Reflection for Nov. 11, 2018 (Remembrance Day)
Isaiah 2:2-5/ Colossians 3:12-15
God’s Vision of Peace
Today is the day we remember the horror of the wars, those who fought for our freedom, and commit to world peace by saying, “No more!” I think the word ‘peace’ is one of the most used and abused words, like ‘love’. Beauty pageant contestants used to all wish for world peace, making the task of working towards it feel cheap and trivial. Also, the word ‘peace’ means different things to different people, and even for the same people, if they are in different situations. We might do yoga or meditation to calm our chattering minds. If our young children are wreaking havoc in the house, we might say, “Can’t I have a minute of peace in this house?” But people living in war zones might feel quite differently about peace.
What we read in Isaiah today reflects a period in Israel’s history where life was an unending series of invasions and oppression. Israelites were more than sick and tired of being invaded, not having their land or freedom to live life as they would like. During this time, God’s prophet Isaiah had the vision of weapons turning into farming tools as a symbol of peace. Weapons destroy lives. Farming tools give lives by producing food for the people. God’s vision is to achieve life-giving peace, which should also be our vision as God’s people.
Today’s Colossians text teaches us how to become God’s people of life-giving peace. It tells us to clothe ourselves with compassion, humility, meekness, and patience. But above all, we should clothe ourselves with love, “which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” This love is the love of God’s kingdom based on compassion and justice. That is why peace that is not based on compassion and justice is not true peace. Because I was asked to speak at today’s Remembrance Day ceremony, I did some quick research on WWI. Among the important causes of WWI was nationalism. Nationalism is selfishness on a national level; “my people first” and “my people only”. People thought it was The Great War, or the war to end all wars; then came the Second World War, which a lot of people consider to be the extension of the first war. Nationalism was a big thing during the second war as well, as you know (“Make German people great again” agenda).
We might think war is over, but is it really? I once heard a theory that nations don’t start wars anymore because it costs too much. There might be fewer wars today, but that doesn’t mean the world is more peaceful. Nationalism is till causing xenophobia, bigotry, discrimination, and hate crimes. Since true peace cannot be achieved without compassion and justice, we cannot achieve world peace without fighting bigotry and hate, and learning tolerance based on compassion. Refugee crises have revealed so much xenophobia from different countries. Three years ago, when I spoke at the Remembrance Day ceremony, I concluded with the message that the best way to honour our veterans and those who were killed is to actively participate in the works of peace. As we remember the horror of the wars and those who have fought for our freedom, let us remember that nationalism and bigotry fueled the big wars. So, let us commit to fighting bigotry and injustice in our world, without which world peace is not possible. Let us commit to not letting the horrors of the past repeat themselves.
Rev. Sunny Kim