Thursday, September 06, 2007

There is No Peace? Part 2

The Hebrew word in both Jeremiah 6:14 and Ezekiel 13:10-12 for "peace" is Shalom.

In another example of how the English language is overrated, our single word for peace painfully fails to capture the meaning of the Hebrew word Shalom, which has more to do with completeness, rightness, and soundness than freedom from violence. With this definition in mind, I believe these two verse speak volumes on how we as believers should interact with culture and make art.

Ezekiel 13:10-12:
"'Because they lead my people astray, saying, "Peace," when there is no peace, and because, when a flimsy wall is built, they cover it with whitewash, 11 therefore tell those who cover it with whitewash that it is going to fall. Rain will come in torrents, and I will send hailstones hurtling down, and violent winds will burst forth. 12 When the wall collapses, will people not ask you, "Where is the whitewash you covered it with?"

Jeremiah 6:14 "They have healed the brokenness of My people superficially,
Saying, 'Peace, peace,'
But there is no peace."

In both of these verses, God is speaking through His prophets, condemning the false prophets who are convincing everyone that everything is alright. Often times when we as believers think about how we should filter what comes into our minds, we think in terms of major sins: if a book as a sex scene in it, I can't read it; if a film has profanity, I can't watch it; if a TV show is filled with violence, I can't view it. But what should be of much greater concern is how the world presents to us Peace, but there is no peace.

A car commercial subtly persuades us that the purchase of a vehicle will make our lives complete. Difficulties, problems, all will be set right if we own a car.

A romantic comedy, free from sex scenes and frank dialogue about sex, suggests that if a person finds that special someone, the one person they are meant for in the world, they will be complete. All fears will melt away once we have true love. Nothing will be too frightening once we have that one, perfect, companion.

A political candidate assures his audience that if elected, he will make our country secure, safe, and sound. The poor will be fed, the corrupt will be outed, and the economy will be mended. If only he is elected, then we can have economic, geopolitical, and domestic peace.

But there is no peace.

When we as believers engage culture, we need to remember that our peace comes from Christ, from His work on the cross, from knowing where we belong and who we are, not from anything in this life. It is a fundamental truth that all people long for peace, for Shalom, and that one of the best ways to turn a buck is to promise people peace. Whether it is advertisements, films, or songs, we must remember that these things are merely white washed walls, covering up the ugly, unbearable fact that there is no peace in this life outside of Christ. Everything else is a chasing after wind.

As artists, this idea of medium as prophetic utterance is just as meaningful as for the consumer of art. When we create, we must create in such a way as to show that there is no peace outside of Christ. Whenever we fail to do this, we are false prophets.

So often Christian art slips into portraying humanity, the world, and nature as healed and at peace with God, because if humanity is not at peace with God, then people are stilling sinning, and if people are sinning then there is still sin in the world, and if there is sin in the world of our art, then it must have representation. When we fail to show that the world, humans, even nature to some extent, does not have peace, we are false prophets, white washing the world, when only the blood of Christ can do that.

In a similar way, when Christian artists are so focused on creating for their own subculture that they forget to speak to the issues that face all people, they are giving their audience peace, not in Christ, but in Christendom. When we only sing songs of rejoicing, of bliss, of blithe, we are asserting that the peace of Christ has already taken us out of suffering; we are false prophets crying, "Peace, peace, But there is no peace."

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