The bumper sticker reads, “No Christ. No Peace. Know Christ. Know Peace.” Wow! I thought. What a creative and profound slogan. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Through Him we experience peace with God. I love it.
But then I had second thoughts as I started thinking about my personal experience. Is it really that simple? Is this slogan an exaggeration? Are we making assertions that don’t jibe with reality?
I can hear someone say, “Rick, this is just bumper sticker theology. Relax.” Yes, you can only say so much on a bumper sticker, but it bothers me because it reflects a reductionist theology that is easy to get caught up in. It’s easy to make simplistic deductions based on truths in this bumper sticker. But I think it hurts our credibility and undermines our witness.
Yes, to know Christ is to know peace. Peace with God. Peace with others. Peace with creation. That’s the biblical mandate and the comprehensive nature of reconciliation in Scripture (Gal 3:28; Eph 2:13-17; Col 1:20). Because of Christ, the potential for peace is massive – that’s why we have started Peace Catalyst International .
However, we really only experience a “measure” of this peace if we are honest with ourselves. So if to know Christ is to know peace then why do we have so little of it? Why is there such a high rate of divorce among Christians? Why is there so much conflict in the church? Because peace is not automatic. We have disciplines to learn, commandments to obey and healing to experience … if we want peace.
And then, is it really true to say that there is no peace outside of Christ? You mean to say that people created in God’s image don’t experience a measure of peace in this world? What about Mahatma Ghandi or Nelson Mandela? Did these men know anything about peace? My Muslim friends would remind us of a man of peace named Abd el-Kader of Algeria. Abd el-Kader has been described by some as the George Washington of Algeria — honored for his remarkable courage in preventing thousands of Maronite Christians from being massacred in 1860 in Damascus, Syria.
Moreover, what are we to make of the commands to “pursue peace with everyone” and to “love our enemies?” This implies that there can be peace outside of the Christian community, and it indicates that it’s our responsibility to help make it happen. So it’s not really true to say, “no Christ, no peace.”
So what am I trying to say? Can we show a little humility? I don’t think the church models the kind of peace the Scripture affirms and this bumper sticker declares. Can we rid ourselves of an adversarial perspective (our Christian club has peace but you don’t). Can we affirm that fullness of peace resides in Christ and the potential for peace resides in Christ but it is not automatic?
So here’s a better bumper sticker for you, “Jesus: God’s Comprehensive Peace Plan,” or maybe, “Jesus: God’s Comprehensive Peace Man.”