There is a difference between activism and peacemaking.
Activism can sometimes be motivated principally by justice, which is good. Sometimes it can be motivated principally by a kind of anger, even righteous anger. Sometimes it can be motivated principally by vengeance. But as I see it over the past 20 years of this kind of work, the noble work of activism, to see rights restored and wrongs set right, can still miss the mark of peacemaking in light of my faith tradition.
Peacemaking is a direct reflection of the peace one possesses in their heart.
Peacemaking longs for shalom for all, oppressed and oppressor alike. Peacemaking is less about choosing a side and more about choosing the possibilities of human flourishing for all, where every person’s dignity and worth is rediscovered, oppressed and oppressor alike. Therefore, peacemaking is always concerned with revealing and upholding the truth. Therefore, peacemaking needs to see that wrongs are set right and rights are restored. Therefore, peacemaking needs to see justice. Therefore, peacemaking needs to see that systems of oppression and injustice are dismantled. Peacemaking is principally motivated by a desire to see human flourishing for all, enemies and neighbors, because that is what Christ has done for the peacemakers. It is why the peacemakers are called sons and daughters of God.
This is also why a community of peacemakers is stronger than a community of skilled and trained warriors. Peacemakers enter into the fray with abandon and courage, and with hope, and hold within their hearts the possibility of eradicating the violence and fear with love, because we believe that no one is liberated until all are liberated.
As a person of faith I value stories. I value history. I was taught to value truth. As I enjoy a day off this Labor Day I want to reflect, just for a moment, on the history and truth behind Labor Day.
The first Labor Day parade was held September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City.
Labor Day began out of a protest, resulting in more protests that disturbed the status quo. The economy was disrupted. Some businesses, like railroads, were burned down. The protestors were criminalized. People even died.
At the time as the movement took shape these protestors were called unpatriotic and criminal. They were demeaned and dehumanized. But the protesters and organizers persisted.
Now we celebrate it as part of the “American story.” Yet, we repeat the same behaviors and labeling for different movements, especially the ones we do not like that disrupt the status quo.
It is helpful to know history, but only if you and I are willing to humbly learn.
May we be humble. May we learn.
As we remember Labor Day and enjoy its benefits, let’s remember the story.
Love my neighbor and enemy. Owe no one anything but love. Treat others as I would be treated. Look out for the interests of others. Be compassionate, kind, and hospitable toward others, especially the vulnerable. Do what is good for others.
These are some of the basic tenants of the Christian faith. Each one must be discerned in context and applied. Either way, love has got to look like something.
I learned long ago that as I wrestle with theological and doctrinal matters I do not know that I shouldn’t neglect what I do. If it doesn’t look like the loving and compassionate thing to do, then don’t do it. If it looks like the loving and compassionate thing to do, then do it. And if it costs me something tangible, creates a tension I must manage, or results in some form of sacrifice along the way, I am probably one step closer to actually following Jesus.
I don’t always get this right. It’s also why I don’t do any of this alone.
In the Ancient Near Eastern context, hospitality was a pillar upon which all morality stood. To not welcome the stranger with generosity and compassion, especially one far from home, was to be immoral. In the Christian tradition the word hospitality, philoxenia in Greek, literally translates into, “kinship love for strangers.”
Welcoming strangers and vulnerable displaced neighbors with generosity and compassion should be the least controversial thing for Christians to practice, especially when we claim to follow the Christ of Christianity. Why this is ever a debate for Christians, I don’t know. But if you are convinced, find others who are, pool resources together, connect with agencies getting it done, and welcome these neighbors to find a home with you.