As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.” (Luke 19:41-44, NIV)
Jesus traveled around Israel to “preach the good news of the kingdom of God” (Luke 4:43). But the news of the kingdom that Jesus described was not the kingdom that the Jews sought. They wanted their own political kingdom, free from the oppression of Rome. Jesus preached a kingdom of peace and love of neighbor. As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the final time, he knew that most of the people had not “gotten it”. And he wept. If only you knew, he said, the things that bring peace. But your denial of the things of peace will lead to your destruction.
We look around at our society today and we see many of the same attitudes and conditions that Jesus saw in Jerusalem: political oppression, social domination, racism, economic exploitation, military might. What might Jesus say to us today? Would he weep at twenty-first century America?
What are the things that Jesus said bring peace? He told us, “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV)
We should love even our enemies. Yes, if we have love between neighbors, we will have peace with neighbors. But what characteristics will produce love between neighbors?
I think the first two foundational characteristics are empathy and humility. Empathy enables us to put ourselves in the other’s shoes, to see the world as he sees it. To see, as Leonard Pitts puts it, “our own humanity staring out from the eyes of the other.” And humility gives us the grace to understand that the other is equally human, equally loved by God, as ourselves. It helps us step down from our perch of superiority. We can appreciate that the other’s viewpoints are as valid as our own.
Others are different from ourselves. Another characteristic that makes for peace is tolerance and appreciation of diversity. It is good that we are not all alike. How boring would the world be and how many opportunities would we miss if everyone were just like us? But it is sometimes hard to understand people who are very different. And yet, we can minimize conflict and misunderstanding if we will ascribe to other people the best motives that are consistent with their actions, in effect, always giving them “the benefit of the doubt.”
Humans being the sinful creatures that we are, we and others will inevitably do some wrong things. These sins break relationships. Restoration of relationship requires confronting and dealing with sinfulness. Our sins require us to confess and repent and make amends as we can. Healing relationships from sins of others requires forgiveness. Both need God’s grace.
Often, we are in a position of power with respect to other people. It may be cultural power or economic power or political power. If we are to have peace, we must not use our power to take advantage of others. Those in power often have power to be unjust, but that will never produce peace. A state of peace can only exist in a state of justice. So, as the bumper sticker says, “If you want peace, work for justice.”
Micah asks, “What does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic. 6:8, NIV) God’s way is the way of peace; let us strive to walk humbly in it so that Jesus need not weep over us. The alternative is destruction for us as surely as it was for the first century Jews.
Using “Jerusalem” as a metaphor for our common human destiny, Frederick Buechner writes, “Despair and hope. They travel the road to Jerusalem together, as together they travel every road we take—despair at what in our madness we are bringing down on our own heads and hope in him who travels the road with us and for us.” It is only in following the way of the Master that our road can lead to peace. Christ heads the list of the things that make for peace.
Prayer: God of the peace that passes understanding, cleanse our lives of hatred, anger, bitterness, and pride that stand in the way of achieving peace. Give us the sensitivity to love our neighbors, whoever they may be, and let your peace fill our hearts. In the name of the Prince of Peace, Amen.
Ministry and Mission Coach