We invited Reverend Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference, to reflect on what the Covenant of Peace could mean today:
On a hilltop overlooking Bethlehem, David who farms these olive groves looks out over the settlements that move towards his land ‘I refuse to have enemies, I refuse to hate, hope is resistance.’ David is increasingly powerless, a pawn in international politics and land occupations, and yet, David is divinely powerful. He will not be made smaller by what he sees, he will not make himself bigger by rubbishing another.
In politics, in racism, in families we witness all around us people who are belittling others. They do this in so many ways, by sneering, by ridicule, by gossip, by fake news, as well as by war, politics and tribalism. One person tries to feel taller by making someone else shorter. Ultimately this process is designed to make the ‘other’ disappear entirely. Belittling is an act of violence.
I have been intrigued over Christmas by the relationship between Jesus and John the Baptist. Both unexpected children, one to elderly parents who were past hope, the other the surprising first born of a young woman. John who cuts a wild figure renouncing the company of the world, Jesus who mixes with tax collectors and sinners. Different though they were, they both saw in the other one not a threat but a completeness. John knewthat in Jesus something new was happening that will be greater than himself. Jesus knew that John was the ‘Elijah that was to come (Matthew 11:14) These two strange and different men, were not rivals but part of the same story, the story of a Kingdom that was to come. Neither grew bigger by belittling the other but by recognising the need of each other and naming it.
When David refuses to hate and to have enemies it is not a resignation to the events around him. When his olive trees are cut down, he plants more, when his buildings are demolished he pitches tents. When John says, ‘there is one that comes after me that is greater than I’ he is speaking of possibility not resignation. To find the best in someone else, is to find the best in ourselves.
So, hope is resistance, it is a verb, it is a commitment to live differently, it is supremely powerful, not at the expense of someone else but for the transformation of all of us. And hope is not wishful thinking, it is a call to action. In 2020 we are called to hope, and that means to be people who will not rubbish others to make ourselves bigger.
And if this feels like an impossible task in the face of political upheaval and environmental threat, then we need to remind ourselves that it is only possible because we are promised a covenant relationship with God – we are God’s people and we are called into relationship not only with our creator but with the whole of creation. We are never loved any less by God by loving others, indeed the contrary is true. God’s covenant of peace means to see each other as God sees us and to say so!