IV Press Article 8-23-19 ### VIEWPOINT: Finding peace with justice

Rev Ron Griffen.jpg

You might recall a bumper sticker that reads, “No Justice, No peace — Know Justice, Know Peace.” I’ve also seen the Christian version of it that says, “No Jesus, No Peace — Know Jesus, Know Peace.” Jesus is often called the Prince of Peace. But what kind of peace are we talking about? It seems that everywhere one looks there is scant evidence of peace. And despite my belief there are far more good and peacemaking things going on in the world than bad things, there still are violence, disruption, contention, polarization, and injustice.

Where is the Prince of Peace when we need him?

At least part of the answer lies in this scripture, “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! I have a baptism with which to be baptized, and what stress I am under until it is completed! Do you think that I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division! From now on five in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided: father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.” (Luke 12:49-53)

What is this fire Jesus speaks of? And division? Well, if Jesus is the Prince of Peace, then fire and division must be part of the process. In other words, the initial work of peacemaking will be dangerous. You see, if there is to be peace there must be justice, God’s restorative justice. The issue of justice always has been an issue of power. The prophets are clear that those in power don’t always seek God’s justice, but, rather, seek their own consolidation of power.

So Jesus comes along and begins his work, not as a “law and order” guy, but as an agitator, a fire starter, a disruptor of the status quo. Jesus was always getting into trouble, not with the poor or the disenfranchised, but with the authorities, the law and order folks. In fact, it is the law-and-order folks who had Jesus executed. For being an agitator.

But being an agitator, a fire starter is what we needed then, and, sadly, what we need now.

Given this reality of Jesus’ mission, it follows that the work of the church (meaning the work of Christians) is to work for God’s justice, knowing that it will cause disruption of the status quo. In other words, the work of the church is to stand against those who oppress those in need.

And I have come to believe the best way to do that is to simply stand with those in need, working for their good will, advocating for their well-being. I believe that if we are not doing that, then we need to quit calling ourselves Christians and start calling ourselves something else.

Ironically there have always been those who get this. Oscar Romero. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dorothy Day. Cesar Chavez. All of them labeled troublemakers. Or worse.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Brown Taylor, sums things up this way:

“Jesus was not killed by atheism and anarchy. He was brought down by law and order allied with religion, which is always a deadly mix. Beware those who claim to know the mind of God and who are prepared to use force, if necessary, to make others conform. Beware those who cannot tell God’s will from their own. Temple police are always a bad sign. When chaplains start wearing guns and hanging out at the sheriff’s office, watch out. Someone is about to have no king but Caesar.”