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Peace with God: Justice for all
"Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God" (Romans 5:1)

 

The month of October is an eventful one for us; as a church as we prepare to celebrate our Harvest Festival and as we commemorate the 150th Birth Anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi this year. October is also significant as we celebrate the Protestant Reformation, commemorating the nailing of the 95 theses by Martin Luther (1483-1546) on October 31, 1517 on the door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany. In addition, we are so glad that we will be celebrating the life and witness of our young people, as we join them in celebrating Youth Sunday.

One of the key texts that drove the Reformation is Paul's letter to Romans. It is hard to believe that the same Bible that we have in our hands challenged the Church and its hierarchy, which symbolized authority, power and dominance. The application of Sola Scripture (Scripture alone) was originally intended to provide an 'alternative framework,' to the common people, as an alternative to derive authority from the church and its structural hierarchy. In one of the key passages in Romans 5:1-11, Paul underlines that Peace with God is the result of "justification", being set back into a right relationship with God. The Greek original for justification can also be translated as 'Justice.' Peace is a possibility in the present, for those who have been made right or justified before God. Justice and Peace go together. It is the shape of Christ's life, and for Paul, Christ's life gives shape to ours.

The peace of which Paul speaks means something quite different from the absence of conflict. Paul's point of reference is the Cross. There he sees God revealed. There he also sees humanity revealed: love poured out. One of the foundational thoughts that emerged is that there can be peace only where there is justice. Both Peace and Justice cannot be separated, a thought echoed by the Psalmist when he says, "Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other" (Psalm 85:10). A similar thought is echoed by the Prophet Isaiah, "The effect of righteousness will be peace and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever" (Isaiah 32:17). Where there is domination, oppression, fear and hatred, there can be no peace. As Mahatma Gandhi rightly observes, "A eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind." Paul was positioning himself against powers that were so overwhelming whether be it political, religious, cultural or social. The same experience was that of Martin Luther, and in his own way, Gandhi, against the colonial powers. We can be very sentimental or emotional about peace, but it is only in the celebration of Justice that we can find true Peace.

As a people who have benefitted from the Reformation, we are called to affirm once again the Scripture and not in the hierarchy based purely on human authority. It is not easy, but we need to strive forward. In a way, there is a deep connection between thanksgiving and peace as Paul exhorts in Philippians 4:6-7

Let this be a cheerful month, but let it also help us to be partners in the celebration of Peace and Justice.

Shalom!

Rev. Dr. Dexter S. Maben
 
 
   
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