I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. –Ephesians 4:1-3
And we are to do all of this “in the bond of peace” (v. 3), without the ravages of war and strife, without theological conflict and opposition, and with a spirit of harmony and camaraderie with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
However, peace is not some super spiritual mindset of quietude and suck-it-up introversion. We are not to become super Gnostic Buddhists in character, deferring our differences or avoiding variations of opinion. Rather, Christian peace is a noisy, messy affair—like family.
No one fights like family, but when push comes to shove, family trumps all—our Christian family, that is. Family is where we learn to be individuals, and where we learn the importance of blood kinship. Family is where we learn who we are and Whose we are. And we learn these things by growing and maturing, by going through the various stages of childhood and adolescence. Family is where we try various personas on until we find our unique fit. Family is where we are brutally honest and fiercely faithful. Family is where we fight and make up, only to fight about something else—and make up again. This is Christian unity. This is the unit called Christianity.
Christian unity is necessarily full of discussion and divergent opinion about all sorts of things, yet the bonds of peace are not to be broken. It is not an agreement to disagree, or other such logical nonsense. Rather, genuine disagreements must be hammered out on the anvil of God’s Word until we are able to correctly understand Scripture as God intends it, and accept our brothers’ and sisters’ divergences, trusting that differences of perspective do not detract from God’s truth, but serve to expand it to greater degrees of fullness and maturity. Indeed, the joy of Christian theology is a treasure yet to be discovered, a raw material yet to be mined, and a resource yet to be developed for the true benefit of humanity.
Peace is not to be the purpose of the conflict, won after long battles and worrisome wars. Peace is not the purpose of Christianity that is to be realized only after jihads of self-discipline, self-sacrifice (that end in premature death), or murderous revenge in the name of some aberrant idea of god or some perversion of God’s character or purpose. None of that!
Rather, peace is the process, the way and the life. It is the Christian life itself. We are not to fight for peace because the process of fighting destroys the desired peace. Peace cannot be won, as if it is a prize or the reward of some contest. Christianity is not a contest, nor is salvation a prize for good behavior.
Rather, the engagement of Christian peace must be done wholeheartedly. We must give everything we are, everything we have, to the cause of Christ, the cause of peace, the process of peacefulness. The peace of Christ is full to overflowing—full of various opinions, full of differing positions, full of alternate means and radical diversions. The peace of Christ is like a great feast, where the dining hall is full to the brim with hungry people, noisy people—all kinds of people expressing all kinds of ideas about God’s love and care. It is a feast where the wine of God’s love flows freely and libatiously, filling people—not with intoxication or confusion, but with the ecstasy of God’s love and a clarity of spirit undreamt of by the unbaptized.
(from Ephesians–Recovering the Vision of a Sustainable Church In Christ, forthcoming, 2014)