Violence is not limited only to wars, battles, military operations, killing, expulsions… it is also when the law of love is not put into practice with regard to those who need our assistance.
By Fr Georges Massouh
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). We can say without any hesitation that this verse from the Sermon on the Mount constitutes the essence of Jesus Christ’s message. Peace is a concept that has not applied more to any human being from Adam up to today than it applied to Jesus, whom Christianity sees as God incarnate, perfect God and perfect man.
In the shadow of the wars and struggles taking place in our countries and massacres that have claimed thousands of lives and cast millions out of their homes and villages, Jesus’ followers must strive for peace if they want to emulate their Lord and Redeemer. No circumstance or incident can be permitted to prevent them from committing to work for peace because all direct involvement in the surrounding sectarian war can only be a scandalous betrayal of Jesus Christ, the Gospel, and the Church’s mission in the world. Here it should be stated that the Church must not, at the same time, lose her prophetic voice that speaks the truth without fear of anyone.
Scholars of the Bible agree that peace is not merely the absence of war or the absence of violence, but rather that it is closely connected to the realization of social justice– the necessities of a dignified life such as food, drink, security, protection, freedom, justice, equality, which bring people tranquility and peace of mind. Violence is not limited only to wars, battles, military operations, killing, expulsions… it is also when the law of love is not put into practice with regard to those who need our assistance. For example, not sheltering refugees and not feeding the hungry are forms of violence.
There is no peace, then, without caring for the poor, the wretched, the widow, the orphan, the hungry, the prisoner, the refugee, the homeless, the oppressed… and every vulnerable and suffering person on earth. Therefore, those who strive for peace must continuously work hard to aid the needy. Noone’s (Nu-n’s) righteousness is complete without this direct commitment to realizing social justice in our societies: “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow” (Isaiah 1:17).
The New Testament rejects every form of war, violence and vengeance. Christ did not come to establish a state or to enact laws. Rather, he brought one commandment: “Love one another as I have loved you.” The principle of love is mightier and more effective than the principle of the sword and therefore Jesus said to Peter on the night he was arrested, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). In this context, we may also cite what the Holy Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-21).
Peace is an internal posture resulting from firmly-rooted faith in Jesus, our only Savior. Times of hardship, persecution and wars cannot make believers lose their spiritual peace and their commitment to the Lord’s teachings. Our rallying cry is what the Holy Apostle Paul says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: ‘For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.’ Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:35-39).
There is no doubt that faith in Jesus Christ requires one to pay dearly. Even one’s own life is not more precious than bearing true witness. We are living a time of great trial, so let us not lose Christ under any pretext, even if such a pretext is legitimate according to human instinct!