While driving along a city street listening to the news on the radio about continued conflict in the Middle East, I noticed a car that had a bumper sticker that read simply, “Pray for Peace.” When we approached a stop light, I pulled up beside the car and saw that the driver wore the sandy brown camouflage uniform of the U.S. Army.
I suppose that if I placed a bumper sticker on my car that said, “Pray for Peace,” people might project onto me any number of political motivations. They might suspect me of being unsupportive of those families who have loved ones in the service. They might presume a particular political leaning, a partisan perspective. But when this young officer in the car beside me, who has offered himself in service to his country, reminds us to pray for peace, he does so with an integrity and authenticity that is hard to match.
Pray for peace. This Christmas, join me in praying for peace. Our faith finds its roots in the hope of a day when “the lion shall sleep with the lamb.” We serve a Lord who said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you.” For nearly two thousand years, we offer “grace and peace” in every greeting after the example of our early Christian forebears of faith. During this season of Advent, we watch and wait for the Prince of Peace, and we sing the good news with the angels of nativity, “and on earth, peace, goodwill toward all.” Peace is our hope, our prayer, our yearning, our aim, our end.
Whether you vote Republican, Democrat, Independent, or don’t vote at all, pray for peace. Whether you are fiercely patriotic or suspicious of nationalistic impulses, whether you are new to the faith or long established, whether you support strategies that increase engagement in troubled areas of conflict or call for less engagement, pray for peace. Whether you are career military, have loved ones in the service, or have no personal connections at all to the military, pray for peace. Whether you are conservative, liberal, middle of the road, old, young, middle-aged, pray for peace.
Sometimes church leaders, pastors, and vocal Christian lay leaders are criticized for supporting or promoting particular strategies, policies, or agendas. Sometimes these criticisms are justified because there are diverse paths and conflicting opinions about how best to achieve some of the outcomes that reflect the core of our faith. But while we may disagree about strategies, policies, and agendas, there are certain basic visions that God calls all of us to pursue. There may be various pathways that take us there, but all of us should long for peace, for justice, for the elimination of suffering, of hunger, of poverty, of sickness, and of racism.
We love children because Jesus loved children, and Jesus reveals the heart of God. We love justice because Jesus loved justice, and Jesus reveals the will of God. We love peace because Jesus loved peace, and Jesus reveals the mind of God.
Will there ever be peace throughout the world? As long as there is original sin, there will be violence and responses to violence, bloodshed and attempts to limit, avoid, protect and heal from bloodshed. Will we ever agree to a single policy, strategy, or plan for peace? That is difficult given our varying experiences, perspectives, and commitments. But as to the direction, goal, and vision….as to the commitment of our lives, we should lean toward a future marked by peace. That’s part of what it means to be the people of the way.
During this year’s Christmas services and during our personal devotions and private prayers that mark this season, let us all join the anonymous soldier in the car I saw, and let us all, for God’s sake, “Pray for Peace.”
Grace and peace,