Updated: 5 days ago
Advent and Christmas are natural times to talk about peace. Jesus is, after all, the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6)! At his birth, the angels sang, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace…” (Lk 2:14). It may sound overly simplistic, but following Christ means being pro-peace.
Advent is a time to cry to God for peace. Our world is experiencing some of the deadliest warfare of the last 50 years: a war between nations (Ukraine and Russia), a civil war between militias (Sudan), and the asymmetrical war between a nation and a terrorist group (Israel and Hamas). When I watch and read about these and other violence around the world, I cry out “Come, Lord Jesus!” That’s the cry of Advent.
Partisans of every kind seem to get angry when there’s any criticism, that somehow you aren’t concerned about them if you criticize them. If someone criticizes Hamas for their barbaric slaughter of helpless families and concert goers, then they get accused of being against Palestinians. If someone criticizes Israel’s army for the destruction of an entire apartment building to kill one Hamas leader, then they get accused of supporting Hamas’s hatred of Jews. If someone says it’s a war crime for Hamas to build bases inside and under hospitals in Gaza, they are accused of supporting Israel’s tanks that have surrounded hospitals. Emotions are so hot right now that any whiff of criticism is taken as supporting destruction.
Following Jesus in the way of peace, however, is pro-people. Our love of neighbor can’t be split into a binary choice of one against the other. God has made it clear throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, that God wants people to live together in peace, and not the peace of the strong taking advantage of the weak, but the peace of mutual care and respect. Christians should reject labels such as “pro-Israel” or “pro-Palestinian” (or that matter others, such as conservative or liberal) as a craven attempt at emotional manipulation. When someone asks, “are you pro-Israel?” I’ll respond, “I’m for Israelis because I’m pro-people!”
But this isn’t an excuse to ignore the real power dynamics that hurt and kill. Some people reacted to the Black Lives Matter movement by a Blue Lives Matter movement, splitting into “pro-BLM” and “pro-police” partisans. This again is emotional manipulation. It is possible to (1) admit the historic disadvantage Black people have faced in police stops (and the need for change in policing policies) AND (2) support police in the difficult job they have in stopping people who may pull a gun on them. To hold these both, however, requires being able to take criticism.
Following Jesus means humbly admitting the sinfulness of our positions that we can’t always see. We need a Savior because we aren’t aware of how our selfishness causes destruction for our neighbors, how we use our strength to take advantage of others weaknesses. To be pro-people means being willing to hear criticism that we’re oversimplifying a complex situation, that it’s not a simple as “pro-this” and “anti-that.” Being pro-peace means giving up both ideological and, sometimes, physical ground from a place of strength in order to make space for someone else in their weakness.
This Christmas, consider giving the gift of peace with family and friends, at work and school, focusing on the well-being of others and willing to take some criticism. This is, after all, what God did. From a position of absolute strength, God became flesh that first Christmas, a weak little baby, making space in God’s kingdom for a weak and broken humanity.
Come Lord Jesus!