I despair sometimes at the profound divisions in our country and how much difficulty we seem to have in healing them. Our political divisions are deeper and seemingly more entrenched than ever. And in the face of George Floyd’s murder and the ensuing demonstrations against police abuses, it seems that hatred and division might consume us.
What does it take to create meaningful peace?
How do we create peace in a diverse and often discordant society?
This challenge seems all the more overwhelming when most of us struggle to create peace in our most important relationships. The ease with which human beings take advantage of one another, and how blind we are to this in ourselves, makes it all the more daunting.
The answer to creating peace in some respects is simple, but to live it is hard.
There is never peace when some groups are privileged over others. There is never peace when a person or race is seen as inferior to another. It is very human to create hierarchies of personal value (in societies and relationships), but it’s entirely un-Christlike and cruel to do so. You cannot achieve zion or a peaceful society when any class, sex or individual is treated as “less than”.
To create peace requires growing out of our current self-justified realities. It requires seeing where we are wrong and where we have harmed.
An important way to break self-justification and blindness is to LISTEN. Not just be quiet, but in any relational or societal conflict, to seek to understand the experience and perspectives of those whom you don’t understand. To understand those who have experienced the world differently. Understanding others' suffering is critical to healing.
It’s simple, but often so uncomfortable to see ourselves through another’s eyes; to understand how their views have been informed by their experiences. This often means recognizing where you have taken advantage or operated in a way that you know is unfair or unworthy.
Compassion is a virtue, in part, because it pressures us to change and be better. To look after the downtrodden, to take care of those who are misunderstood. That captures Christ’s ministry best.
It’s the mechanism through which we become stronger individually and collectively.
Not only is listening a form of love and investment, it will make you wiser about yourself and others. It will help you know what you don’t yet know. Wise people have the courage to focus on what they don’t yet know, what they don’t yet understand.
May we all have courage to do our part to make the world a safer, fairer home for all of God’s children.
-Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife