Identifying the cross as the starting point of theological exploration was something I had never before been encouraged to consider. As I had only ever encountered the Story of God from a chronological perspective, I had come to understand the cross as the continuation of the violent, warrior God motif of the Hebrew Scriptures. My Christian upbringing had led me to understand the cross not as a place of peace but as a tool of torture, wielded by a wrath-filled God, and focused exclusively on my sin.
Imagine, therefore, the moment when my odyssey took me through the Gospels to Colossians 1:18-19 and face-to-face with a cross that declares the extravagance of God’s restorative wingspan. It was there that I realized that not only did the cross redeem the human soul, but it also heals broken identities, renews creation, mends divided relationships, renovates and replaces unjust systems, and repairs international conflicts.
Peace, then, as defined by the cross, is the restoration of all things. It is the holistic repair of severed relationships. It is the mending of the jagged divides that keep us from relationship with one another. According to Colossians 1, the implications of the cross were comprehensive and conclusive: God had waged a decisive peace in Jesus and it had worked. That meant that God is the Great Peacemaker and restoration is the mission of God.
Accompanying the emergence of shalom’s elusive definition was a more expansive understanding of who God is, whom God is for, and what God had accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. I had discovered a God who sees the humanity, dignity, and divine image in every human being. Here is a God who sees our pain and our plight and, instead of remaining distant or walking away, chooses to immerse into the radical center of it. Here is a God who, from within the complexities of our conflicts, contends for our flourishing in costly, creative ways. Ours is a God who stops at nothing to see restoration spring to life.
While all of that is both true and exciting, we’re left with a new set of questions. If God’s peace was so decisive, then why do we yet live in a world divided by pain, misunderstanding, fear, hatred, and conflict? Why does violence seem to rule the day? If holistic peace was accomplished on the cross, then why is the earth still groaning under famine that prematurely extinguishes human lives? Why are our neighborhoods still saturated with violence-fleeing refugees and why are our prisons still disproportionately filled with people of color?
Turns out, the unveiling of shalom’s definition was not the finish line…it was simply a new beginning.
The very next destination along the way was 2 Corinthians 5:18-20 where Paul, reflecting on what the cross and empty tomb had accomplished, identifies us as the reconciled beloved who are commissioned as beloved reconcilers. While God’s peace was decisively waged in Jesus, God’s peace becomes real in the world when we embrace our vocation as Everyday Peacemakers.
As we become women and men who, like God, learn to see the humanity, dignity, and image of God in every human being, immerse into the world’s divides intent upon listening long, and contend for others’ flourishing in collaborative, costly, creative ways, we actively join God in ushering in the restored world that God is making. Our physical presence and practice in sync with the Spirit of the Resurrected One causes us to become the ongoing embodiment of God’s restorative mission here and now.
Joining God as makers of peace is the very best expression of our faith.
Click HERE to read Part 3.
This is part 2 of 4 of an article that was modified from my book, Mending the Divides: Creative Love in a Conflicted World and recently published in Fuller Magazine. Check out this short VIDEO to learn more about Mending the Divides.