"Peace be with you." (Jn. 20:19-23).
Sometimes when I watch the news, I feel sad and overwhelmed. There is so much violence in the world. Russia bombing its neighbor, killing Ukraine’s women, men, and children. In this country, we hurt each other based on racial, economic, and religious reasons. Men with automatic weapons kill dozens with one pull of the trigger. Even in our very own neighborhoods, children don’t play basketball or jump double dutch but rather kill each other over petty neighborhood “beefs” or because they belong to different gangs or, as we call them in DC, “crews.” I know that I can’t be the only Christian who is devastated by the universal sin of violence. We are all seeking a word from God as to our role in ending the violence. We ask, “How is God calling me and my Christian family to ignite and keep the peace?
My distress and sadness do not last long because Jesus and his disciples also lived under the daily violence and trauma of Roman oppression. Jesus himself died under the yoke of unjustified violence, and his traumatized apostles hid so they wouldn’t meet the same fate. However, one day in a locked room in 1st Century Palestine, Jesus did not just show the apostles the markings of his violent death, but more importantly, he brought them peace by saying, “Peace be with You.” He was showing them that the peace of Christ can emerge to quell the violence and heal the trauma. Jesus also told the apostles as he brought them peace, they must do likewise and bring Christ’s peace to the world.
Being an instrument of peace is hard work. We need to look no further than Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu, and Mahatma Gandhi to know that peacemaking is a difficult and frequently dangerous business. However, Jesus did not want us to do this work alone. Jesus has filled us with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit accompanies us on our peacemaking journey and gives us the necessary tools to do this holy work, such as wisdom, strength, and courage.
While there are many ways in which the Holy Spirit empowers us to use these tools, I will mention just two. First, the Holy Spirit gifts us with the ability to communicate to bring forth understanding when people “ain’t talking the same language.” Amid confusion and misunderstanding, She helps us to be heard and, more importantly, to hear others across our racial, cultural, ethnic and “local rival neighborhood beefs.” We as Christians are called to be communication facilitators among people so that mutual understanding and peace can be achieved.
Second, the Holy Spirit has called us into an egalitarian community where human differences are deemed equally important to the building of the Body of Christ. When human beings recognize that all human differences are valued and necessary, there is no room for sexism, racism, classism, ableism, or any “ism” to survive. We live out St. Paul’s words that “we were all baptized into one body, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free.” We are of one Spirit. As Christians, we must truly learn to live in the oneness of the Spirit. It is living in this oneness that we can bring peace to ourselves and our communities. Thus, let us, as one family in the Holy Spirit ask, “Come Holy Spirit Come, help us make peace in the streets. Amen.”
(Acts 2:1-11, 1Corinthian 12:3b-7 and John 20:12-23 NABRE)
Author: Wendy Pohlhaus will graduate from Wesley Theological Seminary in the Spring of 2024 with a Master of Divinity. She is also a federal attorney who, for the past 30 years, has been practicing criminal law. This blog is written in her personal capacity.