Monday, 4 February 2013

Peace in Our Time

The British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain was hailed as bringing peace to Europe after signing a non-aggression pact with Germany in 1938. In a speech on the 30th of September he declared that the agreement represented ‘peace for our time’–an ironic declaration as Germany invaded Poland less than a year later and Europe was plunged into war.[i] A similar phrase is found in The Book of Common Prayer’s exhortation, ‘Give peace in our time, O Lord’. Yet in our time, peace is far from perfect.

The latest issue of Case magazine has the theme ‘peace in our time’, and gives focus to our discussion of this most basic human desire. The Bible has much to say about peace. We are to ‘strive for peace with everyone’ (Heb 12:14a ESV), and we are to be ‘peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Matt 5:9 ESV). However, the foundation of true peace requires the forgiveness of God. It is a peace made possible by Jesus’ ‘blood of his cross’ (Col 1:20 ESV). It is ‘peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’ (Rom 5:1 ESV). Peace doesn’t simply mean that we are to seek a reflective space, freedom from conflict, tranquillity, or even the ability to focus on God. No, in its most basic form, it simply signals that we have been reconciled to God. All that we do and say in the name of peace should be shaped by this understanding.

There are four essays on the theme. Andrew Sloane helpfully challenges a simplistic understanding of peace by drawing on the biblical concept of shalom in the form of Sabbath rest. Acknowledging how difficult it is to ‘rest in peace’ in the midst of the busyness of our time, he points out that this rest is a gift from God. But it is also a practice that critiques the false picture we can so easily have of where our significance lies.

In a fascinating article, Mike and Nikki Thompson discuss another view of peace in our time, namely how peace is presented in children’s literature. What are the transcendent meanings that are inevitably communicated in much pro-peace literature? The romantic conception these books project of the child as ‘believer, imaginer, redeemer’ and peace-maker is a view that is at odds with the Bible’s teaching on how peace is achieved.

Many things influence the ease with which Christians can live as ‘peaceful aliens’ in this world. Focussing on the impact that public, civic and social institutions can have on this, Bruce Kaye urges Christians groups and churches to seek a better understanding of how the institutions operate in which we spend so much of our lives. This understanding he suggests will give Christians a greater insight into where to focus their energies in order to best witness to the coming Kingdom of Jesus in these contexts.

Dani Scarratt my co-editor of Case magazine, observes that around the world, blasphemy is becoming an increasingly pressing issue - one that threatens peace in our time. Her essay explores the biblical teaching on blasphemy in an attempt to gain a deeper understanding of what blasphemy is, and what an appropriate Christian response to it is. Should Christians fight for God’s honour, or is now the time to hold our peace?

The issue is completed with the discussion of two works of significant Christian scholarship. In an extended review, Shane Waugh takes us through philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff’s recently published 'Justice in Love'. Wolterstorff seeks to understand the concepts of justice and love, defending the proposition that justice and love are compatible, and works through the implications for the peace that is brought through forgiveness. In the second review, David Scarratt does some hard yards for us as he reviews Hill and Kruger’s 'The Early Text of the New Testament', which considers the stability of the wording of the books of the New Testament in light of pre-4th century manuscript evidence.

There is much here that will challenge us in this latest edition of Case. Our hope is that you will find it helpful and encouraging. In a world that stretches us, intimidates us, and leaves us feeling inadequate - and, at times, failures - it is good to seek the peace of God. For ‘the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 4:7 ESV).

[i] BBC On This Day, 30th September 2005. Downloaded 11th January, 2013.

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