In pursuit of peace

Karen Jardine

4.4.2017 | Congregational Life, Discipleship, Vision for Society

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Vision for Society Statement seeks to continue to place peacebuilding firmly at the heart of Christian discipleship and the Church itself. In the penultimate blog in a series of five, Karen Jardine reflects on its fourth paragraph. Writing in today’s blog, she paints a simple picture of what pursing peace can look like.

ACCORDINGLY, WE AFFIRM Christian peacebuilding

to be part of Christian discipleship

and reassert the Church’s calling

to pursue a peaceful and just society in our day

What do the words ‘Christian discipleship’ conjure up in your mind? Perhaps you think they reflect some sort of ‘A-level’ Christianity for those really serious about their faith, when ‘Christianity 101’ can already feel like a struggle. The reality of course is that discipleship is simply another way of talking about growing in faith, as we learn from and encourage each other along the way. So, if you think this part of the Vision for Society statement doesn’t apply to you, then think again!

What then of Christian peacebuilding, and the pursuit of a peaceful and just society in our day? Why even bother? Adam and Eve’s act of defiance in the Garden of Eden had devastating consequences. Perfect relationships between created and Creator, between humans and their environment, and within humanity itself – that wholeness encapsulated by the word shalom -  were fractured.

While Christ’s ultimate sacrifice has offered restoration for that vertical relationship, so those of us who seek to follow Him must play our part to cultivate the right conditions for the restoration of those horizontal ones. Cultivating the conditions for human flourishing is Christian discipleship in action.

God spoke these words through the prophet Jeremiah to His people who were far from home: “…seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have called you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jeremiah 29:7).

We’re quick to gloss over these verses and move quickly to the ones soon after about the plans God has for us in verse 11; plans to give us hope and a future. But let’s pause here for a while. Often we feel out of place and far away from our heavenly home. Praying for, and pursuing the peace and prosperity of the school, college, workplace, townland, neighbourhood, village, town or city to which we are called, pushes us out of our comfort zone. It calls us to community, and encourages us to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.

And what does this look like in practice? Pursue peace and justice through the choices you make while you are shopping; in how you spend your time; with the words you use when you speak of other churches and denominations, politicians and political parties, or others with whom you may disagree; when you choose to stop and help, rather than walk by on the other side. For this is what the Lord requires of you – “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

In the words of local worship band Rend Collective, let this be our heartfelt prayer: “We seek your kingdom first; we hunger and we thirst; refuse to waste our lives, for you’re our joy and prize. To see the captive hearts released, the hurt, the sick, the poor at peace. We lay down our lives for Heaven’s cause. We are Your church, we pray revive this earth.”

Karen lives in east Belfast where she is an elder in Bloomfield Presbyterian Church. Through Tearfund's Connected Church programme, Bloomfield has embarked on a partnership with Gilgal Evangelical Church in Kigali, Rwanda. In 2015 and 2016 Karen had the opportunity to visit and witness powerful stories of reconciliation in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide. Closer to home she is often to be found with a mug of tea, plotting her next travel adventure.

The Presbyterian Church in Ireland’s Vision for Society Statement was welcomed and adopted by the General Assembly in June 2016. Its five paragraphs are a declaration of belief, confession, affirmation and aspiration for our members across Ireland as disciples of Jesus Christ and as peacebuilders.

You can read all blogs in this series here. For free resources, including short promotional films, a specially written hymn - based on the words of the statement - downloadable poster and prayer card visit the resources section here.

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