In the wake of the rioting and insurrection on January 6, I’m still trying to sort through the melee. My own soul needs calmed related to the unrest and violent actions. On this day as we remember Dr. Martin Luther King, we all hope, long, and pray for cooler heads, calmer hearts, and a peaceful inauguration week.
Plenty of people are denouncing what transpired at the U.S. Capitol and saying, “Enough is enough. The hate must stop!” Voices are gathering and calling for more voices of peace.
I’ve been wrestling with an antithetical concept: I think we need a stronger hatred. I’m serious. Please hear me out. Consider the Apostle Paul’s engaging words:
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection,and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.Rejoice in our confident hope . . . Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with each other. Don’t be too proud to enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all! Never pay back evil with more evil. Do things in such a way that everyone can see you are honorable. Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone . . . Don’t let evil conquer you, but conquer evil by doing good. Romans 12:9-21 (NLT)(emphasis mine)
Here is a foundational concept on our way to peace. It’s essential to “hate well.” Hating well means we despise and push back all that is evil in our own hearts and in our collective consciences. It means starting right here in my chair, I vehemently combat the attitudes and actions that promote rank racism, self-consumed vengeance, and violence toward those of a different political persuasion. If there’s any real war to be waged, it must start in my own heart, to push back my own self-consumption.
St. Paul insists that we all CAN work for peace. He calls for genuine love, enthusiastic service, blessings instead of cursing, real-time empathizing, intentional harmonizing, and an everyday willingness to hang out with ordinary people. In these ways and more, we actively “hate evil” and “work for peace.”
Do we grasp the deeper purpose of peace? Additional biblical passages relate the necessity of serious action for Christ-followers, even employing the language of work. Consider these:
Turn away from evil and do good. Search for peace, and work to maintain it.
Psalm 34:14 (NLT)
And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7 (NLT)
God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9 (NLT)
Do these Scriptures have non-violence and the peaceful resolution of conflict in view? Absolutely. Are these truths applicable for both personal relationships and international affairs? Most certainly!
But is some passive posture all they have in view? Absolutely not. The core biblical idea behind peace is the robust Hebrew ideal of shalom. Christ’s peace is vitally related to the idea of actively working for human flourishing.
Richard Foster correlates: “Shalom embodies the vision of a harmonious, all-inclusive community of loving persons. The great vision of shalom begins and ends our Bible . . . The messianic child to be born is the ‘Prince of Peace,’ and justice and righteousness and peace are to characterize his unending kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7). Central to the dream of shalom is the magnificent vision of all nations streaming to the mountain of the temple of God to be taught his ways and walk in his paths.”
Such Christ-honoring, grace-fueled call to “work for peace” supplies the basis for SO MUCH grace-based work that is happening already. Christ’s church today is being moved toward—
Rather than rushing to join the saber rattling on “the left” or “the right,” more churches are working harder to actually communicate for positive change. Stephen Graves affirms: “Collaboration can be a freeway system for the gospel to travel. Non-collaboration can be a disappointing dead end or stifling roadblock.”
Such collaboration begins with a highly personalized, one-person-at a time, heart-by-heart approach. Let’s admit it. We all have an encrusted aversion toward those people who are “the others”—those souls and skins who seem so antithetical to our own likes, loves, dislikes, and preferences. In great contrast, collaboration means I cultivate a holy hatred for my personal arrogance, laziness, and disgust for “the others.” Then I more deliberately love those people with different perspectives, different skin color, and the plethora of different cultural preferences that so often fuel my prejudices. We can each choose to host a meal, join others for coffee, and intentionally respond to their active overtures for mutual togetherness.
Strategic innovation toward greater flourishing
More churches are working toward Gospel-proclaiming and innovative community development. Such development aims for redemptive relationships leading toward economic growth and an overall shalom that’s grounded in saving grace. Where this is happening, both globally and in communities near our churches, such innovative work supplies a beautiful picture of counter-intuitive kindness (Romans 12:20). Through creative discipleship groups, brighter business plans, and expanding social justice in communities, Christ’s gospel is helping more people experience greater flourishing—real peace with God and peace with one another!
Herein lies the vibrant, Christ-like ideal of working to evoke positive change, forward momentum in the lives of people who are in need spiritually, socially, emotionally, and financially. We dare not forget, such need includes you and me! We are each impoverished, in need of God’s grace.
The local church with which I serve has certainly not arrived on these issues. Like most churches, we still have miles to go. But we are actively teaching, promoting, and mobilizing for greater one-on-one peace-making as well as stronger regional impact and more thoughtful global impact. After all, such healthier hatred of what’s wrong in our world and more loving pursuit of peace is rooted deeply in Jesus’ kingdom agenda for Gospel work.
Let’s hate what is wrong in our world and continue overcoming that evil with grace-motivated good works—all for Christ’s glory. On this historic week and in the wake of the so-sad events at the Capitol, we can all take steps to work for peace.
Life guru Henry Cloud expounds this concept in 9 Things You Simply Must Do to Succeed in Life and Love. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004), 139.
Streams of Living Water (New York: Harper One, 2001), 171.
The Gospel Goes to Work: God’s Big Canvas of Calling and Renewal (Fayetteville, AR: KJK Inc, 2015), 122-123.
For just one regional example, see http://www.celebratecolumbia.com and on the global front, see the amazing work of www.hopeinternational.org.