My mom once gave my aunt a Christmas gift of bubble bath, a french press, and some good tea. The card read “let there be Peace on Earth and let it begin with ME!” I was 9 and didn’t understand why that was so funny, but they both laughed like it was hilarious.
Now I know. I have two children, one and two, who are what we would call “verbally advanced.” I understand what it means to want nothing more than an hour in a bubble bath with a cup of hot tea.
Here’s the thing about that present, it is great as a joke, but too many of us are earnestly seeking ways to feel peace, when we are called to make peace. We need to get out of the bubble bath and put down the cuppa, because peace making is not about me and how I feel.
Justice and mercy breed peace. Where oppression and inequality exist, peace cannot reign. If you want to be a peacemaker, then it is good and necessary to call out oppression, speak up against inequality, fight for justice and mercy. This is often uncomfortable for those who are perpetuating the inequality even if (and perhaps especially if) they aren’t perpetuating the injustice on purpose. Blessed are the pot-stirrers, for they are making peace.
This is usually how it goes down (at least online)
Statement: What they did/said/insinuated is hurtful to this group in this way.
Reaction: They didn’t mean it like that! You are singling them out for no good reason!
Reaction: The way you responded isn’t grace-filled! Unity in Christ, Unity in Christ!
Reaction: 1st Corinthians 12:21! Eye shouldn’t tell the hand it isn’t useful!
Here’s the deal: Just because you didn’t mean to say something racist/sexist/un-Christlike does not mean that you didn’t. I only know this because I’ve done it, said something that was completely jacked up and been called out on it. I understand the desire to gasp and yell, that is NOT what I said! That is NOT what I meant!
We live in a world that is jacked up, so it is completely unsurprising that most of us have some ways of thinking that are just plain messed. It very well may hurt when someone points out our wrong thinking. It can be embarrassing, we can get defensive “but I’m not a bad person.” But if we want peace to reign than that means eradicating unjust thinking. Even if it causes dissonance in the thinker.
But Abby, what about Unity in Christ? Speaking out against what someone says is NOT the same as saying they are not a brother or sister in Christ. As I once told my mother at a Girl Scout function, “sister means your stuck with them.” Just because I speak out against the way John Piper characterizes the relationship between a man and a woman doesn’t mean I don’t think we are not brothers and sisters in Christ. We are. Just like I am still related to that one crazy tuther cousin regardless of the stuff he puts on Facebook (but I am entitled to block that junk.)
Also, nice and grace-filled are not the same things. Martin Luther King had a lot of things to say that were not nice. They weren’t nice, but they were gracious and true. “You are being racist” isn’t nice. “That statement excludes half of the church from their identity in Christ,” isn’t a nice thing to say to someone. Grace means there is space for the perpetrator to do better. When God grants me grace, it is not to remain where I am, it is grace to be free from living under the power of lies.
When I started working in an environment where I was the minority, and my privilege was pointed out by my colleagues, it wasn’t nice, but it was grace-filled. It allowed me to do better, to live better. It didn’t feel peaceful, to have to confront my own privilege, but it has turned me into a peacemaker.
Finally, put the hand eye verse away (because seriously, people are using it everywhere). Using the same metaphor, when the hand is hurting the eye, the eye is allowed to cry “HAND, STOP POKING ME! HAND PUT THE STICK DOWN!” This is completely different than, “I am better than you!” which is the sentiment that verse is talking about. In fact, the reactions to someone saying something is wrong can often be summarized as “I am better than you and your petty calling out of people.”
Some people are called to encourage believers on their blog to tell simple stories that point to a greater truth, some to talk theology, some simply to write beautiful things and some are called to call out the ugly undertones that run rampant in churches, the wrong theology that is hurting believers, the oppression. In fact much of what we call “the new testament” are letters to churches telling the church they are doing it wrong, they are oppressing brothers and sisters and they need to stop!
Injustice and inequality are not going to go away on their own. Ignoring misogynistic or racist thoughts is like ignoring the hole in the roof. It will only get worse until we fix it the pot needs stirred. Much like many of Paul’s concerns when he was addressing the new testament churches: it matters because wrong teaching misrepresents to the world who Jesus is.
Folks, Jesus is our only chance at peace, real peace. Not just peace for an hour till the water runs cold. Not just peace for whoever fits in the tub.