In a period of a few months a global pandemic has erupted causing an economic depression that may not end anytime soon. Add to this widespread social unrest with its goal the eradication of the symbols and memories of the achievements of Western civilization and what seems like a perfect storm has formed.
While it’s hard to see a peaceful outcome to all of this, especially for the Church, we can rest in the promise of a special peace:
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God. Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Jesus offered a new kind of peace to His followers that was wholly distinguished from a worldly peace:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid (John 14:27).
It did not exist on Earth before the birth of Christ:
And suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:13-14).
Notice the exclusivity of those who are blessed with this peace, reserved for those “on whom His [God’s] favor rests”. When Jesus sent out the 72 disciples (Luke 10:1-12) as his witnesses, the peace of Christ was limited to those who welcomed them:
Into whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this household.’ If a peaceful person [literally, “a son of peace”] lives there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you (Luke 10:5-6).
When it comes to working toward peace with our fellow citizens, Paul exhorts us to do the best we can but trying to be the peacemaker is not always possible:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all (Romans 12:18).
Romans was likely written during the reign of emperor Nero, at a time when Christians were generally despised. In The Annals of Imperial Rome the Roman historian Tacitus records that they were referred to as “notoriously depraved” and followers of a “deadly superstition”. His personal lack of sympathy is striking:
“Their deaths were made farcical. Dressed in wild animals’ skins, they were torn to pieces by dogs, or crucified, or made into torches to be ignited after dark as substitutes for daylight. …Despite their guilt as Christians, and the ruthless punishment it deserved, the victims were pitied. For it was felt that they were being sacrificed to one man’s brutality rather than to the national interest.”
Rome turned on Nero and after his suicide very likely took care of his statues. It would become the home of the Church.