I have friends, Christian friends, who refuse to celebrate the International Day of Peace on September 21 because it’s a holiday created by the United Nations. For an assortment of reasons, these friends don’t believe in the U.N., and thus, no celebration.
Others don’t believe in celebrating secular holidays, like this one. However, as a Lutheran, it’s a secular holiday that makes a lot of sense to me. And it’s precisely because of my understanding of our triune God that I’ll be observing the International Day of Peace.
When I went to various websites to get some ideas of how to celebrate, there were stories of cease-fires and other ways that the U.N. hopes we’ll celebrate. Clearly, I can’t pull off that feat.
But I take comfort in knowing that Jesus couldn’t pull off that feat either. His fellow Jews might have wished for someone to come to drive their oppressors, the Romans, out of their homeland. Jesus wasn’t that guy.
The way of Jesus
Some communities will be planning parades for the International Day of Peace. I’m not sure that’s the way of Jesus either. It’s easy to support a parade. It’s more difficult to live in a way that promotes peace day after day after trying day.
How would Jesus celebrate the day? I suspect he’d celebrate by asking one or two people to dinner who have lost their homes and possessions. That route to peace seems to be more in the style of Jesus. After all, once we’ve shared a meal with people, it’s more difficult to demonize them, much less slaughter them in an act of warfare.
Even if we can’t create a dinner on that day, we can donate food to a local food pantry or work in a soup kitchen. Or we could do something as simple as writing a check to ELCA World Hunger, so that hungry people across the planet will be fed.
We could try something even more difficult than sharing a meal. For one day, we could resolve to not say anything ugly about anyone. We could resolve to foster peace in ourselves, so that peace could flow out into the world. It’s only one day. How hard could it be?
We could try treating everyone around us gently. That guy in traffic who’s driving erratically? Let that person zoom on ahead. The person in your office who drives you crazy? Bring that person a treat. Write letters to the lonely people in your life. Call your loved ones to remind them of your love.
But maybe those tasks are too difficult. The website for the International Day of Peace suggests that we do something as simple as lighting a candle and meditating on the idea of peace. As a (Lutheran), I have a better idea.
Why not spend some time on this day praying for peace? That’s what Jesus would do.
There are some who would scoff, who would see a parade as more important. After all, with a parade we can get our message out to more people. There are some who would tell us our prayers are ineffectual. But theologians tell us otherwise, as do our prophets and Christ himself.
Maybe we Christians have trouble praying for a peaceful world because we have trouble envisioning it. Why not spend some time on this day thinking about what a world devoted to peace would look like?
What would it look like?
Imagine a world where children had enough to eat and good schools to attend because countries didn’t need to spend that money fighting wars. Imagine a world where inhabitants enjoyed good medical care because resources didn’t need to be diverted to warfare. Imagine a world where no one lost a limb because of leftover landmines.
The good news of Jesus is that the redemption of the world has already started. God’s kingdom is already breaking through into our worldly kingdoms. God has already imagined that world devoted to peace and started creating it. God calls us to create that world too.
The International Day of Peace is a good day to start.
Kristin Berkey-Abbott is a lifelong Lutheran, a college teacher and department head. She has taught a variety of English and creative writing classes for the last 20 years.