Week two of Advent recognises that one of the aspect of the coming of the Messiah into the world is that He has come to bring us peace. The thing that I’m always fascinated by is the way that we often define peace these days. Maybe it’s because of the world that we live in, and all of the violence that is present – think of the middle east, eastern Europe, Africa – so many conflicts, wars and strife happening around the world. It seems that because of this world that we live in we often define peace as ‘no war’. We think that because there is so much war, then peace must simply be the absence of that war, conflict and hostility. But the issue is that this sort of peace is too small for our Kingdom vision. The arrival of the Messiah must mean more than we simply grudgingly put down our swords/guns/knives/taisers and agree to not go at it again, but secretly we want to go and bash someone. That can’t be what Messianic peace looks like!
The truth is, it doesn’t look like that.
What does it look like? It looks like renewal, it looks like changed hearts, so that, as crazy as it may seem, we actually love our enemies, we genuinely, from our heart, with all the love that we can muster, care about their wellbeing. I remember the story of an Anabaptist man – Dirk Willems – who was arrested, as many Anabaptist were in those days – he managed to escape and fled across an ice lake, being chased by one of the guards. He had lost a lot of weight in prison and so made it across safely, but the guard, who was wearing his armour, fell in. Dirk was free! But instead of running away, he turned and rescued the man who was chasing him. The man got out of the lake, arrested Dirk and took him back to prison, where he was held until being burned at the stake.
The sort of heart that Dirk had is the sort that all will have in the Kingdom of the Messiah, the Kingdom that we are waiting for, the peace that we long for.
Theology invites us to use our imaginations, and so let’s imagine what it might look like to live in a world where people treated one another in this way, where we truly embody the words of Jesus, “Love your neighbour as yourself.” This would be far more than simply a grudging peace where we agree to not beat on each other – even though we want to. It would look like a world where no need goes unmet, where people are included because they bear the image of God, where care and acceptance is the norm, and people put others first, rather than simply looking out for themselves. It would look like these verses from Isaiah:
The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
The cow and the bear shall graze; their young shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the adder’s den.
They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain; for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.
Wouldn’t you want to live in a world so completely enveloped in the peace of God that it looks like that? I know I would.
Amen, come Lord Jesus