Was listening to NPR this morning as they discussed a novel (Hour of the Red God) by author Richard Crompton. It is set in Nairobi and follows a Maasai detective as he pursues justice. You can listen to the program story here.
What I found striking was this little bit of interchange between the detective and his supervisor:
— What about justice? croaks Mollel.
Otieno gives a sad smile. — Mollel, you’re in the wrong country. The wrong continent. Don’t you know there’s something more valuable than justice here?
— Peace. … Justice is a luxury. Peace is a necessity. You want justice, move to some first-world state with sophisticated crime labs and DNA tests and judges who can’t be bought off.
I find this intriguing and a common viewpoint in the parts of Africa I have traveled (admittedly small). Since justice isn’t possible, seek peace. Unfortunately, such a pattern provides some comfort in the present but allows for desires of revenge to sprout and grow as a poor substitute for justice.
The bigger question is how do you work for justice when you cannot expect the necessary systems to work for that same goal?
There are certain words that are used within christian circles meant to communicate a particular mindset or way of living. Peace, joy, trust, love, faith are just a few of these kinds of words. We all know what we mean by these words, right? Or do we?
Consider “peace” for a minute. When you think of peace do you think of quietness? relaxation? calmness? Do you imagine lying in a hammock? Do you imagine total serenity?
Isaiah 26:3 says,
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you.
Perfect peace. Is that peace on steroids? Is it possible to have this peace in the midst of a battle? When you just found out your job has been eliminated? Would such a peace look different from peace on a vacation?
Here’s a question: Does Jesus lack such “perfect peace” when he cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?” If you believe, as I do, that Jesus was sinless and did not cave to human frailties, you might need to re-imagine “perfect peace” and define it in such a way that you can have it and be in utter emotional agony at the same time.
So, if perfect peace is more complex, it stands to reason that joy within sorrow, trust within questions and love without feelings are all quite possible.
How would you define peace in light of the realities of suffering and abuse?
What is your definition of peace? Readers of the Bible notice that peace is a comfort in the midst of raging turmoil: at a banquet with one’s enemies drawing their weapons; a still small voice in the midst of a storm; manna and some water in the desert; a house on a highway used by two marauding super powers. On we could go…
I’d like to have peace as something without threat of pain. Not the biblical definition so it seems.