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Monday, June 08, 2009

The Strive for Peace in Christianity, Part 2

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The teachings of the testaments vary somewhat in their approach to peace, with less emphasis being placed on forgiveness and love in the Old Testament. It is important to note at this point, that the entirety of the Old Testament is very violent. The Israelites are constantly engaged in conflict, fighting to establish a country. However, it can observed, that this conflict, is seen as a struggle for peace. The Israelites strove for peace, though, in doing so, there was a great deal of conflict, and, as so often happens, this conflict was violent. In the Old Testament, it is portrayed that God was on the side of the Israelites, and thus was violent in many of his actions. Therefore it is not surprising that commentators have said that God as represented in the Old Testament is a God of violence, not peace. This portrayal of God as a God of violence is perhaps based on the view of God as protecting his people from enemies, and thereby giving them peace.

Conflict, the absence of peace, is portrayed in the first book of the bible, Genesis, when, firstly, Adam and Eve are cast out of paradise by God, resulting from a conflict, and, later, when Cain murders Abel. Peace with your family is discussed several times within the bible, honouring thy mother and thy father is considered so important that it is even included in the Ten Commandments.

 

The striving for peace is presented in Exodus. The Israelites, imprisoned in Egypt, are effectively, in conflict with the Egyptians. Conflict continues, even after the Israelites have fled Egypt. Firstly the conflict occurs amongst the Israelites themselves. As Moses ascends Mount Sinai, the Israelites construct a golden calf in order to worship. Upon descending the mount, Moses, angered by this act, destroys the stone tablets upon which the Ten Commandments were engraved.

 

The Ten Commandments proclaim that thou shalt not kill, and thus they can be observed to be promoting peace, as killing is conflict, the opposite of peace.

 

Peace with God is an important element in the Christian scriptures. God instructs the Israelites on how to be at peace with him in the first four commandments. Peace is often used within the New Testament in association with God as well, notably; the Christian God is referred to as “The God of Peace” in 1st Thespians 5:23.

 

An interesting quote concerning peace with God is the line from Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ”. It can be understood from this, that, to achieve the peace of God and for you to “keep” that peace, you must follow the teachings of Jesus.

 

The concept of personal peace is explored frequently in the New Testament, notably in John 14:27 and 16:33 Jesus says unto his followers, “My peace I give to you” and “…that in me you may have peace”. This concept of Jesus giving his peace unto others is symbolic of God giving peace to all people.

 

Matthew 5:9 shows the importance given to peace in the scriptures “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. This idea, that peacemakers are so close to God that they shall be called his sons highlights exactly how important peace is to Christianity.

When Peter came to Jesus and asked how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me, the response from Jesus that forgiveness should have no boundaries encapsulates the concept of striving for peace in personal relations.

 

 

 

Despite the importance with which peace is viewed, the concept of righteous anger is also explored within the testaments. Two notable example of righteous anger are recounted in the New Testament. Firstly in Mark 3:5 when Jesus entered the synagogue at Capernaum and was greatly angered by the hard hearted people, and secondly when he entered the temple in Jerusalem and cast out the money lenders and people who sold doves Mark 10:15, “And they came to Jerusalem and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple, and over-threw the tables of the money-changers, and the seats of them that sold doves”. Thus it can be observed, that, there is righteous anger, and therefore, righteous conflict. This can be considered the justification behind many of the “just wars” fought in the name of Christianity. And this brings us to the next facet of Christianity that must be looked at in terms of its struggle of peace.

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