The Substance of Faith

The Substance of Faith

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The Seeds of Peace

Violence had a banner year in 2015. Terrorists lived up to their name when attacks in Paris and San Bernardino forced us to realize that such incidents are not limited to Nigeria, Pakistan, Jerusalem, and Iraq.  Beyond terrorism, Dylann Roof used a church meeting in South Carolina as his venue for racism.  Children died by the dozens in their own homes and while in foster care.  Short of a major war, can you imagine more anger, suffering, sorrow and fear than what occurred this year?

With Christmas arriving tonight, the mood of the year calls into question the promise of God, delivered through angels, to shepherds on a Judean hillside in the first century.  Where is the peace that God promised?  We Christians can ignore the subject or offer cliché’s and hope that questioners will accept our simple answers.  Or we can look deeper.

God is not naïve about violence.  The first century did not make a quiet setting for a Thomas Kinkade painting.   As a harsh master, Rome built its empire by impressing defeated enemies into slavery and military service.  The Peace of Rome was not a holiday.  We have ancient reports of rebels crucified by the hundreds in the century before the birth of Christ.   Not long after the angels sang the promise of peace Herod unleashed his barbaric response to the birth of Jesus in a military raid which we now call “the slaughter of the innocents.”

The Light of the World was born into a dark time.  God knew the world in which the angels made their announcement of the Savior’s birth.  It was not a better  year than ours, nor were the people better  than we are.  Still, God made the promise of peace on earth.

Where is the fulfillment of this promise, you ask.  The question reminds me of a story about a woman who dreamed she died and went to heaven.  Heaven was like a giant fruit stand, filled with beautiful produce.  An angel was there to take her order and she began to ask for item after item.  The angel stopped her and said, “You’ve misunderstood what kind of store we run.  We don’t sell fruit.  We only sell seeds.”

God provides the seeds of reconciliation for our world, not the fruit.  We have everything we need to produce a bumper crop of peace, if we would only plant the seeds of forgiveness, justice, mercy and love.

God’s promise is as good today as it was on that first Christmas Eve.  God’s peace is real.  Each person that plants the teachings of Christ can reap the harvest.  And the promise is not limited to individuals alone.  Remember the abolition of slavery began from Christian convictions about justice, as did the Civil Rights movement a century later.  Archbishop TuTu’s Peace and Reconciliation Commission used the biblical principles of confession and forgiveness on a national scale as Apartheid ended in South Africa.  Critics say the way of Jesus is impractical, yet it has worked.

The seeds of peace are here, just waiting to be planted.  The promise is offered, waiting for us to recognize what can be true.

This post also appears as a column in the December 24 Edition of the Rome News Tribune.

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