Peace is a wonderful thing. Even “just getting along,” a watered down version of peace, is a wonderful thing. I like it.
The hope for getting along with others is a hope most of us have. It’s often expressed in these terms:
“Can’t we all just get along,” “Just don’t offend them,” “Just give peace a chance,” “Why do we need to fight?” or the ever popular “We’d get along fine if he would just do what I ask.” or its variant … “We’d get along fine if she would just stop asking.”
How realistic are these thoughts?
The hockey riot in Vancouver came to my mind. If you watched any of the video coverage it became very clear … sometimes people are looking for a fight. In such a situation, just giving peace a chance … and inviting them to just move on … doesn’t work. They will fight. They will particularly attack anyone who tries to get them to “just get along.”
What is the answer? A lot of good work has been done in this area by those who study human behavior.
An authoritative voice inviting people to move along often works.
It’s a judgment call, and takes wisdom to discern when the situation suggests this will not work. The challenge in all of this is a four letter word — work. Peace isn’t a bird that just comes and rests on an individual or a crowd.
Getting along takes work.
A good deal of it involves thinking. The least effort is to decide some people are just bad, unlike all the rest of us. So, we just have to identify them, label them, and human history gives many options to choose from at this point.
A popular approach is to label them as somehow less than human, and deal with them accordingly. The Bible challenges us on this. It says every single one of us has a hostile nature. It says whatever we judge in the other … is in us. It says our best hope for getting along is to see that all of us have our hostile nature dealt with by law, and by good news.
‘By law’ means restraining our hostile nature by rewards, warnings, and punishments.
Most of us get this restraint built into us by the way we are brought up. We learn there are some rules to be obeyed, and good or bad consequences if we do or don’t. This results in most people, without necessarily even thinking about it, doing the work it takes to “just get along.” The Bible identifies this is to happen by having established authorities (parental and governmental) that are to punish evil and reward good.
The Bible also says, as necessary as restraint is, hostility being destroyed by good news is far better. It has a special good news that is all about this, but you don’t have to know that good news, to have experienced good news destroying hostility. You can be having an everything-going-wrong morning, anger building and building inside, and you show up at work and your boss calls you into his office and tells you how much he appreciates all the extra effort you put in last week. You feel instant relief in your heart, and thanks on your lips. Or, the phone rings at supper time, interrupting your dinner. You grab the phone to blast whoever is calling and this little voice says “Hi Grandma.” And the sound of your grandson’s voice is such good news, you don’t even remember you were eating, let alone that you were angry about being interrupted.
I know it doesn’t always work this way.
Sometimes, instead of thanks, we blast our boss for not showing appreciation earlier. And the grandson? Well, let’s just say he doesn’t call at dinner time anymore, in fact, he doesn’t call much at all anymore. It’s like that with the Bible’s good news that God came as one of us in Jesus, taking the punishment for every person’s hostile nature.
It doesn’t always destroy our hostility to God and his commands, including destroying our hostility to his command to love and forgive others. So, in this life, all of us still need our hostile nature to be restrained by law.
It’s just that some of us live in faith in the Bible’s ultimate hope for getting along.
That one day, we will see Jesus as he is, and be changed to be like him, perfectly, totally, eternally. Then, we will have no hostile nature that needs to be restrained for us to get along, we will live in perfect peace all the time.
The Bible says, “everyone who has this hope purifies his or her self, just as Jesus is pure.’ (1 John 3:1-3)
In other words, it’s something we work at, understanding God’s desire is for all to receive this gift.
I invite you to join me in this.
Craig Tufts is Pastor of Our Saviour Lutheran Church.