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Peace Blend

Introduction

Teachings About Peace

Here is a summary of some key things Jesus says about peace, with Bible references. There are many more, and we recommend you check out the resource section for even more material on what Mennonites say and believe about peace. And don't miss the Meet a Peacemaker story in each section because that's what really counts--how real people live out these ideas.

The Hebrew word "shalom" conveys what God planned for the creation. Shalom means that people are in a good relationship with God, with themselves and their bodies, with their neighbors (all other people), and with the earth. For people to be in shalom means that their life is balanced and that they relate to the whole of what surrounds them with a peaceful spirit. Humans were the most special part of God's creation. However, in Old Testament days there was a lot of bloodshed, mind-numbing atrocities, rape and war after war. There are also many beautiful images and visions of peace in the Old Testament. The most well-known may be a description of the peaceable kingdom in Isaiah 11, with lines that include, "The wolf shall live with the lamb" (verse 6). Another promise/vision is in Leviticus 26:6, "And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid." (See also Zephaniah 3:13.)

We sometimes gloss over these visions of peace as impossible and idealistic. But the more people are inspired by a vision for peace, the more realistic these words become.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matthew 5:9).

"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also" (Matthew 5:38-39).

Read all of Matthew 5.

Most Mennonites get their primary ideas about peace from what Jesus said and how he lived. Jesus' statements are often difficult to understand and even more difficult to live. We see Jesus' message of peace not only in his teachings and stories, but also in the way he treated others, including those who put him on trial.

Jesus' instruction to turn the other cheek has been interpreted by Christians to mean that one should be patient and humble rather than easily angered and ready to strike back when struck. Walter Wink, professor of biblical interpretation at Auburn Theological Seminary (N.Y.), gives additional insight. He points out that a blow on the other person's right cheek has to be a back-handed slap, (i.e., you can't very easily slap a person on the right cheek with the inside of your hand, so this infers a back-handed slap. Also, in that culture your left hand was reserved for wiping after toileting.) A back-handed slap would be intended by a powerful person to demean and insult one without power, such as a slave, woman or child. So turning the other cheek is a quiet way of saying, "I am your equal."

Thus, in a symbolic act, the demeaned person declares himself an equal, a child of God. He may suffer worse punishment, but he has made his point. In a small way the powers (military here) have been disarmed and a new way pointed out. (From Vern Rossman's study guide, Confronting the Powers that Be)

"Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you"
(Luke 6: 27-28. Follow this link to read all of Luke 6.).

 


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