The root of peace
I grew up as the son of missionaries in Pakistan, and when we were on furlough in the U.S. my parents would go to churches and speak about the work they were doing in Pakistan.
Sometimes I was asked to speak to the youth Sunday School group, of my age group. My parents had put together a slide show showing our life in Pakistan. And I still remember the little spiel I would give.
One of the slides was of a water buffalo. This is a large animal, larger than our cows, but you would see them all over in Pakistan. They were the mainstay of the rural economy.
Most every family in Pakistan in the countryside had at least one water buffalo. They were the source of milk for the family, they pulled the oxcarts, they even provided the fuel for the fires in their dung.
They were ugly, black with bald skin, with sparse hair coming out at odd spots. But one of the most enduring images I have of them is that you would often see them being led around by one of the children of the family. This huge, ugly, powerful, mean looking beast would be being led by a 5 to 8-year-old child, docilely walking along. The two were a team, and it was clear that the child was in charge. There was something striking, powerful and even comforting about that image for me, a young child leading and in control of this dangerous, powerful beast.
This is the image that Isaiah paints in Isaiah, Chapter 11. His image is of a world of peace, creation in harmony with itself, the lion and the calf and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them. It comes from the root of Jesse, who we know is Jesus Christ.
Certainly, we see all of those things that Isaiah mentions in Christ. The Spirit of the Lord was upon him, righteousness and faithfulness were his belt. But here we are, 2,000 years later, and we’re still looking forward to some of those things that are promised by Isaiah.
We still keep our children away from poisonous snakes, and while we may have some images like the one I remember of the child leading the dangerous animal, we won’t put a lion with a calf – he’ll eat it. Where is that peace? To get that peace Isaiah is showing us, we need to take on Christ. We get those gifts of the Spirit which were conferred on him, and we take on Christ’s righteousness, his faithfulness. We must take on his concern for the poor, for the meek of the world. That’s how peace starts. It starts with us, as someone has said, living right in a wrong world by living with Jesus.
REV. DALE BROWN is the pastor of Cumberland and Guinea Presbyterian churches. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.