Did you know that our nature is to be peaceful? “Love God and love your neighbor as yourself” is not just an aspiration for those who have found Christian faith. It is our true nature.
Easter is the resurrection of the Prince of Peace who seemed defeated on the cross. Christ is risen, and a new creation has now begun. But this new creation does not dismiss what is already there. The risen Christ not only reveals our future, but also our true humanity right now.
The war in the Ukraine is what made me think of peace at Eastertime. It seems so utterly naïve to believe that men are made for peace, rather than war, and that even in life right now, God’s eternal peace is already with us. When we see one country thinking its neighbor ripe for plucking and slaughtering men, women, and children, then it is hard to believe in the possibly that humankind is made for peace. We thought that such warfare only happens when states collapse, when anarchy arises, but not by cold-blooded decision making of the ruler of an industrialized country that had become a full part of the global economy.
Maybe you blame it on our biological nature asserting itself and shaking off the thin veneer of civilization. Our biological nature includes the heritage of animal aggression and evolutionary biology’s apparent favoring the strong. But in fact, evolution is more about cooperation, as you see in the development towards more complex organisms and ecosystems. In any event, talk of evolution and animals misses the point. Being human is to step outside of the animal’s self-centered perspective and embrace the meaning of our lives. Human nature is to know love, creativity, caring and living. But human nature is also knowing that we can turn to violence.
This kind of violence is not just outside of us. It remains present in our hearts, especially when we pretend otherwise. We know of the conflict at the bottom of our human being that is a contradiction. We have a nature, and we can turn against it. We can be human, and we can turn to being inhuman. It happens to all of us. But turning away from our nature is not our nature. Our meaning is being human, not its negation. We must acknowledge our humanity in its true nature and embrace it.
Christ is risen! This is the call that knows peace to be stronger than war, even when we mourn the loss of innocent lives by warfare. We must work for peace, we must work for protection of the innocent, and we must overcome the warmongers. But we must firstly believe in peace as our true nature. This is not about which is stronger. We already know that peace is stronger. Easter is about living in this knowledge.
Image credit: Grieving parents by Käthe Kollwitz, Kerkhof Vladslo Diksmuide Collection – www.artinflanders.be – Hugo Maertens.