In the book For the Life of the World, authors Miroslav Volf and Matthew Crossman discuss three aspects of the flourishing life: righteousness/justice, peace, and joy. The authors process what each of these words means in light of Paul’s writing and theology and they lay a foundation for how each aspect helps Christians live into the flourishing life that God has promised. Here are a few thoughts from their section on peace.
For Volf and Crossman, peace is when the world is set right. It is when righteousness/justice is present and experienced in all of our relationships (with God, with others, with ourselves, and with creation). But they also express the incompleteness of this peace in our current lives. It’s not only that we can’t fully experience peace, but that there will be opposition to the peace we pursue. When we lead lives that move people toward reconciliation, toward God’s righteousness/justice, peace, and joy, we can expect opposition in those efforts. This is evident throughout history. For instance, peace has often been the banner for government propaganda throughout history. Volf and Crossman remind us that it was the Roman rulers of Paul’s time (not the Christians) who used phrases like “peace and security” to describe their kingdoms while locking up those that opposed them. Their kingdoms were not evidence of either peace or security.
This can make following Jesus a difficult task, especially when we’re told that following Jesus will “improve” our lives. It can certainly do so, and inner peace can be a beautiful thing. But to assume that following Jesus will make life easier is an American prosperity mentality that doesn’t get at the heart of what we are called to do—to live in the tension of love and suffering, the already and not yet.
I have never experienced discrimination for my faith. I have never been passed over for a promotion because of what I believe. I have never been denied service because I am a Jesus follower. But there are those in our world who experience this as a daily reality. There are sisters and brothers around the world for whom peace is incomplete because they live in societies where they are not afforded peace because of their faith.
The first two episodes of 2022 season of Global Strategy’s podcast, A World of Good, feature interviews with Samuel George and Razia Mushtaq. These leaders in Pakistan share about life and ministry in a country where discrimination against Christians is their daily life. And yet they bring peace, by being the love of Jesus, to everyone they interact with.
As Volf and Crossman contend, “Peace is not always promised us in the present (Paul has learned to be content in each and every situation), but love is nevertheless commanded: ‘If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all’ (Rom. 12:18). The true life is not always a life at peace, but it always a life lived for the sake of peace” (Chapter 6; emphasis mine).