Creating a Culture of Peace

in a Culture of Conflict

Creating a Culture of Peace in a Culture of Conflict

Dr. L. Daniel Hawk

During his last supper discourse, Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. The peace I give you is not like the peace the world gives you” (John 14:27).

The peace that Jesus talks about is not the absence of hostility but the presence of love. It’s rooted in the idea of shalom, the state of wellbeing that reflects the goodness of life that God established in Eden and that human sin has fractured. The peace that Jesus gives is threaded by bonds of love for others and for our Creator, while the peace promised by worldly principalities and powers is maintained by fragile systems maintained by the exertion of power. 

Today, we see worldly peace disintegrating before our eyes, through wars and rumors of wars, mass shootings, persistent injustice, and the torn fabric of our social and political life. Sadly, the same anger and antagonism that divides our world has seeped into the Church as well. How, then, can followers of the Prince of Peace recover and recreate a culture of peace within a culture of conflict? Here are some essential steps.

To begin with, we aspiring peacemakers must recognize how profoundly we’ve been shaped by the pathology of our society. This pathology is marked by a hyper-competitiveness, in which power is the end, and aggression and ugly rhetoric are the means. In this world, people are divided into winners and losers and into allies or enemies. In this world, those who are not like us are less than us. Aggressive competitiveness succeeds only by dehumanizing others, by violent speech that mocks, caricatures, and slanders and by violent acts that deprive and destroy. 

Jesus recognized that the rulers of our world are locked in a perpetual competition for power. He told his disciples that this was not to be their practice (Matthew 20:26). The first steps toward the peace that Jesus gives, then, require us to take a hard look at ourselves and reject those worldly attitudes and actions that have infected us.

In the same verse, Jesus turns the systems of worldly competitiveness upside down, declaring that the greatest among his followers must be servants to all. Turning away from dehumanizing attitudes frees us to see others as fellow human beings, worthy of our respect and caring. This, in turn, requires us to value relationships more than beliefs or opinions. The peace that Jesus gives rests on caring for others more than on political agendas or culture warring.

Have you ever wondered why so many outcasts and rejects were drawn to Jesus? Why Jesus so deeply connected with them that they invited him to dinner parties so their friends could meet him? I believe it’s because, when Jesus met someone, he saw a human being rather than a problem.

The peace that Jesus gives exists where followers value relationships more than beliefs; where people know that they will not be condemned for who they are, and where everyone is treated like family.

Finally, creating a culture of peace requires that we devote concerted attention to practicing humility and hospitality. Worldly systems tell us that humility entails seeing ourselves as dirt to be trampled on. True humility, however, invites us to see ourselves as soil, which provides the seedbed for new and grace-filled relationships. Worldly peace, likewise, places little value on hospitality and instead focuses on building, supporting, and policing walls. Hospitality, on the other hand, honors others and invites us to make room for them in our hearts as well as in our communities. It rejects the competitive impulse to view others as opponents, choosing instead to invite them into our spaces and even to change the way we think and shape who we are. Hospitality constructs a culture in which the beautiful, breathtaking diversity of humanity binds together rather than divides. 

The peace that Jesus gives is exactly that: a gift. We’re all so deeply infected by the toxic systems of this broken world that we cannot heal ourselves. We need a savior. We can, however, position ourselves to be recipients of the gift, by rejecting the pathological practices of the world, valuing the wellbeing of others more than winning arguments, and living out those healing practices that mend the torn fabric of our life together.

About the Author,
Dr. L. Daniel Hawk

PROFESSOR OF OLD TESTAMENT AND HEBREW

When it comes to Old Testament scholarship and theology, Dr. Hawk is an expert. He is also an excellent communicator, able to make complex issues of theology accessible to those in his classroom. Students find Dr. Hawk to be kind, compassionate, and a compelling teacher.

Dr. Hawk is married to his beautiful wife Linda. They have two wonderful sons, Danny and Andrew.

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