I don’t know enough about Islamic theology and history to make definitive utterances on whether or not it is a religion of peace. I will leave that to our political leaders and social media commentators and celebrities to discuss. But I will tell you what I do know: Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and Christianity practiced and based upon his teaching and example is a religion of peace.
I do know this: Jesus never physically harmed any person, never carried a weapon, never invaded another’s territory or led military campaigns, never took slaves, did not have multiple wives, did not plunder the wealth of others, did not order the death of those who walked away from the faith, did not allow people to stone a woman for adultery, and did not die as a powerful and wealthy man.
Instead, Jesus preached God’s love and forgiveness, calling people to turn from sin and selfishness. He was tender-hearted and compassionate to the poor, the friendless and the outcast. In a society that didn’t, he treated women with honour and respect. In compassion he healed the sick and welcomed the lepers. He taught people not to retaliate or resort to violence against their enemies. He modelled and taught people to do good, be kind, forgive, bless, serve, and he gave his own life for humanity by dying on a cross, condemned as a poor and powerless criminal.
I can’t comment on other world religions regarding whether they preach peace, and frankly, I don’t have the time to investigate all of them. But if you can find a better example, a better person, a more inspirational leader and teacher than Jesus, then follow that person and give your life fully to emulating them. For me, Jesus is the destination and my spiritual quest has ended. I can imagine no one better, no one more worthy of my life and my love.
For Christians, Jesus is more than a wonderful, inspirational, noble and sublime spiritual teacher. He was God become a human being. For Christians, Jesus is what God is like. In fact, we might be better to say that Jesus does not look like God, but rather, God looks like Jesus. You cannot study the life of Jesus in the 4 Gospels, or look at the sacrificial and generous lives of the first Jesus followers, and conclude anything other than this was a man and a movement marked by radical and sacrificial love, gracious forgiveness, generous care and servant-hearted giving.
Whatever we think and hear about the violence being done in the name of religion in Paris, Beirut, Syria, Iraq—or wherever, let’s do this as Christians: Let’s stop being so shy, coy, and even embarrassed about Jesus, and let’s shout his name and message from the rooftops, in the alleyways, in our homes, and back this up with lives of humble love and compassionate deeds. This, my friends, will show the world a religion of peace.
A couple of Biblical references to the Messiah Jesus:
The Prophet Isaiah:
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
The Letter to the Church at Ephesus:
“The Messiah has made things up between us so that we’re now together on this, both non-Jewish outsiders and Jewish insiders. He tore down the wall we used to keep each other at a distance. He repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped. Then he started over. Instead of continuing with two groups of people separated by centuries of animosity and suspicion, he created a new kind of human being, a fresh start for everybody.
Christ brought us together through his death on the cross. The Cross got us to embrace, and that was the end of the hostility. Christ came and preached peace to you outsiders and peace to us insiders. He treated us as equals, and so made us equals. Through him we both share the same Spirit and have equal access to the Father.”
* Image is called “Jesus-Shed Blood”, by artist Sara Bowersock