Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Countdown to Christmas Conversations: An Invitation to Consider the Character of the Christ – Part Four – Prince of Peace

Just a fantasy? Or does Jesus provide a way to peace?
This is the fifth in a series of posts discussing my belief in Jesus as the Messiah, in hopes of fostering understanding of my spirituality, and encouraging others to share their own perspectives on spirituality (defined broadly as the means by which we derive meaning from life and assign value to its elements). For more about why I find the discussion of our spirituality to be so important, especially as we countdown to Christmas, please see the initial post in the series. (Found here: http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/12/countdown-to-christmas-conversations.html)

Sometimes, when dealing with a phrase or title where one of the words especially catches our attention, we miss some great insights. I felt that way about looking at Jesus Christ as Wonderful Counselor (in the post here: http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/12/countdown-to-christmas-conversations_20.html), Mighty God (here: http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/12/countdown-to-christmas-conversations_21.html), and Everlasting Father (here: http://deathpastor.blogspot.com/2014/12/countdown-to-christmas-conversations_22.html). I find great inspiration in what I have learned about each word in each of those titles.

"Keeping the peace" in Ferguson, Mo.
Looking again at Isaiah 9:6 regarding Jesus Christ as Prince of Peace, though, I find another obstacle. Here is a phrase has caught my attention so much in the past that it becomes almost impossible to slow down and really consider what it means. Our familiarity with a phrase like “Prince of Peace” may prevent us from appreciating just how important a concept, and how radical a claim it is.

Even a brief thought about it raises troubling questions. Can we seriously consider Jesus Christ as a Prince of Peace in a world where terrorist organizations pride themselves on inventive cruelties and escalating casualties as they pursue their murderous doctrines? What does a Prince of Peace matter when our communities are self-destructing, with those called “to serve and protect” fearfully reacting in preventative self-protection, while citizens turn on one another in their blind rage? Am I willing to explain to young children how I pray to this Prince of Peace for their hospitalized mother and arrested father, even as they collect a few belongings to take with them into foster care?

Yes, we can. It does matter. And I am willing. But why?

Night-lights help us sleep more peacefully.
I have to imagine my reactions are probably like yours, unless you have no capacity for evil whatsoever. But I cannot help but wonder what elaborate torture might adequately avenge the lives of innocent men, women, and children, murdered for failing to believe in the blood-thirsty god their assailants feel compelled to appease. Likewise, I long to discern an effective deterrent to the deepening distrust and its  tragic consequences increasing for both law enforcement and the law-abiding as the lines between “subjects” and “suspects,” or “persons” and “perpetrators” becomes more blurred. And, I confess, there are several wife-beaters’ throats around which I would gladly have closed my hands had I not felt an obligation to their families and to my God (though not to them in those moments, even though they are still persons created to bear the image and likeness of their Creator).

We can choose to address conflict by the application of greater conflict. But we can do so only if we reject any possibility of redemptive purposes, of valuing any human’s personhood, and of seeing anything resembling cooperative communities. Where there is any hope, or even a not-entirely-despairing desire to see justice and mercy, then we must stop trying to address conflict by applying greater conflict.

Must we wait for peace until we all "Rest In Peace?" There's another way.
As a follower of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, I am called to a better solution than escalating conflict, division, and warfare. And Jesus lays out that solution for us. Therefore, as a Christian, I should be among those who are most “at peace,” not to mention being a “peace-maker.” And yet, as a theologically-conservative Evangelical I am numbered among those who have made a thriving industry of divisive denominationalism, doctrinal debate, and (without exaggeration) terrorizing territorialism. (e.g., “You could probably still go to heaven and attend a church like that. But wouldn’t you rather be sure by attending with true believers?”) The result? We Christians are not at peace, even among ourselves. We can hardly, then, be trusted to be peace-makers. What we offer is not a regularly-practiced protocol of conflict resolution and relational-reconciliation, although that is exactly what Jesus prescribed for us in Matthew 18:15-18.

What can we offer, then? For that, you’ll need to read one more post. Because Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace, at least for loyal subjects of “His kingdom” in which there is “justice and righteousness.” But such blessings are possible only when “the government shall be upon His shoulders.” Thankfully, that’s the government that seeks to reign and rule over each of us, today.

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