If you look around the world today, it’s difficult to ignore the discord that divides people and nations. The “peace on earth” we yearn for at Christmas often feels like a distant dream.
For all the beauty and intention of God embedded in every culture, sin has caused humanity to deviate from His perfect creation. Over time, societies have cultivated their own ways of functioning. The cultural norms that emerge sometimes obscure, oppose and resist the ways of God’s Kingdom. These obstacles are not easily undone.
In southwest Ethiopia, a culture of violence reigns among the Suri and neighboring rival groups like the Toposa. Disputes escalate to bloodshed. One killing leads to another, then another. Justice demands retribution, and on the cycle rages. New Suri and Toposa Christians, not yet practiced in the ways of peace, are reluctant to surrender their cultural rights to vengeance. A young church struggles to find its footing.
Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy hails the gift of a child—a son born with authority to assume God’s gracious rule over humankind. He will govern with wisdom and strength. He will guide, protect and provide for His people. His reign will draw all peoples and nations into God’s shalom, a new reality in which war and enmity cease and human lives flourish in community.
It’s this shalom—peace in its truest sense—that compels Suri and Toposa Christians to pursue Jesus, the Prince of Peace. In Him they find courage to gather together at historic murder sites to repent and seek forgiveness from God and each other. Rain often waters the drought-stricken land following these events, a sign of God’s mercy. The recent marriage of a Suri woman and Toposa man, both Christians, is a living symbol of God’s reconciliatory power. Suri and Toposa people are beginning to recognize that God’s Kingdom of peace isn’t just a distant promise yet to be fulfilled, but a reality that’s possible today.
As God’s people, we’re called to join Him in making peace on the earth (Jeremiah 29:7). Is there a relationship in your life or discord in your community that needs repair? Ask God to show you how to work toward shalom.