Friday, March 1, 2013

Kumbaya, Off Key and Corrupted

How would you answer that question?  Anyone who's been on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for longer than a day has seen this type of image and message.  No doubt, this image stirs up a sentiment that has some staying power.  The idea could be expressed in a sentence: "Hey, if we're all looking for the same thing, why hasn't anyone found it in an ultimate sense yet?"  It's a powerful question, but one would need to remove the emotional desire for "peace" in order to answer it with some honest clarity.  Let's begin addressing the question starting with the simple fact that...

1.  Religions don't define peace in the same way.  I would say that's a major stumbling block to the idea that "all religions teach peace".  If peace means different things to different religions... and each one has a different way of attaining their understanding of peace, one thing is clear: there's no true sense in which all religions teach peace.  That's like saying all "all animals eat food" without considering that lions don't graze and are strictly meat eaters but cows exclusively eat grass/grains and when they eat meat, we get "mad cow disease".  It's not the word "peace" that matters.  What's crucial is the way peace is described in that faith.

Ask a Muslim how to get peace.  At some point, the idea of submission to Allah comes up and you discover that for the Muslim, the world is divided into the Dar al-Islam (the house of Islam) and Dar al-harb (the house of war)... and the house of Islam is to grow until the house of War is no more.  Well... so much for peace, by peaceful means.  Of course, there are Muslims who will say that the house of Islam grows without necessitating violence.  That may be so, but it is clear that they (Muslims) are not all in agreement.  And besides, that only proves my point to a greater extent: different faiths have different definitions of peace and even within any particular faith, there exists disagreement.

The Wiccan practices intimate interaction with nature but the Buddhist insists on looking within for peace even while both have aspects resembling pantheism.  Hindus promote Karma and reincarnation and while a Buddhist may agree with Karma to some extent, there is radical disagreement because the Buddhist does not subscribe to an eternal soul within a person while Hindus do.  It is true that the great monotheistic religions of the world are primarily concerned with finding "peace with God".  But even that agreement leads us to our next point of unalterable dissimilarity.

2.  Religions don't seek peace in the same way.  This only makes sense.  If I don't agree that water is a liquid, I'll laugh at your crazy notion that I can find it in a river instead of mining for it.  People don't seek for peace in the same way because they disagree on what it is.  If peace comes from earth, why should I seek it in the heavens?  If it comes from within myself, why would I look to find it with you?  If I make peace according to my own wisdom and/or moral goodness, why wouldn't  the gospel be foolishness to me?

The Way, rooted in the teachings from Jesus of Nazareth, true peace is from above because it is said of mankind that "the way of peace they do not know" (Rom. 3:17).  Therefore, it had to be God, through Jesus that was reconciling rebellious humanity to Himself.  I make no pretense here: only the Christian who is living out of gratitude for the fact that Christ died for him or her while they were still sinners and therefore unworthy--only that believer will have a life that expresses the overflow of God's peace and grace toward them.  In other words, we extend the message of reconciliation (the gospel) towards all persons with the same love in which it was extended to us.  We, who were unworthy, were made worthy, not by our own efforts, but by God who is rich in mercy.

Yes, peace comes from God.  And peace comes through faith in Christ as announced in the gospel.  That is the biblical understanding of it.  And I am a Christian because God has so convinced my heart that apart from His Spirit's power to make me faithful to Him, I could not live according to God's law consistently enough to ensure peace with Him.  For the non-Christian reading this, I have a question: do you really believe that you are good enough to earn peace with God and others based on your own efforts?  For the Christian reading this, I have another question: When was the last time you truly reflected on the difference between striving for peace with your own power and receiving peace from God Himself in Christ?

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