Society: In Search of Peaceable Religion

In God’s kingdom plan, peace is both the final goal of the kingdom and the present experience of the community of Jesus’ disciples. Jesus is the key. He has brought peace between God and human kind. He reconciles through life, death and resurrection; Christians are kingdom people when, having found peace with God through Jesus, they build a peaceful community and become agents of God’s shalom in the world.

Today too many Christians put their national, racial or economic identity above their identity as citizens of Jesus’ new order. That is simply wrong, it always leads to supporting nationalistic or economic priorities over kingdom priorities. We must come to an awareness of God’s kingdom community as one people, one nation, one new race throughout the world, with one primary allegiance to Christ our King. National, military and economic conflicts look much different from this side of the fence.

Howard Snyder, A Kingdom Manifesto (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 1985), pp. 22, 119.

The mobs make good news-fodder. Angry Muslim faces, most of them young, shake their fists and chant, “death to the West” and “let the real holocaust begin!” All because of political cartoons and caricatures.

Those of us who have been counted among the Christians shake our heads and think, “Jeez, guys. Welcome to my world.” Aside from all we’ve seen before in print, we have only recently escaped a caricatured Jesus on a weekly TV series and an episode of Will and Grace featuring Britney Spears in a guest appearance as the host of a Christian television cooking show called “Crucifixin’s.” That one was cancelled after protests, but not before the gag had appeared several other times on shows like the The Simpsons and Arrested Development.

We look at the outraged Muslim world and say, go get a problem.

Some Christians watch the brouhaha and smugly announce that the world of Islam is finally revealing its true colors; a peaceable religion, indeed. Hah!

Go ahead and try that one on a non-Christian and see what happens. Oh, yeah? They will say. What about the crusades? What about Northern Ireland? What about that? Your religion isn’t all that peaceful.

Indeed, what about that?

The truth is, there is no such thing as a peaceable religion, no matter whose it is. Whenever we build an organization and organize a system we have too much of ourselves invested to ignore an affront, or patiently endure an insult. From our religious bastions we sound the alarm and cry out in anger; we descend from the wall and seek vengeance as if our Master needed us to defend him.

There is a difference between religion and following Jesus, the Prince of Peace. In the early days of our people the name, Christian, meant “little Christ.” It was a pejorative term given to those who had the audacity to try to pattern themselves after their master””do what He would do. And that’s the litmus test. When it is said that the Christians are rioting in Ireland or taking revenge in Chicago, are these followers of Jesus? Not if they are doing what He would not. No one can be called a follower of Jesus if he is not going were he would go. The Crusaders with their swords flashing retribution against “the heathen” were not followers of Jesus. The assassin of an abortion worker was not a follower of the Prince of Peace. There is a vast difference between what is called Christianity and what is following Jesus.

Compared to the world of Christianity, the “community between the worlds” is small. A unique authority, a deliberate morality, and a secure destiny define it. These three are drawn from eternity not borrowed from time. Neither are they to be imposed outwardly by rule of law upon those who have not chosen the life of the Christ-followers. They are the imperatives of the “transculture” to be lived consistently within the community so that life together can be offered freely and authentically to those living outside. Life between the worlds is its own invitation. Outside, we needn’t look for a peaceable religion. I fear the search will be unfruitful. Instead, we should seek to follow the Prince of Peace and do what he would. That is not religion. It is relationship.

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