When I think of the most basic of all human longings, found in all religious traditions the world over, and especially in the Christian faith, I think about the longing to be at peace with God our Creator and Redeemer, to be at peace with our fellow human beings and to be at peace with our own selves. Making peace in all its forms seems to me to be so fundamental to human flourishing that one would imagine every college and university would claim such a message for itself. And yet, they have not done so. I am so pleased that Goshen College has!
If God’s name is Peace (Judges 6:24), if God’s Son is our Peace (Eph. 2:14), if we worship such a God, and if we put God before everything else, then the scope of our peacemaking must be deep and wide. Making peace can never be just about conflict resolution, reconciliation or reducing evil. Nor can making peace simply be about nonviolence, being anti-this or antithat or trying to stop wars or protesting wrong – as important as those activities are.
Making peace must be about human flourishing, joy, beauty and celebration. The prophet Isaiah dreams of a day when the children of the world will be taught by Rabbi God how to create shalom (great prosperity) for the whole world (Isa. 54:13). Pope John Paul II, sounding a similar refrain, once said, “To reach peace, teach peace.” Philosopher Nicholas Walterstorff called such a vision “educating for shalom.” And Albert Einstein insisted that lasting peace “can only be achieved by understanding. [It] cannot be kept by force.” Prophet, pope, philosopher and scientist – all came to the same conclusion, that the outcome of a good education grounded in faith and core values, the kind we are committed to providing here at Goshen College, should be lasting peace in all its forms. A liberal arts education doesn’t get much better than that.
Making peace means inviting God to be present in our lives, day by day, minute by minute. Making peace means doing good, celebrating accomplishments and competing well. Making peace means discovering new medicines, creating a musical masterpiece, teaching a child to read. Making peace is a warm embrace, the thrill of a kiss, a word of encouragement and a job well done. Making peace, as expressed throughout this issue of the Bulletin, is anything and everything that encourages human flourishing and hope.
We cannot go back to the old “peacenik” days of yesteryear, when the work of peace was too often reduced to a pet list of sanctioned professions, or callings, or issues, or narrow means to the exclusion of other equally powerful peace-making options. A businessperson in a manufacturing company must not be viewed as a second-class peacemaker to a voluntary service worker in some faraway country. An engineer is no less called to make peace than a preacher. A basketball coach who works miracles of heart, motivation, discipline and teamwork may, in fact, outpace a bookish theologian in creating a more peaceful world. The social policy expert in Washington, D.C., is no less a potential peacemaker than the social worker on Skid Row, the politician no less than the mediator, the wonky green economist no less than the radical prophet. Dolores Huerta, the Latina civil rights leader, said in 2008 when she visited campus: “Every person can make a difference, and every minute is a chance to change the world!” I agree.
What matters most? What matters most is a world at peace with God, with each other and with ourselves. At Goshen College, “Healing the World, Peace by Peace” is more than a catchy phrase, a clever slogan; it is a promise to live by, a vocation, a holy calling. So, let there be faithful followers and deep thinkers, soccer games and poetry jams. Let there be movie nights and recycling days. Let there be Goshen College, ever singing, honor to our Master bringing. And, yes, let there be peace on earth!