Seek peace and pursue it

10/3/2016

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN


Thank you for your tremendous response to the laity and clergy gatherings we are holding in each district. Through these opportunities Sherrill and I are seeing firsthand how much the South Georgia Conference truly is Alive Together in Christ. After each laity or clergy meeting we find ourselves quoting Psalm 133: How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity!

The energy and inspiration of our district meetings stands in stark contrast with the recent violence in Charlotte, North Carolina. Similar violence occurred last summer in Baton Rouge, La.; Minneapolis, and Dallas. As disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, our hearts go out to the families of all those who are victims of senseless and needless violence. By His own example Jesus taught us not to turn away from individuals, families, and communities that are hurting, but to move toward them and embrace them in the power of the Holy Spirit. 

What can we do with the anger and grief that we feel in the face of such violence?  How do we keep from surrendering to despair or apathy?

First, we can open our Bibles to Numbers 35:22-34 and discover the profound truth expressed in v. 33: “You shall not pollute the land in which you live; for violence pollutes the land....” Violence pollutes the land.  We feel anger and grief because we love this land and we refuse to accept the pollution that violence creates.

Next, we can cultivate the habit of praying – as we listen to the news reports of violence – for all who suffer brutality at the hands of others. This includes domestic violence, workplace violence, and the violence that erupts in our communities. In addition to our individual prayers, our presence in corporate worship gives us the opportunity to pray for our own community and for those who put their lives on the line daily in order to protect and defend all citizens. 

Finally, we can participate in acts of peace and unity. Over the past four years, for instance, I have had the privilege of joining in community-wide worship sponsored by United Methodist churches in partnership with AME, AME-Zion, and CME churches. These Pan-Methodist services become signs of hope as they provide a visible witness to the healing love of Jesus Christ in the community. 

The world needs what The United Methodist Church is uniquely equipped to provide. Building on this foundation, let us press ahead as the Holy Spirit uses us to overcome dividing walls of hostility and live together in peace and unity.  

Yes, violence pollutes the land. But there is an alternative: seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:8-12).

Alive Together in Christ,

R. Lawson Bryan