Thursday, November 8, 2012

Fr Georges Massouh on the Relationship between Peace and Justice

Arabic original here.

The Hoped-for Peace

The Sermon on the Mount contains two things that Christ considered to be at the foundation of His teachings and mission in the world: righteousness (or justice) and peace. The seventh beatitude says, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). Despite the difficulty of realizing the fullness of peace, Christ expects the faithful to strive to imitate Him in realizing peace. What is meant by striving is nothing other than the conscious and active understanding that righteousness before God and among humans is the sole basis for peace.

Following the Old Testament, which sees in God's presence among His people the loftiest manifestation of peace, the Evangelist John shows that Christ's presence is the source and perfection of peace. One of the distinctive features of his gospel is that when the disciples are sorrowful because of their Teacher's coming departure from among them, Jesus calms their worries, "Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you" (John 14:27). This peace was no longer tied to His tangible presence on this earth. Instead, it is connected to His victory over death. Thus, after His resurrection, along with His peace Christ gives the disciples the Holy Spirit and the authority to forgive sins (John 20:19-23).

Social justice and peace cannot be separated from each other. The Prophet David says in the Psalms, "Truth shall spring out of the earth, and righteousness shall look down from heaven" (Psalm 85:11). He also says, "He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice. The mountains will bring peace to the people, and the little hills, by righteousness. For He will deliver the needy when he cries, the poor also, and him who has no helper" (Psalm 72: 2-3, 12). Thus the opposite of "peace" is not limited to "war". It also includes "evil", "injustice", and "arrogance"...

For the Apostle Paul, it is established that "the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14:17). The expressions that accompany "peace" in the Bible are all positive expressions. They include: love, mercy, life, healing, health, blessing, goodness, happiness, tranquility, safety... Are all these things anything other than the fruit of the Spirit which Paul enumerates elsewhere. They include, "love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22). And so we understand that Christ's mission in the world is completed in the realization of peace and justice. Through this the world becomes a true place of God's manifestation. It becomes a kingdom.

For Paul, peace is tied to grace and repentance. This is why Paul puts grace together with peace at the beginning of many of his epistles, "peace and grace be upon you." As for the connection between peace and redemption, it is made manifest when he says that Christ realized peace with His blood upon the cross. "God reconciled all things to Himself, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross" (Colossians 1:20).

But how can a believer face violence? He must confront the enemy by opposing him with goodness, putting a stop to his evil through good. Of this, the Apostle Paul says, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). It should be hoped that we will not only say no to violence or no to evil, but also that we should say yes to peace. However, peace that is based on injustice is a false peace. Peace is not true peace if it is not tied to justice. Let us struggle for the sake of this peace.

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