Longing for Peace
In the early 1800's there was an American painter named Edward Hicks who became fixated on the eleventh chapter of Isaiah. He painted a child with his arm around a lions neck, his fingers twirling the mane and at his feet a wolf lay with a lamb and a leopard and goat and behind them a big brown bear and all were at peace. He painted this same image over sixty times, with a variety of backdrops and arrangements of the characters — but always a diverse group of normally competitive creatures were at peace. The paintings all have the same title; The Peaceable Kingdom.
Now for the rest of the story — Edward Hicks was a Quaker Minister who in 1820 found himself embroiled in a theological controversy which threatened to split the church. It’s a terrible thing when friends fight. Hicks and his cousin were the leaders of the losing side of this controversy. He eventually gave up on the fight and concentrated on repeatedly painting the Peaceable Kingdom. Some people think that Hicks kept his sanity in the midst of the turmoil was by focusing and painting a world were there was peace. And some people think that Hick was with each of these 60 paintings laying out a symbolic olive branch before his enemies and saying look lets stop fighting. But, I think that Hicks was asking a question in each of those paintings:“If Jesus is messiah and Jesus has come, why are we still fighting?”
The commitment to be peace makers lies at the heart of everything Jesus and Isaiah teaches. I believe that peace is possible in every situation. No matter how conflicted your family or workplace is, peace can be achieved. I have seen dogs and cats lie down and sleep on the same bed. We are not to be ruled by our competitive animal natures. I believe that peace is possible, even in lands which have long known conflict, like the Middle East. I believe in peace. What is the alternative?
Further, I believe that being a peacemaker requires me to learn how to control my own inner conflicts. I need to learn mediation skills. I need to apply what I know about family systems to the social systems that I am a part of. I am never released from the obligation to be a peace maker.