This post is part of Mennonite Church USA’s MennoCon21 #BringThePeace series.
Dr. Meghan Larissa Good is Teaching Pastor at Trinity Mennonite Church (Glendale, AZ) and author of The Bible Unwrapped: Making Sense of Scripture Today. Meghan will speak on “Jesus is the Peace” during the Wednesday evening worship service at MennoCon21.
“What does peace have to do with Jesus?”
For my evangelical friends, this question marks the birthplace of a theological revolution. Many have deep devotion to Jesus but have never been introduced to the integral connection between the good news of Jesus and the conflicts and divisions fracturing the world. Paul’s declaration in Ephesians 1:10 comes as a genuine, faith-rocking revelation: “This is what God planned for the climax of all times: to bring all things together in Christ, the things in heaven along with the things on earth” (CEB).
According to Paul in Ephesians, reconciliation is not just one of God’s works — it is at the very heart of God’s mission, what God has been up to since the beginning of history. God is taking a fractured creation that is flying rapidly apart, and God is drawing all things back together.
In households, in nations, between people groups, God is working to turn ‘twos’ into ‘ones.’
But talking to my Mennonite friends through the years, I’ve come to believe that for many of us deeply rooted in the Anabaptist tradition, there is a different ‘cutting edge’ question — a different question with the potential to birth a needed revolution. Many of us are already thoroughly sold on the work of reconciliation. The fundamental question for us emerges from the other direction:
“What does Jesus have to do with peace?”
Perhaps, at one time, some answers to this question would have been taken for granted. But recent decades have seen significant changes in how many in our tradition — and other traditions — engage in the work of peacemaking. Much of this work is done in close partnership with organizations and entities who do not share the church’s foundational conviction that Jesus Christ is Lord. Such partnerships may produce tremendous gains, but they also provoke important theological questions about the role and relationship of Jesus himself to human efforts at peacebuilding.
Truth be told, many peace-loving Christians I know feel a bit awkward about Jesus. His particularity is embarrassing and potentially divisive. Almost everyone is comfortable saying that Jesus inspires our peacemaking. But one person may have one inspiration, another person may find another. What about Jesus himself? Does Jesus himself bring anything vital to the work of peace, aside from just saying that it is a good idea?
In Ephesians 2, Paul’s great treatise on the reconciling mission of God, he writes “Christ IS our peace.” He says, “God is bringing all things together IN CHRIST.” These profound theological statements suggest that Jesus is far, far more than the peace team mascot. He is the indispensable ground of all peace and he is the power pushing back against entropy, drawing all things together by drawing them toward himself.
I am convinced that the question, “What does Jesus have to do with peace?” will be one of the most defining questions to face the peace church tradition in the next few years. One way or another, the way we choose to answer will have a tremendous impact on our collective trajectory. I find myself wondering these days if peacemaking that becomes unrooted from Jesus does not often risk simply relocating the fractures instead of healing them, relabeling our enemies instead of redefining the meaning of the category. I find myself wondering if peacemaking unrooted from Jesus doesn’t result in a ‘form of godliness’ emptied of its vital recreative power.
What about you? What do you think Jesus has to with peace?
For information on MennoCon21 and to register, visit convention.mennoniteusa.org/.