Friday, January 27, 2017

To Speak a Word of Peace

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Abner called to Joab, "Is the sword to keep devouring forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter?" - 2 Samuel 2:26

Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." - Matthew 26:52

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 18:1-6; 1 Chronicles 25; Acts 16:16-29

In today's verses, and in the Acts 16 story, there is a word of peace spoken that stops violence and brings new ways of thinking and acting.

In Matthew 26, it's Jesus who speaks. His disciples stop attacking, and run away instead. The story unfolds, Jesus says, to fulfill all the words of the prophets.

In 2 Samuel, it's Abner, the leader of one side of a great power struggle. He convinces the other side (at least for a while) that they should stop killing each other, cool off, and not let violence get the best of them.

In Acts 16, it's Paul, who stops his jailer from killing himself when an earthquake breaks the prisoners' chains. Instead of dying needlessly, the jailer turns to Paul and Silas to learn about Jesus, and he and all his family are baptized. He becomes a host instead of a jailer.

It's not surprising that a word from Jesus could have a profound effect. But in all three stories, a simple word of peace changes the course of events, saving lives, testifying to God's ability to work in all situations, and allowing space and time for new understanding and new community to develop. In all three, simple words convey God's wisdom and carry real power.

These stories remind me of others, some in the Bible and some not, of times when someone makes a profound difference just by speaking a word of peace clearly and simply. It could be a word of encouragement. Could be a suggestion on how to see a situation differently. Could be a message of love and acceptance that turns away anger. Could be a song (as exemplified by the photo at left of Pete Seeger's banjo).

The key things in speaking a word of peace are to have faith that God is active in this (and every!) situation; to be familiar enough with God's way of doing things that we can read a moment and know when it's crossed the line from building up to threatening life; and to have the courage to not just let things go, but to speak the word of peace out loud to those who need to hear it.

We don't all face life-and-death situations. We don't all get a chance to change the course of history. But a simple act of speaking a word of peace can make a difference in situations that might go bad otherwise. And we should never underestimate how big that difference just might be.

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