Luke 19:1-48 “What Makes for Peace”
On Christmas Day 1914, five months after the outbreak of World War I, and at the suggestion of the Pope, the soldiers fighting in the trenches decided to heed the call for a Christmas truce. Mind you, history records that the warring countries did not officially sign on to the truce. The politicians would have nothing to do with it in fact. This was an organic peace that came about because of the men on the ground finding a moment of basic decency and humanity in the midst of their fighting. Or, since I am a pastor and can say such things, the Peace of Christ quieted the drums of war.
Last week in my sermon I spoke on the fact that Micah and the other prophets, such as Isaiah, had already named the coming Messiah as the “Prince of Peace.” In today’s scripture we hear our Prince of Peace, Jesus, lamenting that the capital city of Jerusalem “did not recognize the things that make for peace.” Because of this inability to know peace, Jesus states quite forthrightly that the city and the nation will fall to the sword. We know that in 70 AD, just as Jesus prophesied, the City of Jerusalem fell to the Romans and not one stone was left in place where the temple had once stood.
I would like to lift out of the Bible this morning the ideals of peace for 2019. We should not miss the things that make for peace like the foolish people back in the time of Jesus’ coming to them.
Step one for peace is to separate the belligerents. That makes sense. One cannot speak of peace when in the midst of fresh fighting. Although we are not ever pleased to see physical barriers between people, often times we must confess that they have served to cease open hostilities. The DMZ, the demilitarized zone, between North and South Korea has actually served its purpose to end the fighting for those two countries for the last half a century. After so many years, 2018 saw for the first time the leaders of both South and North Korea come together to begin to talk about the path to a real lasting peace. We have even seen some of the armaments removed from the frontier between the two countries already.
I wanted to refresh your memories about something that happened last year that helped those two countries come together in what hopefully will be a peace process. It was a kind of a revolution that took place in South Korea. Their president was found to be corrupt, and so the people took to the streets. They did so at night, after work for most of the protesters. As it was a night, they carried candles silently through the streets of Seoul and other major cities. Millions came out to do this simple protest. Through this action, the president was eventually convinced to resign. The new government that was formed also heard in the protests the desire of the people to finally sue for peace with North Korea. They felt that the time of walls was over.
Yes, having a wall can serve the purpose of separating to warring factions. In pastoral counseling I have often started discourse with two angry people by simply separating them. And, that is fine as long as this will eventually lead to dialogue. It is always a shame when a wall goes up and is simply left forever standing. What happens when both parties eventually end up in heaven? Will there be walls there separating them?
As a point to this notion, at the Ed Center on the last day of school before the break, Clint and I discovered that there was a group of boys who were intent on starting a fight with one of the boys that usually comes to the Ed Center. Clint went off to find the group that wanted to fight. I convinced the boy and his friends not to go outside of the Ed Center. We waited until we were sure that the two groups would not clash. That worked this time, but then, about the next time and the time after that? Just separating people out does not make for real peace.
The second step in terms of those things that make for peace is simply to talk to one another. Eventually we will have to see if we can discover through talking what it is that makes the one group of boys want to fight with the other. There must be a reason? Some times it comes down to a simple misunderstanding.
Hebrews 12:14 states: “Seek peace and holiness with all without which no one will see the Lord.” Here is my idea, better than a wall between two people, put Jesus between the two of them instead! When you try to make the things of peace, make sure that both sides can see God, the Prince of Peace, Jesus right there.
When I marry couples, I like to remind them that it is not just a covenant between the two of them that they are making. It is a covenant with God. God is supposed to be in the marriage. I believe that when God is in the marriage, there is peace.
This Christmas there was an interesting statement that came out of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church from the Patriarch of Kiev. You may recall that this church broke away from the church in Moscow, in the Russian Federation. This caused the Metropolitaner of Moscow to break away from all the other Orthodox churches around the world. This was really a terrible thing to see Christians splitting from one another again.
However, this Christmas the new Patriarch of Kiev made the comment in an address that for the first time in so many years “Vladimir Putin is no longer in our churches.” You see, Putin had been using the Russian Orthodox church in Ukraine to proffer pro-Russian politique to the Ukrainian believers. Now, Putin is out and Jesus is back in!
What does Jesus bring two the discussion when two belligerents start to speak again? Mercy, compassion, and forgiveness! These are the very things that truly make for a lasting peace.
Again and again in the Bible we see how Jesus had compassion; for instance, in Luke 7 twice we see Jesus has compassion first for the widow whose son has just died and then for the sinner woman who anoints his feet with her tears. We also hear that when Jesus was preaching before feeding the 4000 he had compassion for the people (Mt 15).
Compassion means to feel along with someone else the pain that they are suffering. It is not about qualifying the other person’s hate or rage, but rather about discovering how they have been hurt and addressing that hurt directly. It begins with feeling the other’s pain as when Jesus himself weeps for Jerusalem, knowing that its destruction is coming.
In terms of forgiveness, Jesus tells us to forgive 7 times 70 in Matthew 18:21-22. Not only are we to feel the other person’s hurt, but we must assume that we have also hurt the other person and ask to be forgiven.
Jesus went to the Cross that our sins might be forgiven. All of us have tasted that sweetness over the bitterness of hate in our lives. If Jesus can forgive us all that we have done, how is it not possible that we should be able to forgive others?
Step number four of the things that make for peace: Edify one another. Yes, that is in the bible! Romans 14:19 says, “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.” That mutual upbuilding is what builds a lasting peace.
I think this particular concept was used at the end of World War II in 1947 to rebuild Western Europe. It was conceived of by George Marshall and others at Harvard University. The professors realized that at the end of World War I, there was no rebuilding effort, but instead the Treaty of Versailles was a mechanism to punish and weaken the losing side. This led to stoking resentments and hatreds that led to the start of the Second World War.
I remember when we could watch the US Congress in session on television and how the congressmen would politely say, “I yield to the esteemed gentleman from Kentucky—or whichever state of the Union.” Do you remember that language? There was apparently an attempt even in the midst of serious disagreement to continue to esteem one another. Those congressmen were just constantly building each other up! They respected each other’s role in this great democracy.
While esteeming one another, those same congressmen built up our country, and we all benefited. They were not just seeking compromise with one another. There seemed to be an honest attempt to co-labor or collaborate for the good of the country.
Do you know what really is not good for our country? When the new Congress comes into session, Senators will jockey for new positions in the Senate building. They might want to be closer to the restroom or to the President of the Senate’s seat. They might want to sit with their buddies. However, they always divide the room by Democrat and Republican. In other words, they cannot sit together. I think they should stop this.
Going back to what I originally said as step one, that is separating the belligerents, I can see how handy it might seem to keep both parties separated. It is kind of like a little North and South Korea thing going on in our government. Yet, it cannot be the best way to get the job done. There has to be the other 3 steps: dialogue, compassion & forgiveness, and eventually esteeming & edifying the other senators. These are things that make for peace. Without these, I imagine that Jesus himself is weeping over us now.
In 2019, let us make the things that bring about peace.