They call them peace-keepers because the United Nations sends them to areas to do fun things like lob tear gas at people:
The gun? Just for show. Peace. Remember? Maybe this guy is actually throwing a coke at someone who is thirsty. Who knows... I found this pic here. But he definitely looks snazzy in his baby blue bullet-proof vest.
Why would someone want to shoot at a "peace-keeper" is anyone's guess. Oh yeah, now I remember...
The truth is UN Peace-keepers are actually troops. These are troops that don't do all the scary, mean, and morally objectionable stuff like invade innocent countries, slaughter, rape, and pillage. They are supposed to be perfectly neutral, working for everyone's best interests, and totally objective to whatever struggle they are sent to.*
And they provide a perfect example to show my latest internal struggle.
Here is the thing: as a pastor, I am often called to be a peace-keeper. But the "problem" is that our idea of peace is strangely different than God's idea of peace. Sometimes it makes me look like a UN Peace-keeper. I even have a complimentary baby blue bullet-proof vest in case the natives get restless.
Think about it. I'm a pastor. It is my job to be this divine mouth-peace. errr... mouth-piece. I dress the part, look the part, and speak the part. I talk about how good God is and how bad "they" are (some Christians have a strange fetish of hearing how bad Christians really are) and all the while I'm supposed to be as neutral as possible.
Don't believe me?
I'm allowed to talk about how much Christians should love their neighbors, but I'm not allowed to actually enforce that precept with actual church members. It's okay to talk about how people should love Christians, but if I tried to get another Christian (like, one I know, in my own church) to love someone unlike them, I'm being nosey or pushy. Better to just stick to how our neighbors should love us.
I can talk about forgiveness but when someone wrongs another in our community, even after repentance, I'm still not allowed to love them. I must maintain oppressive systems while crying out for the oppression to stop. Oppression is okay as long as Christians are doing it (or this is the perception). Ah yes, and I am never supposed to forgive "them" but always supposed to forgive Christians.
I can talk about money and power, but I'm not allowed to actually touch those things. Or suggest that Christians actually spend their money a certain way or use God's blessings that bestow great responsibility upon us for the benefit of those who don't have any power or voice.
I'm called a peace-keeper. Life got you down? Call a peace-keeper. Oppressed Christians? Call a peace-keeper. Can't pray in school? Call a peace-keeper. Someone dissin Jesus? Call a peace-keeper. Conscience racked by guilt and shame? Call a peace-keeper.
But most people consider me a professional spiritual-soldier. I don't do all that nasty stuff like invade people's lives, slaughter their loved ones, rape or pillage - so I'm "better" than those other manipulative forces in their lives. I have the right weaponry - i.e. the Bible. I'm "cute" and like-able. My sermons are funny and if you come into my office I'll actually listen to you. These things might be good after all - but they make me "God's man" as if I'm pulling something off others couldn't. I'm like (in some people's minds) a Christian shock-trooper or SWAT member.
The whole imagery of violence and sacrifice for the sake of some tainted "peace" wreaks of a donkey named Puzzle, dressed up to look like Aslan by the crafty Shift. If I TOTALLY just lost you, find yourself a copy of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis - wonderful story that exposes our idol worship.
And yet, regardless of the reality that you and I know, God is calling us to something greater. As a world, we may only know violence, pain, or fear - but that does not mean God doesn't have better plans for us.
Lately, I've heard a lot of fear. I've heard a lot of despair. I've heard a lot of hate. From BOTH sides of the pew.
Despite all the pain, chaos, and angst around me I will continue to look up to the cross as the appropriate response to fear, despair, and hate. In Jesus' life, death, and resurrection we discover that faith, hope, and love are greater than the storm we find ourselves in. I know I know... faith, hope, and love are hard to hold onto when they offer little of what we want (and what we want is power to destroy whatever ails us). But faith, hope, and love, have a way of not destroying our fears, despair, or hate, but simply negating the influence they have over us.
The more you think about the analogy I'm using, the more you'll realize I'm not here for your peace. I'm not here for my peace. I'm here for God's peace. Which happens to be better than what I think of when I think of peace. Am I here to bring peace between my brothers and sisters? Or am I here to bring peace between God and those that God loves? Maybe it's both?
In short, God's peace is much more peaceful than any joke peace the world offers us. As a peace-keeper I embody another kind of peace - the peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4:7). Now, I hardly know how to even start trying to understand a peace that is beyond understanding, but I know who Jesus is. I know how he lived. I know what he said. I know how he taught and who he loved and who he said deserved love. To quote Paul again more fully:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)No doubt you will quote me the old Roman maxim, "If you want peace, you must prepare for war."
This is a lie. Our Christ, in wanting peace, brought peace. And how did the world respond? In yet more violence. I can't fully conceive of a world free from war, death, and destruction - but that doesn't mean God hasn't shown it to us through Jesus Christ our Lord. Just because we often respond to violence with violence doesn't mean there isn't a better way. Just because there is a conflict does not mean you send in troops and call them "peace-keepers" because instead of fessing up to what you are doing, you have fighters masquerading as lovers. And we all know lovers make some lousy troops.
So while there are those in my stead who want me to be a "peace-keeper" the truth is, I'm a "peace-keeper" - People want a fighter and I'm really a lover. Like Jesus, I will let my gentleness be evident to all. I will pray and petition my God, with thanksgiving, to bring a different kind of peace upon this Earth. I will not be militant, but will offer myself as a living sacrifice (is there anything less offensive than divesting yourself of all offense or defense?), emptying myself as Christ did in the form of a servant.
Do you need a snazzy baby blue bullet-proof vest? I don't have a use for it any more.
* To be honest I don't know much about UN Peace-keepers and I'm sure they are necessary to the safety of the world. The purpose of this post is not to slam UN Peace-keepers but to slam our sorry platitudes towards how much we want peace.