During the days of Jesus, and up until the late second century, the Roman Empire had a motto of sorts. But not just a motto per se but a gospel, a declaration of peace, of an era of intense growth, conquest, and victory. This motto was Pax Romana (Lit. Roman Peace) or better understood in it's day as 'Peace by the Sword.' Rome had brought culture, education, water, bread, security, and peace to some of the farthest reaches of the known world. It all sounds so nice, definelty a gospel people could get behind, but truth be told these things came at a price. A price that was often paid with the blood of anyone who refused this new gospel of peace.
We have to take this in account when we open the scriptures and we begin to read about this backwoods Jewish Rabbi named Jesus who came offering peace, but not just peace, not the peace the world gives, not peace by the sword, but a peace that no man, King, or empire could rob from us. A peace that comes not by way of military conquest and war but a peace that comes by way of radical love.
Jesus came offering a new way to see and live in the world. A way that stood in direct opposition to Rome and its gospel of Pax Romana. A way that the apostles and church Fathers were so convinced had the power to reshape all of creation that they were willing to die for it. But not by going out with a fight. No! The gospel of Jesus led them to abandoning the sword and the false idea that war was a viable means of progress.
Simply put, to accept Christ as Lord is to reject Caeser, war, and the way of the sword altogether.
Today is Memorial Day, a day we remember those who were unable to escape the hellish fires of war. But like Jesus and the early Christians we are called to reject the idea that war will ever bring true peace. So for us this is a day we mourn the tragic loss of life at the hands of Pax Americana. Because regardless if it is America or Rome we know the way of the sword will never bring peace to the world and that means we have much work to do.
In the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus we see the radical alternative to the gospel of America, Rome, War, and Conquest.
"Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
-Jesus (John 15:13)
This is the cruciform love that leads to the peace that brings all wars to an end. A love that hangs on a cross being tortured at the hands of his enemies and still forgives them. To equate these words with going off to war for a nation is to completely deny the life and teachings of Jesus.
Let Memorial Day be a day that jars you. Disturbs you even. A Day that Reminds you that the only way to truly honor those who have lost their lives in the hell that is war is by embracing the kingdom of God and working for the peace that brings all wars to an end. We must remember that it is not Pax Romana, nor is it Pax Americana, that will rid the world of Hell but rather Pax Christus and the radical cruciform love of our Lord!
For more on this topic check out the 2nd episode of the #LessonsFromDeadGuys podcast: