Peace On Earth: Part 3
Haven’t read Parts 1 & 2? Start here.
Like Frank Capra’s muse Ebenezer Scrooge, George Bailey was given a wonderful gift in 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life: One seemingly last chance to take stock of what’s genuinely important in life — of which truths and experiences really matter. As we close this three-part Peace On Earth series here on the eve of Christmas Eve, I want to offer a last word on this festive season of the year. The point of this trilogy was to see if we can do better than ol’ George or Scrooge, by weighing these types of matters long before our.. expiration.
My last word is actually a question: If you were in charge of ushering in Peace On Earth, where would you start? How would you approach such a project?
I suspect you may be thinking something to the effect of all we need is love. Do you believe love could do it? I mean, if each of us were simply nicer to one another, kind and good, less selfish, looking for opportunities to pay it forward, as they say… could that do the trick? Perhaps. But what would that look like exactly?
You may suggest Gandhi or Mother Teresa as tidy examples of persons whose lives we might mimic to catalyze our love endeavor. Certainly they were each known for their love, and for stamping out what they believed to be evil or hatred in the world. But tread carefully: they both admitted to being far from perfect. So maybe we look beyond them, to an original source. A common denominator for both of these heroes was their reverence of Jesus of Nazareth. At Christmas, who better to look to, eh? Yes, let’s examine how he loved, and what change that love effected. (After all, Jesus’ was referred to as the Prince of Peace by the Jewish prophet Isaiah.)
Indeed, the Jesus of history arguably loved people better, more purely, more often, and more holistically than any of us have ever loved his/her fellow man — and not just his own in-group, but also the least loved among out-groups. It’s startling how uncouth, taboo, uncomfortable, and downright gross some of his interpersonal connections were, both by his own cultural and temporal standards, and ours. Yet they were each unabashedly loving and selfless.
Then, did Jesus of Nazareth, with his perfect batting average for love, manage to usher in Peace On Earth?
Hardly. The results of his radically gracious lifestyle were as follows: He was constantly hunted by the leaders of his religious community, attempting to trap him both philosophically and physically. Ultimately, he was betrayed by one of his closest friends and handed over to the authorities, only to face an illegal trial based on false testimonies. The verdict subjected Jesus to vicious flogging and, ultimately, execution in a fashion so painful that we all still use the descriptor for it, “excruciating” (meaning, from the cross), for considerably lower forms of suffering.
What went wrong? Doesn’t unconditional love seem the path of least resistance to Peace On Earth? After all, were you to read any of his four biographies (which is the most accurate genre category for the gospel books Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), you couldn’t point one solitary action or word of Jesus to warrant such a demise.
It seems that our theory that we can love our fellow man into peaceableness… dies at the cross, just like Jesus. If the amount of goodness toward your neighbor he offered didn’t wipe out the existence of evil, selfishness and suffering around him, what hope do we have?
(To be sure that it’s hope you want, amigo, I suggest my post on Optimism Vs. Hope.)
It seems Peace On Earth either must be achieved by some other method, or our expectations of it are off base. So then here’s what I suggest: with this holiday, let’s spend time looking more deeply at this Jesus of Nazareth. He’s both behind the love exhibited by so many saints over the centuries and behind the seasonal celebration itself; so as I said before, at Christmas, who better to look to, eh? His loving kindness may not have kept him from the harm, but his life, deeds, and importantly, his words, (along with his historically-undeniable death and historically-evidenced resurrection) did catalyze a global change on many levels. Among the various topics he surmounted, Prince of Peace had much to say regarding what Peace On Earth would look like, how it will come about, and what we should expect. I assure you, if you read his words in Matthew, Mark, Luke or John (I’m partial to the last two) you’ll never approach the Peace subject the same way again. I sincerely hope you’ll take a look.
From me to you, dear reader, a very Merry Christmas!
This post was originally published on Facebook in December 2017