“I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation…” This was Paul speaking in his letter to the Roman churches, in the backdrop of the brutal Roman Empire. The salvation he envisaged was the Hebrew vision of the restored cosmos, meaning the renewed order of kindness bringing peace in the world. Paul saw the cross at the centre of this vision. Here, one considered as a slave, a sinner, a lover of our enemies, was cast out and condemned to death. God’s forgiveness at this point would reorientate our hearts to bring in the foreigner, the sinner and the slave to heal. We would now see Christ in the weak person and reach out to help. This is the new cosmos in the face of the Roman world.
We see this cross in the teachings of Christ. His calling us to go the second mile, to not resist evil with violence, to turn the other cheek, to forgive our enemies, and pray for their wellbeing, to take the log out of our own eye, not to judge, to share our goods with others, are all the acts of peace that the United Nations has sort to embody in its global activities.
These teachings of Christ reflect the nature of his cross. They explain what his cross is, how atonement works. The atonement is our acts that reconcile our relationships with others.
This is how God reconciled his enemies in Christ. This is how we reconcile our relationships in the world. It is redemptive living: treating people in such a way that we redeem, that is, that we draw them back into our orbit, into care, into relationship. These acts make atonement by overcoming the history of violence and of injustice in our past lives.
We see these redemptive principles applied by the United nations in many broken parts of the world, calling waring parties together to make peace, based on the very teachings of Christ. As Christians, we shouldn’t speak against this, preferring one party over another, for some “theological reason.” The reconciling acts of Christ are our theology and they favour no person, none of our nationalisms, but bring help to us all, and even renew our hearts, if we will hear. Christ taught Israel they are forgiven as they also forgive their enemies. A difficult pill to swallow, even for us today. But God has tied our own restoration to our restoring of others. This is the good news of peace.
In Christ’s teachings, we see the foundational principles of peace-making. This is what he called us to live out and that is why he said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for these shall be called the children of God.” This is creational language, drawn from the Jewish understanding of Genesis 1. It was about God renewing the secular world through his new family.
Like I said in the last section, secularists can’t ignore heaven, for from it come the very teachings and the acts of peace. Heaven didn’t just teach this but did it at personal cost, forgiving and serving the enemy. If the basic principles of peace come to us from heaven, this means Christians must live out those principles in the secular world just as Christ did.
We must do as Christ taught and did. We must recognize that Christ’s teachings are about the fixing of this world, and we must seek to live them out in the world, rather than just see them as to do with our own spiritual salvation.