Followers of the Prince of Peace?

640px-Collared_DoveJesus is all about peace.

Isaiah 9:6 (NIV) foretold his birth, predicting the coming of one who would bear four exalted titles: 1) Wonderful Counselor; 2) Mighty God; 3) Everlasting Father, and 4) Prince of Peace.

When the Messiah arrived, his message included this important, peaceful strand. The Sermon on the Mount is recorded in both Matthew 5-7 and Luke 6:20-49, but is it in Matthew’s account where the peace motif shines. Among the famed Beatitudes, we find this commendation:

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children (Matthew 5:9, CEB).

At his arrest, Jesus corrected Peter when his petulant disciple drew his sword to defend the Lord. “Put back your sword in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all those who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52, NIV). The rest of Jesus’ words on the occasion are lesser known: “Or do you think that I’m not able to ask my Father and he will send to me more than twelve battle groups of angels right away? But if I did that, how would the scriptures be fulfilled that say this must happen?” (vv. 53-54, CEB). Jesus overcame one of history’s greatest acts of terrorism – crucifixion – not through superior strength but through a radical act of passive non-resistance. God exalted the Prince of Peace by raising him from the dead, vindication and a seal of approval upon Jesus’ counterintuitive ways (Acts 2:31-33).

Elsewhere, the New Testament affirms the humility that is inherent in the peace ethic. Paul portrays Christ as one who “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8, CEB). Following Jesus’ example, as much as possible, we are to “live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18b, NIV). We are sanctified entirely not just by “God,” but by the “God of peace” (1 Thessalonians 5:23). Further, the writer to the Hebrews exhorts:

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy. Without holiness no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14, NIV; italics added).

Continue reading

Advertisements

Using social media responsibly following terrorist attacks

coexistAs the tragic events unfold in Nairobi, here are a few thoughts about how we can use social media responsibly:

 

1. Throw away your broad brush. “Well, those dirty, rotten ________. That religion is just rotten to the core.” How often does this appear on threads following articles at news sites? Sometimes, we can even vent our anger on FaceBook. Ask yourself: Will this comment I’m about to post makes things better or worse, particularly for those who live and work among those who profess “religion x?” Our words have consequences. Challenge Christian websites whose manner of reporting favors a “clash of civilizations” or “this must be the end times” storyline.

2. Offer condolences to the mourning and prayers for peace. These are always welcome and help us brainstorm in constructive ways for solutions. “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone, and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord”(Hebrews 12:14, NIV).

3. Seek common ground. Go out of your way to befriend someone of another religion. Find common interests, and build on those. Put a human face to your Christian faith that will challenge stereotypes that they might be hearing from their religious leaders. In the same way, by discovering the humanity of someone from another religion, you will be in a place to challenge stereotypes that some Christian leaders present as truth but that create ill-will and stir up hostility.

Let’s remember that what we say online is available for all to read. Are we part of the solution, or part of the problem?

————————————————
Image credit: Disjointed Thinking

On theology and humanity: Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

lincolnThe Oscars are over, and Daniel Day Lewis won the best actor award for his portrayal of our 16th President in “Lincoln.” Somewhere over the Atlantic, I treated myself to the movie, thoroughly impressed at how it captured a period that has always fired my imagination. (Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Lincoln was one of my favorite reads from last year, a book my dad and mom enjoyed and that kept me up until 2 a.m. one morning when visiting them).

Most of us know at least part of the famous “Gettysburg Address.” Far fewer are familiar with the majestic cadences of Abraham Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address. Delivered on March 4, 1865, the speech is now engraved on the right wall of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. After climbing the long stairs leading up to the shrine, I snapped this shot of the speech:

The Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States
The Second Inaugural Address of Abraham Lincoln, 16th President of the United States

All 699 words of the address can be found here.

As I stood in the March chill reading its words, I came away with a conviction:

This speech is deeply theological, designed for listeners who appreciate theology.

What does Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address tell us about God? What does it teach us about ourselves? 

Let’s look at a handful of passages from the speech to answer these questions. Continue reading