Sun, Sep 19, 2021

How can we hope for peace?

Duration:13 mins 8 secs

In northern Ethiopia… 

a decades-old land dispute between two ethnic groups—

the Tigray and the Amhara––

descended into violence, when Tigrayan militia attacked Amharan civilians.

That, in turn, prompted a wave of revenge killings.

Almost a year ago… 

the Ethiopian prime minister sent troops into the region to re-establish “law and order”…

but it descended into a full-scale conflict.

So far, thousands have been killed…

and about two million have fled their homes.

There have also been multiple accusations of atrocities.

The majority have been levelled against the federal Ethiopian troops…

along with their allies from neighbouring Eritrea.

But there are reports…

just this week…

that the Tigrayan militia massacred over one hundred civilians in an Amharan village.


despite denials from the Ethiopian government…

there are claims that the only road into Tigray has been effectively blockaded…

preventing the United Nations from delivering much-needed food and medical aid––

when there are almost half a million suffering from famine in Tigray.


We live in a very violent world.

Every day we read reports of incidents such as these…

and we see graphic images on our television screens.

It’s almost endemic.

There doesn’t seem to be any end to its senselessness.

There doesn’t seem to be any hope for peace in our world.

Not really.

Not in the face of such anger and hatred.

Not in the face of such a lust for revenge.

Not in the face of such nonchalant disregard for human life.

And those of us who have grown up in a “peaceful” country––

like Australia––

find it hard to comprehend.

And yet, we’re not completely immune to such things.

Perhaps not on the same scale––

and certainly not presented as graphically––

but many are warning that there is an epidemic of domestic violence in this country.

Already, this year, at least thirty women have been killed by family members––

that’s almost one per week.


How can people treat each other like that?

Why do so many resort to violence as a way of solving their problems?


According to the author of the book of James, such violent conflict arises from “passions”.

But that word, in the Greek, can mean “base desires”––

almost like animal instincts…

or primal urges…

something that doesn’t arise from reason or logic or carefully considered opinion.

And so much violence is just that––

illogical and senseless.

The author of James suggests that violence stems from things like:

bitter envy…

selfish ambition”


or greed.

And, no doubt, that’s often true––

although we could probably add a few other things like…



and desperation.

But, even then, it would be a somewhat simplistic explanation.

While it is true that… 

at the heart of most acts of violence are things like greed, envy, fear, jealousy, and powerlessness… 

and, of course, the lust for revenge…

in the end, those are simply emotions.

They may be the triggers for violence––

or the justification or the excuse for violence––

but they’re not the reason or the cause of violence.

After all, violence, itself, is a response.

It’s a particular behaviour.

And, unfortunately, it’s very much a learned behaviour.

It’s something that we imbibe from our culture and our society…

from our environment and upbringing.

Sometimes overtly––

sometimes subtly and inadvertently––

it’s how we’re taught to respond to feelings that we can’t manage.

It’s a learned behaviour for dealing with our frustrated desires and anger.

As the anthropologist, Margaret Mead, once noted:

“No society that feeds its children on tales of successful violence can expect them not to believe that violence in the end is rewarded”.

And, as a society, that’s what we do, isn’t it?

It runs through our literature, and our popular culture.


And yet, more than that, the author of James describes it as “earthly, unspiritual, devilish”.

Violence is wrong.

It’s evil.

It isn’t from God and it isn’t of God––


So, whenever we humans give in to our jealousy…





or lust for revenge––

whenever we resort to violence––

we’re not acting in the name of God…

and we’re not acting as people of God.

And that’s especially the case for any of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ…

because he came, suffered, and died that we might have life––

abundant life;

life in all its fullness;

life as God intended it to be.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we’re called to follow a way that is life-giving and life-affirming.


But so often we don’t do that, do we?

So often we, too, nurture our emotions of greed…



and anger…

even if we don’t go around killing each other;
or resorting to overt violence.

At times, all of us act out our base emotions.

Perhaps they come out in passive-aggressive behaviour.

Perhaps they’re manifest in more subtle ways––

in actions and behaviours that are more “socially acceptable”…

but are no less damaging and destructive:

the fostering of stereotypes;

the use of language that demeans or belittles…

or reinforces prejudice and inequality; 

the spreading of malicious gossip or talking about people behind their backs;

the creating of divisions;

the maligning of those whom we dislike or those with whom we disagree.

Such actions are no less acts of violence.

Such actions are not of God.

Such actions are inconsistent with our claim to follow Christ.

And each time that we give in––

each time that we engage in such behaviour––

we simply add to the undercurrent of violence in our community, our society, and our world.


Instead, as the author of James puts it…

“Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom”.

If we are to be God’s people and to behave as God’s children…

then we’re called to live a very different way of life.

Rather than acting upon–– 

or reacting to–– 

our base emotions…

we’re invited to choose God’s way.

That is…

“The wisdom from above”

which is: 

“pure…peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy”.

We’re called to choose the way of “gentleness”;

to be willing to listen and to understand; 

to acknowledge the other’s pain––

their anger, frustration, and helplessness––

and to be open and honest about our own; 

to be willing to compromise or to do things differently; 

to be merciful and compassionate; 

to treat each other with dignity and respect––

in the way that each one of us would like to be treated––

without bias or prejudice. 

Because without that, there can be no peace. 

There can be no resolution or reconciliation.

We have a choice.

It begins with each one of us––

with who we are…

with how we think and act…

and with how we react.

Because, in the end… 

how can we hope for peace in our world––

until we know peace in our own hearts?

How can we hope for peace in our world––

until we learn to live in peace with those closest to us?

How can we hope for peace in our world––

until we see the world…

and each other…

through God’s eyes?

How can we hope for peace in our world––

until we learn to live out our calling as the children of God?

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