Pursuing Peace Requires Challenging the Status Quo
And the wolf will dwell with the lamb,
And the leopard will lie down with the young goat,
And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little boy will lead them.
Also the cow and the bear will graze,
Their young will lie down together,
And the lion will eat straw like the ox.
The nursing child will play by the hole of the cobra,
And the weaned child will put his hand on the viper’s den.
They will not hurt or destroy in all My holy mountain,
For the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD
As the waters cover the sea.
– Isaiah 11:6-9
Have you ever wondered what it means to be a peacemaker? I found it interesting to reflect on the passage above as it relates to peace while reading The Wolf Shall Dwell with the Lamb by Eric Law. In the book he uses the above passage to talk about what he calls “the peaceable realm or kingdom”. He shares about how different cultures are perceived differently and often have a different amount of power associated with their group. Because some have more power than others, to bring about true peace between those cultures we need to work towards evening the power dynamics at play, just like in the image painted for us in Isaiah. It is a beautiful picture of what could be as it relates to living “at peace” with one another.
When I think about peace from the lens of power, it changes what I expect when I pursue such peace. Because I often hear the word “peace” associated with a lack of conflict, I can assume that the end goal of creating a peaceable realm is for everything to be calm and not disruptive. But, in reality, when we pursue this picture in Isaiah, the status quo often has to change and that is never quiet and comfortable for those that have the most to lose. People with power have the most to lose.
So, when we talk about a person being a peacemaker, I want to start to include a person who fights for this picture in Isaiah to become a reality. And if that person is fighting in meaningful and relevant ways, there will be tension, there will be disruption to the way things have always been, and there will be what looks like a lack of “peace” — if we define peace and a lack of controversy and conflict.
We as believers too often sell a shallow form of peace and harmony because we assume it only means keeping things happy and quiet. True peace and true harmony take a real work of entering into difference and mess. Because this makes people uncomfortable we settle for sweeping all differences under the rug and keeping things as they are. But as the picture in Isaiah displays, and Law’s book illustrates, peace doesn’t come from keeping things as they are. True justice comes when the peaceable kingdom of Isaiah is fought for relentlessly.
So next time you think about seeking to bring peace to a situation, I want to challenge you to look at the context through the lens of power. Who has the most power in the relationship? Who has the least? What is God wanting you to do in light of seeking and striving for the peaceable kingdom? Let us be people willing to make waves for the sake of peace with integrity.
photo courtesy: Delphine