Long time no post. Things have been pretty intense with this week being finals/papers-due week. The to-do list is wrapping up nicely, but I’m in for a long couple of days leading up to my one (and only) exam on Friday. That means that I am finished with my first year of grad school in 2 days!
I originally planned that this blog would be about ordinary life – the things I do and learn – but I realize that I mostly blog about crafts and food, and less about thoughts. I don’t have any recipes to post today, because I’ve been living on toast, spinach salad, m&ms and coffee. So… because the semester is coming to an end, and school-work is on my mind, I thought I’d share a little bit about what I’ve been thinking/writing/learning lately. This will be the first in a series of maybe 3-4 posts on “Things I’ve Learned in Seminary.” 🙂
Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation
The transformation and mediation of conflicts is a central part of peacebuilding, although peacebuilding encompasses much more than just dealing with conflicts (conflict prevention, education, restorative justice, community development – are all part of the process of building peaceful societies and communities.) Furthermore, peacebuilding doesn’t seek to mandate the absence of conflict, but involves the ability to handle conflict in constructive and transformational ways.
Peacebuiling as a Christian Imperative:
Thoughtful engagement in the work of peacebuilding is essential for Christians. The nature of God and our Christian identity in relation to God provide the imperative for Christian engagement in peacebuilding, which can be explored through the lenses of Old Testament covenantal responsibility and the mandate for peace and reconciliation rooted in the gospel of Christ.
Old Testament perspective:
When we consider Christian engagement in a peacebuilding approach characterized by restoration and justice, we acknowledge that justice is central to God’s character in the Old Testament. God’s justice is depicted as care for the oppressed and restoration of what has been harmed, and God’s people are called to enact this justice as part of their covenant relationship with God (citing Dr. E. Bounds). The Church, as the people of God, is called to promote justice in the form of care and restoration because we are in covenant with a God whose desire for the world is justice.
New Testament perspective:
The gospel ministry of Christ also beckons our participation in ministries of healing, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Through Christ, God reconciled humankind to God’s self, and “gave us the ministry of reconciliation” and “committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:18-19 NRSV). As bearers of Christ to the world, we are called to be reconcilers and peacemakers. Both the Old and New Testaments provide for Christians a sense of called-ness and responsibility for the task of peacemaking.
Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding in the Church:
Furthermore, Christians need to engage in acts of peacebuilding, restoration, reconciliation, forgiveness, and justice both in the world and within their church bodies. Peacebuilding and conflict transformation, while central to God’s character and our calling as God’s people, is perhaps most difficult and most necessary within our church communities. I believe that mission-minded churches are willing to accept their role as bearers of peace and justice to the world, but frequently continue to function at home as conflict-ridden communities in need of restoration within.
We Christians, in our peace and love-oriented church cultures, frequently avoid, suppress, or mitigate conflict on a surface level because we think that overt conflict undermines peaceful living. This happens at the expense of true engagement with conflict and restoration of the church body. In addition, the ethic of conflict-avoidance often carries into the personal lives of church people. This is unfortunate because when we avoid conflict, we miss opportunities for spiritual, communal, and systemic transformation and growth.
This is a question I’ve worked on all semester – building my personal capacity for handling conflict and thinking about how communities (specifically congregations) can be characterized by peace and justice. See? I do more than cook and make crafts!
Stay tuned for more “things I’ve learned”…