Bill Cosby, “Kid’s Say”
Cosby tries to explain to nine-year-old Peter what Jesus meant by “turning other cheek.” “If somebody hits you, you don’t hit him back,” Cosby begins.
Confused, Peter replies “Jesus said be a wimp?”
“No, not a wimp, a lover of peace.”
“It don’t sound too smart. Why don’t the guy who hits me love peace first.”
Cosby continues. He explains that Jesus was teaching that “You have to be bigger than the other person.”
After a moment’s thought, the boy responded, “If you’re bigger, you should definitely hit back.”
These words are humorous coming from a child, but unfortunately they reflect an attitude that can lead to tragic results in the lives of adults.
Massachusettes Father’s Fight to Death
You may remember a story from the news just a couple of years of go. In Massachusetts, two fathers were attending a hockey game in which their young sons were playing on opposite teams. The fathers got into an argument. The smaller of two men provoked a fight which ended in his death. The other father beat him to death. One father killed another father because he was encouraging his son to be too rough. Two broken families: one father dead; the other sentenced to prison.
Unfortunately violence is too often promoted by Hollywood. And is too often commonly promoted because in our culture, we don’t want to be perceived as wimps.
There is one Hollywood movie that tells a different tale, Joe Somebody. Joe is played by Tim Allen. A co-worker takes Joe’s parking spot. Joe, standing up for his rights, sets a date and place for a fight. This co-worker is a bully, so Joe becomes the corporate hero – and he is basking in the attention, the women at work are giving him the look over, he gets an invitation to the gym on the executive floor, even his x-wife is taking notice! But, Joe is scared silly, so he seeks out some fighting lessons. Everyone makes Joe the hero, accept his daughter, who is maybe 10 years old. She sees through the whole charade. Jump to the end of the movie. Everyone is at the sight of the fight. Joe is the last one to arrive. His daughter secretly rides her bike to the spot and stands aloof. The crowd is pumped, they’ve been waiting the whole movie for this moment. You can tell the other guy, the bully, is a little nervous over this whole thing. Joe struts in. But he can’t do it. His daughter has gotten to him. He knows its not the right thing to do. He knows its not going to settle anything. Joe walks up to the “bully” and they shake hands. It’s a triumphant time. As you watch the movie you are cheering them on. But even as you are cheering, the co-workers are booing and hissing. They were up for a good fight and they walk away disappointed. They go away thinking that Joe is a loser. As a viewer, your emotions are played with: first your soaring, cheering Joe on for doing the right thing, the next moment you plummet to the depths of almost anger at these people for not getting it.
Fight or Flee
Peter, at the time of Jesus arrest, didn’t get it either. Peter stands up and is the big man. “You are not going to take my Christ” as he takes out his sword and slices off the ear of the high priest’s servant, one of the men in the crowd who has come to take Jesus away. Again this is wonderfully portrayed in The Passion of the Christ, as the sound of the movie puts this terrible ringing sound in your own ears, as if your ear had just been affected.
But in the scriptures Peter is corrected by Jesus, even reprimanded
52“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.
And Jesus explains that he could call on a host of angels to save him, but that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. The scriptures must be fulfilled.
And the Gospel of Luke records that Jesus heals the ear of the man, picks up the ear and restores it. As Jesus, peaceably, without resistance, goes with the mob, the disciples do the only other thing they know to do: if they cannot fight they flee. This passage ends with the words:
Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
Fight or Flee – those were the disciples choices. Those are our first responses to unpleasant threatening situations. But Jesus taught a different way: Be peacemakers.
The Way of a Peacemaker: The way of the cross
In order to be a peacemaker, Jesus went the way of the cross. It may not always feel good to be a peacemaker. The cross is ultimately the symbol of victory; but it is also the symbol of the struggle to live a Gospel of Peace in a world of violence.
Now we all know that there are injustices in the world. We have all been treated with unfairness, at the very least. To be a peacemaker does not invalidate your emotions. One may experience disappointment, hurt and even anger in the midst of some situations. It is not healthy to ignore these emotions. One can’t just shove them under the carpet and expect them to go away.
The Psalms are filled with anger. The Psalms are people like you and me expressing how they feel to God. But yet at the same time the Psalms say
“In your anger do not sin.” Ps 4.4 (Eph 4.26)
Don’t ignore your anger, but do not let it have free rein. Bring your anger to God in prayer. And ask God for the strength to be a maker of peace.
Psalm 34.14 instructs us to seek peace to pursue peace. Peace is something we actively pursue. We don’t just sit back and hope it happens. Go make peace.
When we define peace we tend to think in opposites. Peace is the opposite of war. For a country to be at peace it is not at war. For a household to be at peace, it is the absence of bickering and nagging.
The Hebrew word for peace is Shalom. The definition of Shalom is more complete and full in meaning that what we usually think of with peace. It is more than just an opposite of something. Shalom is more than just an absence of something, but a presence of something. Shalom is wholeness. It is to be flourishing. It is delight. It is blessing.
A nation may not be at war, but there is other division or unrest or economic conditions that prevent it from being truly at peace. It is not in a flourishing state of wholeness.
In a family to have shalom is the presence of good things: love, care, concern, encouragement, enjoying one another’s presence. Again it is not just the absence of some things, but the presence of the positives. It is the fullness of the possibilities. It is what God intended. The state of things before the fall, before sin entered the world.
This is the peace we are to bring to the world. It is a kingdom peace. The second part of our verse today, the blessing is that we will be children of God. If we are God’s children we are a part of his kingdom and we live out our lives, not by living the way the world does, but as God intended.
How will you be an agent of God’s peace in this world?
How will you be an agent of God’s peace in your home, in your place of work, in your church, in your neighborhood, with your enemies?
It’s not peace by ignoring people, or staying away from those you disagree with or don’t get along with. Purse peace.
It’s not painting a smile on our face, being polite with one another. It’s seeking shalom, wholeness in our relationships.
Romans 14.19 “Let us make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.”