The following is a preview of an article I wrote for the launching of Tim Huff’s new website www.bentonhope.com (the site goes public Jan 1 | 2010). I slipped some proud Grampa pictures in just because 🙂
It seems entirely appropriate to be reflecting on Peace this snow-chilled day, nestled snugly between Christmas and New Years; especially this year as Nanci and I have been so pleased to welcome our newest grandchild, born December 15, and aptly named… Pax.
Pax, Latin for peace, makes for a nice name. Pax Carlo actually – which means “peace man.” We could use some peace men and peace women. But what kind? I wouldn’t have thought about it in these terms had our grandson been named otherwise, but the second I heard the name I jumped in delight before quickly becoming sober as I realized the most recognizable word that follows Pax, in the western lexicon, is Romana. Pax Romana – that dreadful absence of conflict ensured by a threatened crushing violence (morally indistinguishable from the violence it would seek to suppress) on any perceived internal or external dissent.
I’ve recently been to Turkey and visited some of the ruins of Rome’s glory. I was there with a historian who robbed us of our delight when he detailed the brutality of the few (over and against the many) that made for such “glory.” Pax Romana was child of a world-view which held that peace is only accomplished by raw power securing those who wield it over and against those who threaten it. Sound familiar? Self-securing peace. Peace wrought by might. And it sort-of worked, if you happen to be one of the few elite who had access to it. For the rest, for the multitudes, it was miserable, humiliating and impoverished servitude – or exile – or death.
There is another Pax though. Pax Christi – the peace of Christ. Perhaps best apprehended if thought of as a polemic against Rome’s self-securing peace. Mary’s Magnificat seemed to intuit what this could mean – that human might is illusion. And human constructs, ones that sustain elitism and social alienation, are but smoke before the One who refused to challenge Rome’s presuppositions on its own terms. Rather, Christ completely submitted to self-securing raw power, even unto death. He let it utterly succeed. And then, upon his rising, exposed it for the sham it has always been.
And then come his words – and I begin to weep as I type: “My peace I give you. My peace I leave you.” And as for the content of his peace? True peace, according to the witness of Christ, is accomplished when we give ourselves over for the flourishing of others. When we say “Shalom” to the other, and then actually invest ourselves in their fully-orbed well being. Pax Christi has nothing to do with the absence of conflict, but rather a deeply, secure confidence in the love of God which enables us to forgo anxious self-securing (even in the presence of conflict) and offer our peace to the other and for the sake of the other.
I am reasonably convinced we simply cannot secure peace for ourselves, we can only give ours to the other without any guarantee of return. But return isn’t the issue when our own peace resides in the same place that Christ found his – the self-donating, death-defying love of God.
It is not my job to avoid conflict – or to ensure (given the inevitability of conflict) that I come out on top. It is my job, or at least a good New Year’s resolution, to attend to the deep down love of God that secures me beyond all threat; to learn to trust that love the way a child learns to trust her legs, so that when the time comes, she might run a marathon. It is my job, for the sake of those who I love so dearly, to do the work now so that when the time comes, and peace is needed, I’ll have some to offer up.
I have work to do. Join me.