First Sunday of Lent
What does it mean to be peacemakers in a world full of conflict? How do followers of Jesus account for conflict that arises among people who are supposed to be reconciled to God and one another?
The dissonance that exists between what we see and what we hope for, especially throughout the season of Lent, is striking.
A large part of the problem lies in confusing conflict and violence. Christians who reflect on the implications of the gospel rightly conclude that violence is incompatible with embrace of the good news of Jesus Christ, but conflict is a different matter. What’s the difference?
A look at Jesus’ actions in John 2:13-25 helps us understand how to differentiate between the two. Angered by the corrupt profiteering that had overtaken the temple and zealous to reclaim it as a place of worship, Jesus took aggressive action, driving merchants from the building. What was Jesus doing?
I believe Jesus was embodying a vigorous—and righteous—embrace of conflict. He took action against injustice. Note that while His actions had effect on the business of the merchants, Jesus’ actions did not destroy the merchants themselves. This shows the difference between conflict and violence. While godly conflict attempts to destroy injustice, violence harms or destroys the other person. Christians are called to work for justice—with grace and mercy—while respecting the other, someone that God loves and who is created in His image.
A Christian commitment to peace does not imply a rejection of conflict. Christians are called to contend—even “fight”—for the faith. Peace will never be won without struggle. Christians are called to embrace suffering in the midst of the conflict that is tied to our work of incarnating the gospel. The example of Jesus—faithful unto death—is our guide.
How will you follow Jesus into conflict as an agent of God’s reconciliation?
Brian Cooper is Assistant Professor of Theology and Director of Student Development at MB Seminary and is a part of Mountain Park Community Church in Abbotsford, BC.