In my praying lately, as I am resting in the Spirit, I have been led again and again back to verses in the Bible dealing with peace and, most specifically, peacemaking. God has been holding in the Light some of the events of my life, and current events, in this understanding of our vocation of peace. Vocation is an overused word, and at least as I remember it being used, means a calling from God to some career or work. One experiences becoming a pastor as a vocation, as it is traditionally used. I would like to assert that Christians have a vocation to creating, spreading, and building peace.
In Matthew 5:9 it says that peacemakers are blessed, and I was curious about this word, peacemaker. In Greek it is eirēnopoios, and etymologically its root is eirēnē. If we are supposed to be building this thing called peace, I’d like know what I’m building. I looked into this word eirēnē and found that it means a state of tranquility, a turning from the havoc and chaos of war, peace and harmony between individuals, a sense of security, safety, prosperity, happiness, and joy. We are supposed to be actively building this, pursuing it nationally, in our communities, between individuals, and within ourselves.
And I started thinking about all the things that Jesus said, all the things he pointed to, that Christians read about all the time and never do. The Beatitudes have almost become like the sentiment in a Hallmark card. Someone reads it and says, “Awww, that’s a nice sentiment.” But no one really invests much in it. It’s the obligatory birthday wish in a Hallmark card.
I was at a coffee shop with one of my friends, and he was asking me questions about Quakers, and through his questions we began discussing the involvement of some Quakers during the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad, like the Beatitudes, have become stories told to school children. It is at risk of becoming sentimentalism, but I began pondering what it must have been like. Being enslaved, and having to run from groups of people trying to hang you for running away, hiding in the homes of people you don’t know. Some of the runaway slaves were caught and hanged, some got away. And a story that is not often told in schools today is some of the white people who were involved in the Underground Railroad who were hanged for aiding and abetting runaway slaves, some of whom were Quaker.
Some of the Quakers back then believed in the inherent dignity of enslaved black men and women so deeply in their spirits, despite what society said about these men and women, that they were prepared to die trying to help them to be free.
Let that sink in for a minute.
Try to undo all the storybook Beatitude learning you got in Sunday school, and all the storybook Underground Railroad learning you got in grade school, and ponder the real and actual implications of this. Let’s talk about real life. They were so invested in human dignity and compassion, building peace, that they were prepared to die for it.
In a society that has become so incredibly polarized, everybody fired up to defend their views and their politics and their race, or whatever the latest American divisive drama is about, what are we doing to build peace? What are we doing to further peace and harmony, nationally, between individuals, between our neighbors, between the people living in our own homes? What are we doing to further security, safety, prosperity, happiness, and joy amidst all the things that go on in our country and in the world? The Bible says we have to actively go out and build it, like a house, brick by brick. Some of the Quakers were willing to die for it. What are you willing to do?
God blesses those who work for peace,
for they will be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9, NLT