“Grace, Mercy and Peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with you”.
We have thought about Mercy and Grace over the last few days, and as I thought about these wonderful gifts I realised that these are part of an upside-down Kingdom, these are mighty and wonderful gifts, and yet they are massively counter-cultural.
Mercy is not something our culture respects, it is something requiring incredible strength but one which paradoxically is often viewed as a weakness.
Grace, that extravagant generosity, giving people what they don’t rightfully deserve, is often viewed as foolishness… “Your crazy they’re just taking advantage of you!” is what the world will tell you!
And today we think about Peace. Yet most of our heroes of history have been people of war. Culture adores the fighter, yet very few statues are erected for the peace-makers.
Yet Jesus is the greatest broker of a peace-deal of all time.
Jesus made peace between a fallen world and a righteous Godhead, he took on the evil of the world and the wrath of God (the need for justice to be done)in what was from the aggressor an act of violence met by the ultimate non violent peaceful protest that shouted “Father Forgive Them!” whilst gasping and dying for breath.
Jesus brokered the peace-deal between humanity and divinity, people and God. He calls us to carry on his ministry “ambassadors of reconciliation”.
The call of following Christ is to be at peace with God and at peace with one another, the horizontal relationship and the vertical relationship.
Yet Jesus says “blessed are the peacemakers” and the prophets urge us to seek the day when God turns spears into pruning hooks and swords into ploughshares.
Peace isn’t just the absence of war, but of harmonious relationships one with another. Yet our human nature often likes a bit of drama, we like a ‘robust debate’ and sadly our Churches aren’t the places of peace that they’d like to be, this doesn’t mean everyone has to agree with everyone all the time, but the issue I feel is are we disagreeing in a Christ-like way.
Peace, is a word that covers so many other ideas, welcome, acceptance, hospitality, openness, honesty, integrity, trustworthy, compassionate, calm, wisdom and love.
Peace is one of the fruit of the Spirit, and yet one we don’t always appreciate enough, nor one we know how to apply to our lives.
We know that a gentle word turns away wrath as the proverbs tell us. Many of us have seen ugly debates where we may have won an argument but lost the person.
The Apostle Peter urges us when talking evangelistically “always be prepared to give an account for the hope that we have but do so with gentleness and respect”.
Jesus prophetically teaches into the Church that is yet to be formed that “a house divided will not stand” -interestingly most of our parliamentary democracies work on the opposite principal, although in the second world war the parties came together to work together for the sake of the nation).
When we are squabbling amongst ourselves, the hurting world needs to healing of the gospel.
Jesus says that “blessed are the feet of those who bring good news”, Paul talks in Ephesians about having our feet ready with the Gospel of peace.
Jesus urges his Churches to be founded on the ‘people of peace’ with his mission strategy to find these people and around then build his Church.
Sadly, although the reformation brought with it many good things at the heart of Protestantism, is the idea of protest, and sadly we have seen Churches split, and split again. One of the reason I am an Anglican is a belief that these splits grieve the heart of the Holy Spirit.
Are we celebrating tensions and controversies in an unhelpful or a helpful and productive way?
Are we seeking broken and damaged relationships to be healed and restored, or are we nursing those pains and bad-feelings?
Are we seeking the advanced of the Kingdom, or is it more important to be right, and by being right do we often mean ‘the loudest’.
I had a friend that described his position on stuff as “being pretty orthodox” and then added “but I also think God calls us not to be a prat about it!”
“Wise as serpents but innocent as doves” -living a life where truth and love are held together in such a way that our life and doctrine compliment one another rather than contradict each other.
Let’s choose peace with the bravery and courage that the Price of Peace chose and embodies.