“When Jesus said, ‘Love your enemy,’ he probably meant don’t kill them.”

The bumper sticker puts things starkly. It undermines political pretensions to go to war in the name of Jesus.

But the question circles back around: to what extent can a Christian ethic such as, “Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you,” and “Do not be angry–much less kill!” guide a nation?

And yet, the question comes around again: is God’s plan for his beloved world simply that the various persons who may or may not be killing each other, biting and devouring one another, have “peace in their hearts,” or does the Prince of Peace intend to make peace known, truly, far as the curse is found?

We cannot escape the cosmic vision of peace that scripture holds out as creation’s future. Nor can we escape our calling to make that future a present reality.

The danger of the annual advent cycle through peace in my corner of the world is that we will look to inner peace as something on offer and, to a certain extent, attainable through the gospel. Turning our eyes to the world around we will see peace as an impossibility short of the second Advent, and so we will leave our musings on peace without being moved to participate in the peace- bringing mission of God.

Nation states will never be pacifist. They cannot be. They must operate in protection of their citizens, wielding the power of the sword when appropriate.

And this is why our commitment to peace is also a commitment to a power that is greater than the nation-state and is not confined to its channels. The great king over all kings has a different way to be at work, a different vision for how to establish peace–the reconciling work of self-giving love has conquered hostility between humanity and God, between God’s marked-out people and those beyond its pale.

And this power of peace is the power of the Spirit who empowers us to be at peace with one another and with all people, being not only peaceable but peacemaking people.

As we light our candles and celebrate the peace that we have already laid hold of, on this second Sunday of Advent, we should also find ourselves summoned to a peace that is the good work people might see and thereby glorify our Father in heaven.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

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