Ministry Letter

Gareth writes... (July 2021)

‘Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ 2 Corinthians 13:11.
Peace. It’s quite a strange thing really. Often when we think about peace, we get this impression of stillness or an absence of conflict. We might say that a lake which is still and quiet is ‘peaceful’. We might describe the situation when two countries who were at war decide to stop as ‘declaring peace’. Peace seems to be about stillness or the like.
I don’t know about you, but I think peace is actually quite tricky. Elton John sang that ‘sorry seems to be the hardest word’. We’ve all, I’m sure, had moments when we have quite unintentionally upset somebody, we’ve broken the peace. In the midst of a disagreement it is so very easy for things to escalate, to say something that hurts or shames the other person. The temptation to try and ‘win the argument’ is huge. In these moments, peace is certainly not about ‘stillness’, it has to be worked for, grabbed onto, prioritised.
In the Bible passage the Apostle Paul urges us to ‘strive’ for restoration. To really make it something we work for. Elsewhere in the Bible, the Apostle Peter writes that we ‘must turn from evil and do good; they must seek peace and pursue it.’ (1 Peter 3:11). ‘Turn’, ‘seek’, ‘pursue’, these are all very active words. In his book No Rusty Swords, the writer, a guy called Deitrich Bonhoeffer, wrote…
‘There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared. It is the great venture. It can never be safe.’
Isn’t that a startling assertion?! That peace is not safe. That to achieve peace we need to be daring. I think that this is because when we seek peace we often have to make ourselves vulnerable. This can mean acknowledging where we’ve got it wrong even if the other person doesn’t. It can mean challenging powerful people who are stronger than us and may
fight when we see that they’re doing wrong. It can mean sharing our hurt and pain with the person who harmed us, in the hope that they will be kind. All of these things are risky. And yet the other option is to be in a state of hostility. Of conflict, and there is no shortage of examples at the destruction that is caused by this.
Of course, there may be times when it is not possible to seek peace with someone, for example in the case of abuse. Justice is certainly a central theme of the Bible too. But in these times, it may be possible for those who have been harmed to find peace at a distance; a peace which helps to find new life beyond the harm that has been done to them.
I wonder what it might mean for each of us to seek peace? Is it something we’re willing to chance? Apostle Paul urges us not to do this alone, perhaps this is because it’s so risky. Rather he says… ‘And the God of love and peace will be with you.’ Amen to that.
Rev Gareth Hutchinson