From the Archbishop

Seek God’s reign of peace in a just global order

TMAThe need for peace in our world makes our proclamation of the Gospel all the more urgent, writes Archbishop Freier.

By Archbishop Philip Freier

September 6 2015Whatever might be said about the 20th century, it was a period where the world had been divided up amongst different nation states.

Some of these states fought destructive wars against each other and state boundaries were enlarged or reduced depending on the outcome of the conflict but by and large there was an apparent commitment to maintaining the integrity of nation states and ensuring their continuity notwithstanding these horrific events.

Throughout the century most of the colonies established in the centuries before were brought into the community of nations as independent equal members.

What has emerged in the first 15 years of our present century is the increasing reality of “ungoverned spaces” often within the asserted boundaries of otherwise recognised nation states. It is well known that large areas of Iraq and Syria are in this situation, but the reality of such ungoverned spaces occurs on several continents.

With the growth of these ungoverned spaces I have been interested to look at the biblical evidence as it concerns the corporate identity of people.

Certainly the existence of different nations is understood as being as ancient as the dispersion that follows from God’s destruction of the Tower of Babel. Indeed Deuteronomy 32:8 speaks of the identity and boundaries of nations as divinely ordered: “When the Most High apportioned the nations, when he divided humankind, he fixed the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the gods; the LORD’s own portion was his people, Jacob his allotted share.”

Acts 17:26-27 essentially reiterates this understanding but ties the differentiation of peoples amongst the nations to their search for God, a search that is answered in Christ. As Acts 17 quotes St Paul in Athens, it is easy to see his teaching being received by people familiar with the story of the destruction of the Tower of Babel as being about God’s generous healing of human division in Christ.

The teaching of St Paul in the epistles sees the distinction between peoples on the basis of language, ethnicity or culture as at best provisional or secondary to the unity that is possible in Christ. Paul himself is unhesitating in appealing to the order of the Roman Empire and the privileges his status as a Roman citizen conferred when his rights were abused.

The teaching of the New Testament maintains the assertion of God as the true source of earthly power with Romans 13 being a crisp statement of that position. Here an organised system of authority is clearly envisaged, not the chaos of brigandry or ungoverned spaces. The orderly character of human society is the sign of God’s hand in human affairs. Order is better than chaos – just look at the rush of people out of these ungoverned spaces seeking to find refuge in ordered societies.

As people find their reconciliation with God in Christ and with each other we should look for the reign of peace to increase in the world. I think that this makes our proclamation of the Gospel – especially to the least responsive people – all the more urgent. It also is a reason why our compassionate response to those who flee anarchy, chaos and violence is so essential.