Peacemaking Is the Heart of the Gospel

October 1, 2020

E Pluribus Unum, which is Latin for "Out of many, one", is the traditional motto of the United States before Congress adopted "In God we trust" as our official motto in 1956. The issue of creating unity out of diversity raises one of the most pressing questions facing the world today: How can we all get along? How do we in America and the West, with our histories of racial injustice and slavery bring native-born citizens together and also absorb millions of immigrants, many with cultures, customs, and languages very different from the people who historically settled our countries?

There are basically three radically different approaches to the question of how to create unity out of diversity.

The first way to create unity despite our differences is the post-modern option.
In a pluralistic world that contains people who are willing to join gun-toting militia and bomb buildings in order to achieve their political or religious goals, the post-modern approach says that the only way we're all going to get along is for no one to believe anything too strongly. In other words, the post-modern approach is for everyone to stop caring very deeply about anything. Getting rid of all deep convictions and pretending that every opinion is equally valid is the only way we can have unity.

The second way to create unity is ruthless domination.
By ruthless domination, I mean smashing all opposition and restricting individual freedom. It's what Kim Jong-Un does in North Korea. It's the approach Putin takes in the Russia: "We can get along when I destroy you! If you object I will have you killed!" No freedom of the press! No political dissent! No checks and balances or accountability in the government. Attack peaceful protestors! Eliminate any less than flattering portrayals of our history!

The world into which Jesus was born was ruled by Pax Romana (Latin for "Roman Peace") – an unprecedented time of peace throughout the world. Certainly it was a time of peace, prosperity and justice for the privileged – yet for the majority, it was a time of great oppression, misery and suffering. Unity was achieved by Roman soldiers who crushed all dissent by crucifying the dissenters. Unity was achieved by domination. As Klaus Wengst notes in his book, Pax Romana and the Peace of Jesus Christ, "In the eyes of the Roman provincial administration [non-violent] Jesus was a rebel who endangered the existing peace. A disturber of the peace was done away with, by legal means, by the power responsible for peace."

The third way to create unity is Christian peacemaking.
Creating unity out of diversity through Christian peacemaking ought not to be a marginal or peripheral activity for a Christian because peacemaking is at the heart of the gospel message. Here is what we read in Ephesians 2:13-18:

But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

The Apostle Paul is clearly saying that the mission of Christ in the world was a peacemaking mission reconciling Jews and Gentiles. This mission of Jesus has obvious implications for breaking down dividing walls between blacks and whites, between Americans and internationals, between native-born and immigrants, between the wealthy and the poor, between men and women, between husbands and wives, between parents and children, and of course, between God and us. Breaking down dividing walls is not marginal to the gospel. Peacemaking is at the heart of the gospel! Peace is the good news. Jesus came to be our peace. He died on a cross to make peace. And he came preaching peace. Healing divisions in your family or small group or the church is gospel activity. Reconciling marriages is gospel activity. When someone is involved in peacemaking activities by doing the incredibly hard and deep work of healing divisions between the police and the community they serve, or labors to build a healthy multi-ethnic church, or when someone labors to achieve racial reconciliation, this is not a politically liberal agenda. This is our Christian heritage. This is the gospel in action. Peacemaking is at the heart of who we are as Christians.