Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peace Is the Opposite of Security

This is part of a very rough sermon summary I had to draw up for a project for my worship class. It is by no means complete, but there are some things here I thought worth sharing.

"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." – Isaiah 11:6-9

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theological and pastoral hero of mine, said in a sermon once, "peace is the opposite of security." Part of the reason we can't seem to figure out peace today is that we think too simply about it. There is a difference between peace as a lack of conflict and peace as living abundantly. Historians talk about the Pax Romana, the period of peace during the Roman Empire—but all that meant was that there were no wars, because the Romans rules their territories with an iron fist. We think living in peace means not being at war, but that is too simplistic.

Moreover, we think living in peace means living in safety. But peace is not about safety; it is about trust, trust in God and trust in each other. Bonhoeffer's quote goes further: "Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means to give oneself altogether to the law of God, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God" (A Testament to Freedom, HarperCollins, 1990).

Let's look back at Isaiah for a moment. There is nothing safe about a cow grazing with a bear; a farmhand would be fired to letting such a thing occur. Even worse is the image of a child putting its hand on the adder's den—I'm not sure what kind of snake this would refer to in a historical sense, but there is a kind of adder that is so poisonous that it is known as the "death adder." A parent would be jailed for allowing their child into that kind of danger. There is nothing safe about this peace Isaiah portrays.

There is a wonderful story about St. Francis, the 13th-century saint who is sadly best known for talking to birds, though he did so much more than that. In 1219, Francis showed up at a battlefield where Arab Muslims and Western crusaders were preparing to meet in battle. Francis didn't make any grand speeches about peace or sabotage the military operation; instead he walked right across no-man's land, completely defenseless. He was not killed, as we might expect, but ended up visiting with the sultan and all but convinced him to convert to Christianity. When I hear people claim that if we were to lay our weapons down, our enemies would immediately take advantage of us, I think of this story and say...would they really? Do we know that? Isn’t that assertion still us holding onto that security instead of giving into trust?

I’m not an idiot. I know we live in a broken world. One of the things that fascinates me most about Bonhoeffer is that although he was a firm pacifist, he participated in a plot to kill Hitler. Bonhoeffer never relinquished his beliefs about peace, but he came to advocate what he called "responsible action"—and for him, Hitler posed such a threat to all of humanity that something drastic had to be done. That's part of what I most admire about Bonhoeffer: he tried to walk this thin line of standing by his beliefs while acknowledging that he lived in a deeply fallen world and was responsible for his brothers' blood. This call to peace is not a call to stand idly by in the face of injustice. Our world may not be ready to live in the peace of God's holy mountain. But we must always keep our eye on this hope and seek to live it out wherever we can—even, and especially, when we think perhaps we can't.

3 comments:

Kaz said...

Hi Sarah, I enjoyed reading your post very much. It was so very full of interesting info that I had not much an idea of.
As to the verse, although I have not yet to read it in its full context, I thought it to be more of an image of Heaven, or rather of the world after God has restored it or remade it to what it was meant to be...
I did not see it as a place of danger at all.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
Now I am off to read the whole passage and discover its context.
Blessings, and thanks again for sharing :O)
Kaz

Sarah said...

My point was that heaven and peace in general aren't about security as we understand it. If it were, we'd be kept safe from the adder...the image of heaven/peace we're shown is not OUR image of how that peace should be, and that means we pursue peace here and now in ways that don't match up with God's promise of peace. It's not about security, it's about trust.

Robert Fischer said...

I'm a pacifist, which means I believe in the active opposition to Evil instead of passively participating in its systems.

There is a power of peace which countervails against the power of violence: you can wage peace. MLK, Jr. and Gandhi both engaged in this kind of action. It is based on respecting and loving those whose actions are trying to be your enemy, and it's astoundingly successful and proven through history. More information can be found through the Metta Center's publications, esp. "Search for a Nonviolent Future". That "waging peace" is being put into action in Sudan, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines via the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

As to why this kind of approach doesn't get more respect if it's so damned successful... Well, for that answer, come to the MIC@50 conference.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peace Is the Opposite of Security

This is part of a very rough sermon summary I had to draw up for a project for my worship class. It is by no means complete, but there are some things here I thought worth sharing.

"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play over the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put its hand on the adder's den. They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea." – Isaiah 11:6-9

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theological and pastoral hero of mine, said in a sermon once, "peace is the opposite of security." Part of the reason we can't seem to figure out peace today is that we think too simply about it. There is a difference between peace as a lack of conflict and peace as living abundantly. Historians talk about the Pax Romana, the period of peace during the Roman Empire—but all that meant was that there were no wars, because the Romans rules their territories with an iron fist. We think living in peace means not being at war, but that is too simplistic.

Moreover, we think living in peace means living in safety. But peace is not about safety; it is about trust, trust in God and trust in each other. Bonhoeffer's quote goes further: "Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to mistrust, and this mistrust in turn brings forth war. To look for guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means to give oneself altogether to the law of God, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God" (A Testament to Freedom, HarperCollins, 1990).

Let's look back at Isaiah for a moment. There is nothing safe about a cow grazing with a bear; a farmhand would be fired to letting such a thing occur. Even worse is the image of a child putting its hand on the adder's den—I'm not sure what kind of snake this would refer to in a historical sense, but there is a kind of adder that is so poisonous that it is known as the "death adder." A parent would be jailed for allowing their child into that kind of danger. There is nothing safe about this peace Isaiah portrays.

There is a wonderful story about St. Francis, the 13th-century saint who is sadly best known for talking to birds, though he did so much more than that. In 1219, Francis showed up at a battlefield where Arab Muslims and Western crusaders were preparing to meet in battle. Francis didn't make any grand speeches about peace or sabotage the military operation; instead he walked right across no-man's land, completely defenseless. He was not killed, as we might expect, but ended up visiting with the sultan and all but convinced him to convert to Christianity. When I hear people claim that if we were to lay our weapons down, our enemies would immediately take advantage of us, I think of this story and say...would they really? Do we know that? Isn’t that assertion still us holding onto that security instead of giving into trust?

I’m not an idiot. I know we live in a broken world. One of the things that fascinates me most about Bonhoeffer is that although he was a firm pacifist, he participated in a plot to kill Hitler. Bonhoeffer never relinquished his beliefs about peace, but he came to advocate what he called "responsible action"—and for him, Hitler posed such a threat to all of humanity that something drastic had to be done. That's part of what I most admire about Bonhoeffer: he tried to walk this thin line of standing by his beliefs while acknowledging that he lived in a deeply fallen world and was responsible for his brothers' blood. This call to peace is not a call to stand idly by in the face of injustice. Our world may not be ready to live in the peace of God's holy mountain. But we must always keep our eye on this hope and seek to live it out wherever we can—even, and especially, when we think perhaps we can't.

3 comments:

Kaz said...

Hi Sarah, I enjoyed reading your post very much. It was so very full of interesting info that I had not much an idea of.
As to the verse, although I have not yet to read it in its full context, I thought it to be more of an image of Heaven, or rather of the world after God has restored it or remade it to what it was meant to be...
I did not see it as a place of danger at all.
Please correct me if I am wrong.
Now I am off to read the whole passage and discover its context.
Blessings, and thanks again for sharing :O)
Kaz

Sarah said...

My point was that heaven and peace in general aren't about security as we understand it. If it were, we'd be kept safe from the adder...the image of heaven/peace we're shown is not OUR image of how that peace should be, and that means we pursue peace here and now in ways that don't match up with God's promise of peace. It's not about security, it's about trust.

Robert Fischer said...

I'm a pacifist, which means I believe in the active opposition to Evil instead of passively participating in its systems.

There is a power of peace which countervails against the power of violence: you can wage peace. MLK, Jr. and Gandhi both engaged in this kind of action. It is based on respecting and loving those whose actions are trying to be your enemy, and it's astoundingly successful and proven through history. More information can be found through the Metta Center's publications, esp. "Search for a Nonviolent Future". That "waging peace" is being put into action in Sudan, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines via the Nonviolent Peaceforce.

As to why this kind of approach doesn't get more respect if it's so damned successful... Well, for that answer, come to the MIC@50 conference.

 

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