Once there was group of well-intentioned Americans visiting the Moroccan city of Tangiers. They went to the famed Casbah to see the market there and to buy brass pots.
Now the merchants in that place have a particular way of bargaining. When they are trying to settle a price with a customer they step close to the person so that they may exchange breaths with them. Each time a merchant stepped close to one of the American tourists, the tourist grew nervous and stepped back. So the merchant stepped closer. It became a dance with two frustrated partners. The merchant stepped closer; the tourist stepped back.
Finally the American tourists were so uncomfortable and angry they fled to their bus. This enraged the merchants because they considered the tourists rude and disrespectful. Their practice was to come to some sort of agreement on a price -– even if it was to agree to disagree -– before they parted ways. They followed the Americans angrily to their bus where they proceeded to shout at them and spit on the bus.
There was one woman among the group of tourists who had not been afraid to bargain with the merchants in their way. When the merchant stepped close she stepped closer. She joined the dance in a different way. And eventually she bought a brass pot for a very good price. As she headed back to the bus she saw that she was the last tourist to return. She saw all the angry merchants shouting at the bus and spitting. Not knowing what had happened, she wondered how she would be able to get through the angry crowd. As she neared the bus, the merchants turned as if to begin shouting at her. But from the back of the crowd came a voice -- the voice of the merchant who had successfully sold the woman the pot –- “No, no! She’s all right! She is one of us!” And the crowd parted for the woman to join her group.
In John 14, Jesus says to his disciples at their last supper together, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”
“Peace I give, my peace,” says Jesus; and by implication, this is not the peace the world gives. Are there different kinds of peace? The peace of the world in the late first century when the gospel of John was written was the peace of the Roman Empire, a peace achieved through conquering other peoples, peace achieved through war, peace achieved through all people following the right laws and the right ruler, the Emperor.
This is not the peace of Jesus. Jesus’ peace was God’s peace, peace through compassion and love, peace even in the midst of conflict and persecution. God’s peace crosses the boundaries of otherness between peoples and nations. God’s peace builds bridges in relationships. It is empowering power, power that works in and through people to bring justice to those who have been oppressed and marginalized. God’s peace crosses boundaries without diminishing or destroying human dignity and integrity. God’s peace enabled the woman in the story above to step closer the merchant, to enter into his ways, though they were new and strange to her. God’s peace empowers us to step outside our comfort zones to experience someone we may think of as “the other” with welcome and grace.
Pay attention this week! Where are you called to step closer, to bridge a gap, to enter a new space or relationship and discover God’s peace?
Blessings on the journey,