the cost of peace: a guest post by Fr. Chris Bollegar

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Creative Commons - photo by suvodeb
This is the second installment of our series Give Peace a Chance, which asks the question:  In the modern church, what does peace look like?  Does it equate to silence, or is it something more vocal, more active, more intentional? How do we make peace with one another in the middle of our debates and controversies?  You can read the first installment here, and you can find my thoughts here.  

The best part about hosting a series is I get to introduce you to some of the people I admire most.  Today's guest post is written by Father Chris Bollegar, who is an Anglican priest.  Fr. Chris is the most humble leader I have ever known.  He was the first spiritual leader I've ever met who is comfortable saying from the pulpit, "I don't know."  I thank God for his influence in my life.  

If you would like to hear more of Chris' thoughts, you can find his sermons here.  I would highly recommend checking out Jan 26 and March 9 first.

Peace.  When we talk about peace, what is it we are talking about?

Is it co-existence without coercive violence?  Is it that we simply agree to disagree, and live and let live?  Is it setting aside the law of non-contradiction with its clear binaries?  Is it learning to just "love one another" (a phrase so many zealous apologists from either side of our public debates mock and despise)?

There is validity to defining peace as the absence of something we deem destructive to human flourishing - the absence of violence, for example, or coercion, oppression, or bigotry binary logic.  But if we leave it there, we fall far short of the kind of peace that Jesus spoke of and the Christian tradition, in its best moments, has hoped for.

But the challenge in defining peace is similar to the challenge in defining love.  Once we 
capture the reality with strokes of a pen, we look at our work and see it is a shadow of the substance, falling short in every way to the experience itself.  Peace, like love, is as much something that happens to us as something we do or achieve.  There are practices of peace that help us realize it, but at the end of the day, it seems it is something we receive.  It is a gift.

To call it a gift is not to short circuit the hard work of those who seek peace.  Nor is it to diminish the long road and the many methods employed to achieve it.  Instead, when we acknowledge it is a gift, we recognize the one indispensable step along the road to any real, last peace.  There is a brief statement in the letter to the Ephesians that shows us the way:  But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Jesus Christ.  For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.  (Eph 2: 13-14)

Whether we like it or not, blood has always been connected to humanity's pursuit of peace.  Whether it was peace with the ancient gods, requiring a sacrifice to appease their anger, or peace for an oppressed group requiring the blood of its tyrant.  But Ephesians describes a unique peace.  It is not the blood of the "other" required here, be that a sacrifice or an enemy,  but the blood of the one proclaiming peace to all.

For the life of me, I cannot see another way to achieve peace.

To be in Christ is to join in the very life he lived and continues to live.  It is to be formed into His pattern.  Are we willing to follow His example in peace, too?  Are we willing to give ourselves up for the sake of our "enemies"?  Especially when we perceive those enemies to be within the very churches that claim the name of Christ?  As we continue to seek peace, I would encourage us to remember that fundamentally it is a gift to be received.  But the reception of that gift takes place, just as it did for Jesus, on the other side of the cross. 

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