Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense? James 2:14-17 (MSG)
Yesterday in our worship at our church we sang/prayed together in liturgical call-and-response, interspersed with singing the chorus “pie Jesu domino, dona eis requiem” (trans: King Lord Jesus, grant them peace). Here’s an example:
For the Cambodian girl, 12-years-old;
Snatched from her parents, stolen from home
Sold into slavery, beaten and mugged.
Forced prostitution, raped and drugged.
They’ve taken her innocence, taken her pride.
Taken her dignity, taken her life.
Given her nothing but fear and disease.
All: King Lord Jesus, grant her peace
Sing: pie Jesu domino, dona eis requiem
During the 2nd service it struck me how in this time of the year we talk about peace a lot, but what I usually mean is that I hope people feel comforted. As ugly as this is, when I say the words “Jesus, grant her peace,” what goes on in my head is something closer to this: “I hope she gets out of the situation, and if not, that really sucks and I hope that she finds some kind of meaning or deep sense of calm in the hell she lives in. It’s really awful. I wonder what time the Broncos play today? I hope Payton doesn’t throw too many interceptions in the cold.”
For whatever reason, this really bothered me yesterday. (I think theologians call this conviction.)
It’s easy to feel bad for people. It’s easy work up feelings of sympathy and empathy, to offer our versions of “be clothed in Christ!” But as I taught yesterday, the Biblical idea of peace isn’t just “not war,” but rather that “everything in creation that does not conform to the vision of the kingdom of God be put to right.” (“…on earth as it is in heaven”) And the mission of the people of God in this world is to become agents of that change.
That’s daunting. I mean, there are a lot of justice issues in the world. And whenever you start to beat the drum for justice, it begins to make people feel uncomfortable. It starts meddling in issues of politics, economics and power.
But here’s the thing, I think that’s a faith worth believing in, it’s a faith worth living one’s life for. It’s a conversation, that however tenuous and uncomfortable, is worth having. Personal faith, personal peace, a vague sense of comfort and security for me and the people I love, while ignoring the gross injustices in the world around us…that seems more like my selfish desires than the way of Jesus.
And so, “pie Jesu domino, dona eis requiem - and show me the ways that you want me to move beyond empathy into becoming a peacemaker.”