How do we live in a world of violence and fear? What does it mean to be Christian, to be the Church here and now?
Ahmaud Arbery. Gabriel Wortman. A senseless victim. A senseless killer.
Toilet paper. Hearts in windows. A two-ply symbol of fear. A simple symbol of solidarity.
Blockades over pipelines. Protests over stay-at-home orders. A reminder of mistrust. “A bunch of yahoos” – at least according to Ontario Premier Doug Ford.
How do we live in this world? What does it mean to be Christian; to be Church now? What does the World Evangelical Alliance’s Peace & Reconciliation Network (PRN) mean by peace and reconciliation as central to the mission of God today?
The PRN believes six key convictions guide the way to getting a holistic theology and practice of peace and reconciliation rolling today:
First, evangelical peace theology and mission is rooted in God. Any reduction of the missionary mandate given to the church of Jesus is not only problematic, but also endangers her existence, as David J. Bosch warned in Transforming Mission (Orbis, 2011 ). And, since God’s loving action in Christ is ultimately for the reconciliation of the world, the Church exists for this purpose. Because God is One – as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we must turn to the triune God for a theology of peace. The misso pacis (the mission of peace) emerges from a Trinitarian theology of mission. Who is God and what is God about is the source of Christian belief and practice.
Second, evangelical peace theology is biblical theology. God reveals Himself in history and His self-revelation is recorded in the biblical narrative. Theology seeks nothing less than to understand this revelation. Faithful peace theology therefore is rooted and finds wings from the text of the Bible. The Church turns to Scripture to understand God's revelation about peace and reconciliation and to discern the Christian way forward in every time and place.
Third, evangelical peace theology is centred in Christ. God reveals Himself as the God of love who seeks to save and reconcile his creation. And, God’s love for the world is supremely seen in the sending of Jesus Christ into the world (John 3:16). The God of peace (Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23) sent the Son as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) to bring peace to the world (Luke 2:14). Jesus Christ is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), who came to teach the way of peace (Luke 1:79). In the example, teachings, sacrifice, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, God’s Word became an experiential, reconciling reality. Jesus is the matrix for the work of peace and reconciliation. He is the template for proclaiming and demonstrating the gospel of peace (Ephesians 2:13-17; 6:15).
Fourth, evangelical peace theology is of the Holy Spirit. God is Spirit (John 4:24). The Spirit of God leads the world into all truth (John 16:13). God’s intention for sending the Son is not only individual repentance, but immersion into the life of the Spirit (John 1:33). Christians are filled with the Spirit (Acts 2) and keep in step with the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26). Jesus sent his disciples into the world, breathing on them His Spirit and peace (John 20:21-23). With the Spirit’s coming the mission of the early church began (Acts 1:8). Holistic peace and reconciliation is a work of the Holy Spirit.
Fifth, evangelical peace theology reflects God's work in the world. An embrace of the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18) translates God's Good News and His shalom into the language and locale of people – even in days like these. A relevant peace theology will therefore be practical. Peacemaking reflects the will of our Heavenly Father (Matthew 5:9) and must is the tangible representation of the heart of God.
Sixth, evangelical peace theology focuses on the Church as an agent of peace in the world. The Church is built upon the confession of Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God and Prince of Peace. The ekklesia – called out from the world to take responsibility for their time and place – is the confessing community overcoming the powers of darkness (Matthew 16:18). The Church in communion lives their commission as “signs of the kingdom of peace in the world” (Stanley Hauerwas). The church is the ministers of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19-20), called to live in peace with all people (Romans 12:18; Hebrews 12:14), encouraging and exemplifying life at peace with God, with one another, with one’s enemy and with creation. Reconciliation with God and neighbor is the Church’s great pursuit.
Johannes Reimer is PRN Global Director based in Germany. Phil Wagler is PRN North American Network Coordinator and lives in Kelowna, B.C. (Toilet paper photo by Jasmin Sessler on Unsplash.) Read all the posts in this new blog series at faithtoday.ca/reconciling.