But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Matthew 6:33 (NIV)
To Have Peace – The Seekers Series – Part 1
When Jesus preached what we know today to be his “sermon on the mount,” the socio-political climate was dire. The Jewish people were living under Roman occupation, and tensions were high. Clash of culture and kingdom, the Jewish people had the boot of empire on their necks, prisoners in their own homes and towns. Forced to pay exorbitant taxes to Caesar and integrate Roman culture into their ancient and sacred traditions. The atmosphere was loaded with loathing from both sides.
The Roman soldiers stood at attention while zealous Jews whispered of rebellion and salvation in dark corners. The whole country was waiting for a saviour. The Messiah, who would lead the charge, raise his sword, defeat the Roman army, set his people free and establish them as the most powerful people group in the known world. No one would dare oppose them again, and their long history of war and oppression would be over.
What would you do?
I’ve got two kids, a five and seven-year-old, and I dream about who they'll be and what they'll do with their lives and freedom. And what I would do should someone try and take that away from them. What I would do to set things right and rise victorious. Wouldn’t we all?
But the Messiah, the promised one, their Saviour, no sword in hand, no political flag raised at any of his unsponsored events… spoke of a different kind of freedom.
Many hoped that Jesus would establish a physical Kingdom where they could live and worship freely and according to scripture. But the Kingdom Jesus spoke of was not physical or tangible. It had no geographic location or stone buildings.
It’s a kingdom that dwells within us no matter who we are, where we are and what state we’re in.
This idea was revolutionary and completely contrary to what many were looking for. If I put myself back in that time, I’m not sure I would have sat lovingly at the feet of Jesus, listening to him speak. I’d be ticked off, impatient, saying, “Alright Jesus, enough with all the talking, let’s get the job DONE already!”
Because oppression is wrong. Abuse of power and violence and theft and rape and murder and manipulation is wrong. And being angry about it, and seeking justice and remedy for it is not wrong.
We need to stand against tyranny and evil in our world and protect the freedoms and rights of others, especially the vulnerable. Establish peace and unity. But Jesus knew (knows) that violence begets violence, and the only way to bring goodness into a land of heartache was through love, not more pain. To have peace on the surface, there needs to be peace underneath and within.
He was asking people to resist the urge for more hatred and division. I’m not talking about pacifism. I’m not saying that Jesus wanted people to walk away from their enemies and pretend that nothing had happened. Quite the opposite. To love your enemy is a battle fought within us all. It’s risky and gutsy and takes more courage than fighting someone with your fists or words ever will.
The Kingdom of Heaven doesn’t dominate but illuminates. It's a light in the dark. And only hungry seekers will find it.
Written by Liz Milani