Response: December 2015 Issue

Responsively Yours: The Things That Make for Peace

Responsively Yours:  The Things That Make for Peace

"Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes." -Luke 19:42 (RSV)

Peace. Perhaps the English translations of the word skew our thinking, or the commercialization of Christmas and the sentimental greeting cards, but the biblical idea of peace is not primarily about stillness and quietness. The Hebrew word for peace, "shalom," connotes harmony, wholeness, welcome and nurturing as well as cessation of violence. This kind of peace isn't found in an empty landscape. It requires interaction, presence and engagement.

The peace of the Christmas story does not come from tranquility or "staying put." Jesus' birth takes place among movement — movement of the family and the nation during the census, the travel of the wise men, the presence of angels, the movement of shepherds and the human sounds of birthing and new life.

If we are to pursue peace we must have this sort of image in mind so that we are not distracted by calls to simply lay down arms or cease protesting. The peace for which we work cannot be confused with preservation of the status quo. The Prince of Peace was not born to reinforce power imbalances, and we as disciples are called to follow Jesus' lead.

This fall I had the opportunity to travel to Palestine and Israel. Because an outbreak of violence made it necessary to rearrange meetings, the small group of United Methodist leaders with whom I traveled had a few moments to go to the Mount of Olives and look across to Jerusalem. From there we saw the old city wall, excavated and rebuilt, and the modern city, the many domes, spires and minarets, and two ancient graveyards facing each other across the valley (one Jewish and one Moslem). Visible as well is the current separation wall and road system designed to keep people apart in a vain quest for a "peace" that focuses on weapons rather than the relations between people and the conditions in which they live. How could we help but reflect on Jesus' words from Luke 19:42.

We know that Jesus' work making plain the love of God and inviting us to reconciliation is our way to holistic peace in our personal and spiritual journeys, and we do well to commit to it anew this time of year. We also know that Jesus' coming furthers God's long work, back to the covenant with Abram, for the blessing of the nations. On the global scene, also, we are called to work for holistic peace.

This year is the 15th anniversary of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325, which calls for women's involvement in peace-making and peace-keeping. The global study prepared for the occasion notes, "Sustainable peace is only possible if there is inclusive peacemaking … along with women's participation, justice and reconciliation are other factors that lead to sustainable peace, and that make programmes operationally effective."

Our work for peace insists on women's participation and is rooted in a biblical conception of holistic peace that is rooted in our hearts and blossoms instead of conflict. We seek to honor the rights of all people, respecting their dignity and investing ourselves in conditions that make for community healing and restoration as well as cessation of violence. This investment in peace stands in strong contrast to investing in walls and armaments. It is a long path that requires intense spiritual work, but it is the only way to build a peace that can last.

God bless us in the sometimes noisy, sometimes chaotic, always challenging work for peace this Christmas and in all the days to come.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women 

Posted or updated: 12/1/2015 12:00:00 AM

November 2015 cover of response

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