Friday, August 27, 2010

LIVING SHALOM IN A WORLD OF WAR

Church historian Timothy L. Smith wrote in 1974 of a Biblical call to holy peacemaking

Addressing a group of Wesleyan / holiness theologians and practitioners who gathered in 1974 to explore the relationship between holiness, peace and war, and reflecting on John 20:19-23, Timothy L. Smith said:

“'Peace' – 'shalom' – cannot, for us, even us who believe afresh in an imminent Second Coming, denote merely otherwordly hope in Christ’s apocalyptic settlement of the world’s strife. We recognize, rather, a responsibility to advance the alternatives to war which human beings can realistically hope for now.”

MAKING HEART PEACE POSSIBLE. “The shalom which Jesus pronounced was a promise that His grace could make them disciplined disciples, able to obey His call to personal holiness in a world of sin. His ‘peace be unto you’ was a confirmation of what He had declared on the eve of Calvary. Their hearts need not be troubled; they believed in God, they could also rely on Him. You can rest at ease, he said on that dark night of confusion and betrayal; your souls can be secure; you shall indeed live for Me and walk in the way I have charted for you.”

EMPOWERED TO BRING PEACE. “Eternal life began in a special sense for them that Easter night, in the grace of shalom, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would abide with them forever. Temporal holiness and everlasting salvation thereafter were two sides of the same priceless coin… The cross, and the resurrection which triumphed over it, had brought them a shalom which the world could neither give nor take away. It would heal their wearied and sin-bound spirits, and set them to bringing peace on earth and good will among men.”

WAGING WAR ON WAR. “What we set about when we began following Jesus was to become radically Christian persons linked in Christian compassion to a world of great evil… We really can’t find anything better to declare than ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding.’ His shalom can fill those who trust in Him with the spiritual resources which will enable them to wage war on war, and provide them with weapons which by their peaceableness partakes of the nature of the kingdom for whose coming they both pray and work.”

MOVING THE WORLD. “Jesus’ words become for us who live in a war-cursed world a moral gauge of political action and conviction… We are trying by our professions of love to share with all mankind those hopes which our personal experience with Christ makes valid… The model of faithfulness, of peaceableness, of shalom, which exists within the Christian community is the ideal toward which we must try mightily to move the world.”

INFORMED BY THE ETHICS OF PEACE. “Though the disciples might not expect to see a completely peaceable society in their time – nor we in ours, so intractable are the political structures and social conventions by which men order their lives – yet, so as we are friends of Jesus, living in and caring for the world, the ethics of peace must inform our every political act and conviction.”

WAR AS EVIL. “My own existence as a person of peace, and the witness which I must bear to all mankind about spiritual as well as political shalom, depend on my rejection of war as basically evil. Being evil, it impoverishes all of a nation’s moral resources, weakens all of a people’s tendencies to gentleness, truthfulness and thoughtfulness, and frustrates the hopes which all political ideologies nurture.”

AGAINST STRIFE. “Jesus is trying to say to us that strife, considered both as the fruit of an egotistical will to power and as a customary way of securing it, is fundamentally destructive of the best which is in human beings.”

PERFECT LOVE AND WAR. This excerpt is from a rare book, Perfect Love and War, which is a compilation of articles presented at a symposium on the topic at Winona Lake, Indiana. It is a 1974 publication of Evangel Press. My thanks to Stan Ingersol for telling me about the book. Dr. Tim Smith, a church historian, taught at Johns Hopkins University and was the official historian of the Church of the Nazarene prior to his death a few years ago. I have included this excerpt, along with many others, on my website and dialogue project: Peace and Holiness – http://peaceandholiness.blogspot.com/.

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