bank for 3 months. I’m leaving in 3 weeks in fact. Yikes. Much to do before then. As I was reading scripture and putting my thoughts together for my talk, I found an important verse used in Psalm 34:14, subsequently taken up by Peter in his first letter in the NT in 1 Peter 3:10-12. Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it. I found a great article by Rabbi Toba Spitzer on the Psalm text and thought I should be reading more of this guy, especially as I contemplate serving in the Holy Land and engaging Jews as well as Palestinian Muslims and Christians. Rabbi Spitzer admits that some look at the notion of peaceful means in dealing with conflict as quaint and naive. I have felt the same type of feedback when talking about building bridges of peace with Muslims. “Aren’t they all terrorists?” “Don’t they want to take over our country through Sharia Law?” The implication that is often teased out in these conversations is that the only way to deal with the so called Muslim threat is with a firm hand. I don’t want to parse out the many ways this conversation goes except to make two important comments. 1. The majority of Muslims in the world are peace loving and devoted to following God’s call to love God with all their heart, and their neighbor as themselves. 2. Secondly, God calls us to “seek peace, and pursue it.”
Rabbi Spitzer unpacks this a bit more, citing another Rabbi commentator on this particular mitzvah, or holy obligation. In comparing this ethical obligation with all others in their scriptures, this one stands out. All others mention that a good Jew must follow each ethical guideline, IF it happens to occur in their daily routines, IF the particular situation arises. BUT in the case of peace, every believing Jew must be proactive. “In the case of peace, it is written, ‘seek peace, and pursue it–seek it in the place where you are, and pursue it in another place.'”
As a follower of Christ, called the Prince of Peace in the New Testament, I believe the work of peace making is even more important. It was Jesus who said, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” May God help us in the work of peacemaking. May God help us to address the elements in relationships and societies that sabotage true peace.
Stay tuned as I spend time in a place where little peace seems to be known and experienced. Pray for me.