So we go from loving the earth to working for peace. There is something appropriate about that segue. Our concern for peace in the world as well as in our own lives grows logically from our recognition of the blessings of creation, not the least of which is God’s good earth. We have just taken time to celebrate the wonders of creation and the blessings God bestowed when calling it all “very good.” This intricate and beautiful tapestry God has woven together is meant to be characterized by shalom (peace, harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare, tranquility, well-being.) It comes with a foundational interconnection to the Holy One, whose very nature is love.
To be grounded in God, that is, in Love, is to live our lives in loving and compassionate relation to self, to others, to God, to creation. We have tried to make the case that this is, in fact, the reason for our creation. Human beings, made in the image and likeness of God, who is Love, are meant to carry love into every aspect of our existence. This is relevant to “Peace Month” because we will never find peace where love is absent.
As people of faith, I believe it is vital for us to begin every exploration with this grounding in love. We can work for peace; we can advocate for justice; we can strive to exercise equity, but without the essentially empowering Spirit of Love, the work can be a grind. It can bog down in anger, disappointment and despair. It can become grim and joyless.
When Jesus teaches love for enemies in Matthew 5:43-48, he says,
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, ‘Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father-Mother in heaven; for God makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.’
It is interesting that he promises the same blessing for those who love their enemy as he does for “peacemakers” – “they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5: 9). If we have any interest in being known as children of God, we will need to be both lovers and peacemakers. We will need to be committed to God’s shalom.
Jesus continues to teach:
For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
I think what he is saying to us here is that if we follow the old way, the “way of the world,” we will end up loving those who love us, who care for us, from whom we derive benefit, but we will have failed to love as God loves – the whole of creation, which God sees as good. We will continue to know disruptive chaos, insecurity, enmity, not shalom. God’s will, Jesus’ way, leads to a new creation, one in which “the wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together,” one in which “they will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:6-9). Someone’s got to do a whole lot of loving to bring about this vision of peaceful life, God’s Beloved Community. How about it? Are we up for the task?
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.