The Common Good

Peace Day and Our Fearless Obligation

Jesus taught fearlessness.

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Thus, to follow Jesus means to live a faith that takes us beyond our anxieties, beyond our deepest fears and troubles to a place of perfect trust. To follow the Prince of Peace is to commit to the ethics of Jesus. The ethics of Jesus is an ethic that requires us to live love. This love is a "caritas," a wide-open affection that produces human kindness. It is a nonjudgmental friendliness. It is a spirit of generosity.

September 21 is Peace Day. It is the UN International Day of Peace and a call for global ceasefire. It is a day that reminds us of the hope that humanity can work together to solve its conflicts through negotiations. Peace Day intentionally coincides with the opening session of the United Nations where leaders of the world come to New York City to make speeches and cut deals in both public and private meetings.

However, for believers, Peace Day can be another reminder of our obligations to our faith. It is a day when we ask ourselves: What is the defining quality of our faith? It is a day when we try harder to live it. The new command that Jesus gives to his followers is love. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." (John 13: 34-35)

Since love is expansive, this is a love that goes beyond family or faith community. This is a love that loves the world because God so loved the world and Jesus died for its eternal salvation. When world leaders meet, we assess their record on human rights, analyze their speeches, and decide which are worthy of or our approbation or our denunciation. We ought to do this. We cannot, and we ought not to allow genocide, election fraud, kleptocracy, military oppression of people in their own country, and other human rights abuses to go unremarked. Silence in the face of these horrors would be an abdication of our responsibility to stand with victims of unjust power. It would break faith with the fearlessness to which Jesus calls us.

At the same time, the love to which we are committed is a love that loves even our enemies. It loves the unlovable. It understands that people do harm out of their own pain, out of their own fears. It is a love that asks what we did to provoke a violent response, and it takes responsibility for our part in perpetrating violence. It is a humble, contrite, and confessional love. It is a love that understands the limits of knowledge, prophecy, and speech. Yet it is a fearless love that also understands its own authority, its power, and its obligation to speak peace to the earth and to live the peace we expect our leaders to make.

Dr. Valerie Elverton Dixon is an independent scholar who publishes lectures and essays at JustPeaceTheory.com. She received her Ph.D. in religion and society from Temple University and taught Christian ethics at United Theological Seminary and Andover Newton Theological School.

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