“They shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
Nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.”
Happy New Year on this first Sunday of Advent. Yes, Christian New Year begins with four weeks of preparation for the coming of Jesus. And in Jesus we welcome God’s life enabling vision for all of creation. In Jesus we witness true humanity and true divinity walking hand in hand. In Jesus we witness life lived as life was intended to be lived — in love, by love and for love.
The prophet Isaiah is going to be our guide through these Advent days. The One thing we will soon learn about the prophet Isaiah is that he was not short on imagination when it came to expressing God’s heavenly dream for earth.
For Isaiah the first step for us to prepare for the coming of the prince of peace is to convert our weapons of destruction into instruments of nourishment — ”swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks”.
Sadly his words are yet to be taken seriously. We are still addicted to the lunacy of war. As John Wesley so clearly wrote many years ago:Here are forty thousand men gathered together on this plain. What they going to do? See, there are thirty or forty thousand more at a great distance. And these are going to shoot them through the head or body, to stab them, or split their skulls, and send most of their souls into everlasting fire, as fast as they possibly can. Why so? What harm have they done to them? O, none at all! They do not so much as know them. But a man, who is king of France has a quarrel with another man, who is king of England. So these Frenchmen are to kill as many of these Englishmen as they can, to prove the king of France is in the right. Now, what an argument is this? What a method of proof? What an amazing way of deciding controversies! What must mankind be, before such a thing as war could ever be known or thought of upon earth? How shocking, how inconceivable a want must there have been of common understanding, as well as common humanity, before any two governors, or any two nations in the universe could once think of such a method of decision! If then, all nations, Pagan, Mohammedan, and Christian, do, in fact, make this their last resort, what farther proof do we need of the utter degeneracy of all nations from the plainest principles of reason and virtue? Of the absolute want, both of common sense and common humanity, which runs through the whole race of mankind? From: Works (Jackson) 9:221 The Doctrine of Original Sin (part 1)
Our first Advent task is to disarm and to rethink the way we “decide controversies”. None of us are excluded from this task. It involves how we decide controversies within our most intimate relationships as well as the most expansive public policy.