Peace In Perspective Chapter 6
Peace In Perspective
The Christic Concept of Peace
Modernity, with its idols of science and advanced technology on the one hand, and individualism and permissiveness on the other, seem incapable of delivering peace and happiness. However, the desire for something better, something authentic, persists.
Among those who dream of peace on earth, some do not believe either in the supernatural or in an after-life, and may even be skeptical about religion. Others believe in both, and take religion seriously. Despite their differences, both groups subscribe to ideals and values that are grounded in religious faith, whether this be admitted or not. They see that religious values and ideals offer principled and humane means for political struggle and for the resolution of conflict, and extol these.
The Christic dimension
There is something unique in the concept of peace where religious belief is explicit, and where faith is not in principle, ethic or idea, but where it is a relationship, a total trusting commitment to Some One. To those who accept this, the beginning and end of peace is God, immanent and transcendent, Creator and Goodness, to whom all owe their being and their adoration. Peace is in listening for and to God, and in echoing as societies and as individuals its password, ‘Thy will be done!’, and endeavouring to live out an unequivocal, uncompromised ‘Yes!’ to God in response. This is Christic Peace: Christic, because it was wholly exemplified in the life, death, person and teaching of Jesus Christ, and so patently in the lived fiat of Mary his mother.
The term Christic is used because the peace that many, who regard themselves as Christian, seek and practice tends to have other meanings, often culturally tempered, and sometimes removed from the Christic concept as such. Moreover, the Christic is not the monopoly of any one religion or religious denomination, although one may illuminate it more fully than another. It is the quintessence of theistic scriptures and teachings whether Hindu, Judaic, Islamic, Sikh or Baha’i, and many of its practical values and principles are paralleled in the non-theistic teachings of the Buddha. Christic peace is through entry into the dynamic partnership and co-operation with God to which all are invited.
The expression of Christic peace is ‘Shalom’: peace that embraces all dimensions of being; peace which includes health, healing transformations and relationships; new perceptions and understanding; new relationships with people, with our planetary milieu, and above all with God. This requires an awakening, an eager searching and a growing, a new way of seeing and fresh commitment; a relinquishing of whatever stands in the way, a turning away from the seduction of selfishness in its myriad forms. It calls for integrity, a new way of being. It is not peace as the ‘world’ (that which claims to be without any need of God) gives, but is far richer and more comprehensive.
We have a wisdom to offer
Those who have reached maturity:
Not a philosophy of our age,
Still less of the masters of our age…
The hidden wisdom of God,
Which we teach…
Is a wisdom
That none of the masters of this age
Have ever known…
The things that no eye has seen
And no ear has heard,
Things beyond the mind of man.
(St. Paul, 1 Corinthians 2: 6-9)
Christic Peace bestows what other types of peace cannot. Not only does it liberate, starting from within, from all that enslaves and dehumanises, but it vests even the darkest darkness with light, bringing hope and meaning to areas and situations that often occasion bitterness, despair or hurt silence, as where there is sickness, pain and suffering, privation, neglect, abandonment, powerlessness, failure and death. Christic Peace brings vision, expectancy, strength, endurance and courage, even in the face of human frailty itself. It shuns all retaliation and recourse to strategies of power and manipulation. Instead, it consists in and offers forgiveness, love, even unilateral love of enemy, and through these, healing and healed relationships, as the only way in which the otherwise inevitable cycle of violence may be broken.
Its values are timeless. Its fruits are integrity, wholeness and holiness, which displace inner discord and fragmentation, dishonesty, dualisms and compromises with whatever is false. It renders explicit the idea that truth as an abstract concept and non-violence as a virtue make sense only where there is acknowledgement of a Supreme Reality and the spiritual principle in the human.
Basis of Peace
The Lord, and the Lord alone
Is our God.
Love the Lord your God
With all your heart,
With all your soul,
And with all your strength.
(Deuteronomy 6: 4-6)
Give thy mind to me,
And give me thy heart,
And thy sacrifice,
And thy adoration.
(Bhagavad Gita 18:65)
Remember the name of your Lord
And dedicate yourself to Him utterly …
There is no God but Him.
(The Qur-an, Surah 73, Muzzamil: 8-9)
‘I am the Lord’s servant’, said Mary;
‘May it happen to me as you have said’.
This perspective brings with it the realisation that the opposite of peace is not war or violence, which are only symptoms of a deeper disorder. The opposite is sin, personal and social, the outcome of the conscious or unwitting ‘No’ to God, and ‘Yes’ to someone or something else. The term, sin, is unpalatable and not usually used in polite circles or in academic discussion. Nor is it politically correct to talk about sin in this so-called post-modern age, where morality is relative and society permissive. Indeed, many who speak in the name of religion prefer not to talk about sin either. Even some who call themselves Christian try not to bring sin into their thinking or into their discussions, or they anaesthetise the word, using euphemisms instead, just as the hawks of the Cold War did to render their nuclear weapons, strategies and policies seem less deadly, less omnicidal. Indeed, a prime characteristic of society today is its loss of the sense of sin.
Sin, in the present context, is where primacy is accorded and preference shown the created (usually self, in either its personal or collective guise) instead of the Creator. This option is commonly exercised in the quest of what is perceived to be ‘good’, desirable or expedient, and not necessarily due to a perverse preference for evil as such. It may be the result of ignorance or pseudo-innocence, or it may stem from the confusion and stunting caused by the human refusal to seek, to learn, to change and to grow. A result is to miss one’s mark, to head in the wrong direction. Sin permeates and pervades human organisation and most human endeavour. At base, it is rooted in egoism and pride, and results in the cry of primeval rebellion, “I shall not serve!”, “I will not obey!”, “Me, rather than Thee.”
The ultimate violence is sin, the attempted usurpation of the divine by the human, which culminates in the ethic of ethical inconsistency and morals of convenience and in de facto despair, in which consists the essence of anti-peace.
The sinning process
The biblical narrative of the original human sin highlights the usual steps to sin (Genesis 3: 1-6). First, there is the setting and situation (the occasion) in which conscience suggests what one’s duty is and that it would not be right to do otherwise. Should the person, dazzled by the attractiveness of what is probably not right or what is clearly wrong, dally with it, there soon follows a denigration of the voice that advises fidelity, through casting aspersions on its wisdom, its authenticity and its bona fides, even imputing to it a hidden and insidious agenda. Next comes an assurance that not only is there nothing wrong with the suggested course of thought or behaviour, but that it would be beneficial or even heroic to disregard conscience and to go one’s own way. By now, the desired object or objective is seen as good. Where the person accedes to all this, conscience is made captive, and sin committed, whether in thought or word or deed.
Ongoing practice of ‘No!’ of this kind to God, dulls and then deadens conscience. Niggling guilt is often followed by despair. But these may be quashed, as one grows used to and becomes dismissive of the sin, whether petty or grave. With this is an accompanying diminution or loss of the sense of the sacred, of the sense of awe before God and his goodness. God is either distanced or trivialised in the life of the person, perhaps reduced to a god for occasional, selfish veneration, and even to be patronised or rejected altogether. False gods or self become the source(s) of illumination.
Duly, the bitter fruits of the deception manifest themselves. The one who persists in sin finds himself disordered, scattered, in the conceit of his heart (Luke 1: 51). The person suffers spiritual stunting and/or deformation, and becomes interiorly disintegrate. Whatever inner light was once enjoyed is dimmed and even extinguished. What then remains are darkness and captivity. On account of the blindness that accompanies sin, this is seldom recognised. Finally, a point may be reached, when the captive is unable to believe in, want or accept the healing, liberating grace and mercy of God, so fixed upon self and self-will and/or guilt is the prisoner.
Repentance comes through acknowledgement that one has erred, through sorrow for turning one’s back upon God, upon Who Is Good, upon Goodness, and through acceptance of the loving forgiveness that God extends, and with it the opportunity to start anew. But where there is no repentence (conversion or reorientation) ongoing contemplation of self in its utter emptiness and inability to sustain and satisfy could become one’s destiny, and in death one could remain stranded, alone upon that most desolate and terrible of shores, in all its bitterness, misery and despair.
Sin speaks to the sinner
In the depths of his heart.
There is no fear of God
Before his eyes.
He so flatters himself,
In his mouth are mischief and deceit.
All wisdom is gone.
(Psalm 35 )
Let there be no alien gods among you..
I, Yahweh, am your God…
You have only to open your mouth
And I will fill it.
But my people would not heed my voice..
They would have none of me.
So I left them in their stubbornness of heart
To follow their own designs…
If only my people would heed me..
And walk in my ways…
I would feed them with finest wheat
And..with honey from the rock.
(derived from Psalm 81: 10-16)
The search for Christic Peace requires a profound turn-around from the persistent clamour emanating from self in its pride, selfishness and wilfulness. This includes the rejection of strategies of any sort that put the designs of the personal or the collective self ahead of the trusting ‘Amen!’ For, where preference is accorded self, however effectively this may be disguised, even in the name of justice, human rights, piety or prayer, there invariably is an attempt to side-step the will of God, to bend God to my will, to have ‘God in my pocket’. No more is God the One upon and in Whom our being must be centred if we are to be at peace, the One to whom total fealty and loving obedience are both due and natural.
In the Christic context, peace on earth is a long-term project, a coming and a becoming, contingent upon the individual and society moving from ‘No’ towards ‘Yes’ to God. Through openness to God, and through placing God above and before all else comes peace, the concomitant of such dynamic self-giving and partnership. This is the only authentic road to peace. Unless we choose to journey along it, peace will remain only a dream, at best a caricature.
Obstinate are the trammels,
But my heart aches
When I try to break them.
Freedom is all I want …
I am certain that
Priceless wealth is in Thee
And that Thou art my best friend,
But I have not the heart
To sweep away the tinsel
That fills my room.
(Rabindranath Tagore: Gitanjali: 28)
Confession & Mercy
God, be merciful to me a sinner.
(Luke 18: 13)
The Lord is merciful and loving…
Great is his love for those
Who have reverence for him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far does He remove our sins.
(Psalm 103: 8 – 12)