We believe that God offers peace and reconciliation to all humanity through the work of Christ on the cross. Followers of Christ’s law of love affirm the sacredness of life as they make peace in personal, social, and international situations.
Terrorism. ISIS. Mass Shootings.
We live in a violent world, a world that is filled with brokenness and pain. As followers of Jesus we are called to a life of peace and reconciliation. What does it look like to be committed to peace and reconciliation?
In Mennonite circles peace and reconciliation are often connected to non-violence / pacifism. Non-violence / pacifism is a vital part of our heritage as Anabaptists. In our own conference during World War II most of our members chose not fight when drafted. However I think it would be safe to say that there are many, who are part of our conference today, who do not support non-violence
/ pacifism. Instead they would lean toward a “just war” view.
Now there is value is discussing non-violence / pacifism and just war. In fact there was an excellent article discussing non-violence in the last Recorder issue (A Case for Christocentric Nonviolence, page 4, The Recorder, November / December 2015). However in this article I do not want to get into these debates for two reasons. First, regardless of our take on non-violence / pacifism or just war as followers of Jesus we have a lot of common ground when it comes to peace and reconciliation. A little further down, I will explore some of this common ground in more detail. Second, too often these debates distract from doing the hard work of peace and reconciliation.
Debating and intellectually exploring non-violence or just war does not mean that we are actually living lives of peace and reconciliation. In fact one of the accusations that has been sometimes leveled at Anabaptists is that our non-violent / pacifist stance is really just an anti-war stance.
So what are some of the areas where we find common ground? Let’s take a look at our confession of faith.
We believe that God offers peace and reconciliation to all humanity through the work of Christ on the cross.
Peace and reconciliation come through the work of Jesus on the cross. When discussing peace we are not talking about some vague, secular concept of peace but we rather see peace as coming directly from the work of Jesus. We have peace with God through Jesus (salvation) so we invite other people to experience this peace. When we were God’s enemies, God sought to make peace with us. In turn we should seek to make peace with our enemies. Our understanding of peace and reconciliation come out of the rest of our confession of faith. Perhaps we could say that peace and reconciliation are the ways in which we practically work (live) out our confession
of faith. We engage in peace and reconciliation because of Jesus. Our approach to peace should also be based on Jesus and the cross.
Followers of Christ’s law of love affirm the sacredness of life.
All life is sacred. Whether we agree with non-violence or not, we all agree that every human is made in the image of God, is loved by God, and therefore their life is sacred. The prisoner, the child inside a mother’s womb, the enemy, the handicapped, and the elderly are all sacred. As followers of Jesus we take this sacredness of life seriously. Every life is precious. Practically this means that every life should be treated with dignity and respect. Now that sounds great until we begin to think about people who disagree with us. For example perhaps there are people we have never meet (like politicians or celebrities) who we disagree with. Can we really say that we affirm the sacredness of life if we mock, lie, and slander people on social media?
They make peace in personal, social, and international situations.
We are all called to be peacemakers. The goal for all believers is peace, love, justice and reconciliation. We believe we are called to strive for peace in all of life, in “personal, social, and international situations.”
This is where peacemaking is the hardest. We have all experienced real pain and hurt in our personal relationships. Forgiveness, which is the basis of reconciliation, is difficult. It is hard to forgive people who have hurt us personally. It is also hard to promote peace because it requires us to admit to our own sin. We have to confess and take ownership for how we have hurt others, often intentionally. More than that actually. We are called to take steps toward reconciliation. These steps are based on what God has done for us in Christ, and not what the other has done. Peacemaking is also hard because it is messy. There are often no easy and simply steps for peace and reconciliation. How do we deal with abuse? How do we seek peace with those who do not want peace?
Peacemaking means seeking peace and reconciliation in our communities and churches. As Mennonites we are a little bit strange. On the one hand we avoid conflict at almost all cost. However just because there is no conflict does not mean there is peace. In fact sometimes peace is only discovered through conflict, not violence but conflict. If we want to have real peace we have to discuss real issues. We have to learn to discuss these issues with people who disagree with us. We can have peace and reconciliation even though we do not agree of every issue.
So as Mennonites we avoid conflict, on the other hand, sometimes as Christians we can be very condemning and judgmental of people who are non-Christians, or even Christians who understand something differently than we do. I am constantly surprised by how much hatred I see being expressed by believers. If we are going to truly be peacemakers in our communities we need to be filled with grace and mercy, not with fear and hate.
We are called not to just take care of ourselves and our own communities we are called to strive for peace in the entire world. This often seems very overwhelming. We are small. What kind of difference can we really make on an international scale? It is important that to remember that we are small but our God is great.
Now we are not perfect, not even close. However as a part of EMMC I do have a certain level of pride for how we live out peace and reconciliation. I constantly hear stories about people find peace in their own personal lives. People finding peace with God. People rebuilding broken relationships. Marriages are finding healing. I hear stories about how our churches are seeking to bring peace and reconciliation in our communities. Many of our churches are working with other churches in their communities. Churches are reaching out to hurting and broken people. As EMMC we are promoting peace in international situations. The support we give to Bolivia is an excellent example of peacemaking on an international level. There are many, many more examples of us striving for peace and reconciliation in our world.
Ben Klassen Teaching Pastor
Altona EMM Church, Manitoba Member of Theology Committee
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 10 of 12-part series
January / February 2016 The Recorder