I’ve been ruminating on the idea of peace this last week of Advent. The multitude of heavenly hosts who met the shepherds out the fields said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace…” (Luke 2: 14). What significance does this have for our time and place?
This is one of the main reasons that 7th Seed exists: to encourage, challenge, and equip Christians to engage in God’s work of peacemaking. The reason “7th” is in our name is because the 7th Beatitude says: “Blessed are the peacemakers”. We want to explore what it looks like in our time and place to engage in the Biblical idea of peacemaking: making right or whole what has been broken.
When I talk about peacemaking, I don’t mean a community of people who are at peace because they all live up on the beautiful side of a mountain, growing their own food and separated from the unrest, oppression, and messiness that is out there in the world. While I think it is important to find time to get away from the noise and chaos to find moments of focus and retreat (see my last blog on going to the Mountains to pray)—I believe our work for peace can’t stop there.
Christ retreated to the mountains to pray and spend time with his Father, and that is also certainly important in the 21st century. But Christ didn’t remain on the mountain top or in the wilderness—he came back down to feed people, heal them, and bestow radical love to the outcasts and oppressed in society—he jumped back into the messiness. He also spent a good deal of his time challenging the religious people of his day—he flipped some tables. He called for radical changes. All of this is peacemaking—making right what’s been broken.
Engaging in this peacemaking work isn’t easy, but as Christ’s followers it’s our work. This work of restoring broken relationships with people is active: actively forgiving and seeking forgiveness, actively looking for ways we can use our time and resources to meet the needs of the hurting, hungry and oppressed. If I’m honest, I’m not always good at this—I seek the well-being of my own family ahead of others. I often give of what’s left over (of my time & resources).
Lately I’ve been thinking how there is such a lack of peace stirred up among God’s people when it comes to ideas. We’re being dragged into the “this or that” ideology that’s tearing apart our country and our churches. We’re convinced that there are only two ways of seeing things—either this or that side, this or that party, this or that type of Christian, this or that opinion. As Christians, we should step back and realize the Kingdom of God is over all and through all. The “this or that” ideology does not bring peace to minds or communities. How do we follow Jesus’s teachings about his radically different Kingdom? How can we follow the example we see of how he lived his life? I hope 7th Seed is a place where people can come and explore big questions and look for deep truths in Scripture.
Making right our broken relationship with creation is also counter-cultural. I've also been thinking a lot this week about the myth of scarcity versus the abundance we have in Christ (which gives peace). The myth of scarcity which is loud and clear in today's culture--tells us we need to consume more and more to be more--even at the expense or exploitation of others and the planet (this is obviously the complete antithesis to peace). The myth of scarcity brings fear--which causes oppression. As followers of Christ, our lives should be radically different in our relationship with this world and our work on it. How do we “tend and keep” this place God has given us? How do we restore all that’s been messed up?
Wendell Berry talks about the noble work of a farmer toward liberation and peace. When we are nurturers of our land and its people, this is a radical act of peacemaking compared to the work of exploitation of so many vocations and professions. Many people live their lives to pay for the things they consume (way beyond what they need); an agrarian community finds peace in stepping outside of that race and choosing instead to care for each other and nurture the land. Wendell Berry says it best as he describes the difference between an exploiter and a nurturer:
“Let me outline briefly as I can what seem to me the characteristics of these opposite kinds of mind. I conceive a strip-mine to be a model exploiter, and as a model nurturer I take the old-fashioned idea or ideal of a farmer. The exploiter is a specialist, an expert; the nurturer is not. The standard of the exploiter is efficiency; the standard of the nurturer is care. The exploiter's goal is money, profit; the nurturer's goal is health -- his land's health, his own, his family's, his community's, his country's. Whereas the exploiter asks of a piece of land only how much and how quickly it can be made to produce, the nurturer asks a question that is much more complex and difficult: What is its carrying capacity? (That is: How much can be taken from it without diminishing it? What can it produce dependably for an indefinite time?) The exploiter wishes to earn as much as possible by as little work as possible; the nurturer expects, certainly, to have a decent living from his work, but his characteristic wish is to work as well as possible. The competence of the exploiter is in organization; that of the nurturer is in order -- a human order, that is, that accommodates itself both to other order and to mystery. The exploiter typically serves an institution or organization; the nurturer serves land, household, community, place. The exploiter thinks in terms of numbers, quantities, "hard facts"; the nurturer in terms of character, condition, quality, kind.”
― Wendell Berry, The Unsettling of America: Culture and Agriculture
So this Advent I’m wrestling with the discomfort of knowing there are areas of my own life I need to change to be more in line (or at peace) with God’s right way of living. I’m left with more questions than answers of how to engage in God’s work of bringing “peace on earth” in our time and place, but I desire to engage more fully God’s restoring work and create ways for others to join me.