Peace be with you: Channeling anger into healing and restoration

This reflection was written by Principal Jesse Zink for this week’s Wingèd Ox, a weekly news digest distributed to the college community. You will find reflections from previous weeks here.

Dear colleagues,

Something concerning is happening in Quebec: mayors and other local officials are resigning from their jobs. The latest was Gatineau mayor France Bélisle who resigned in February. She is at least the third mayor to leave their post since municipal elections were held in fall 2021. In her resignation, Bélisle cited the sheer volume of personal attacks she received, including death threats. This trend is a further development of a trend spotted in the lead-up to those 2021 elections when many municipal officials chose not to run for re-election. They also cited the burden of serving in office at a time when public discourse is becoming coarser, harsher, and less forgiving. Many pointed to the way in which social media has made those who serve in local office much easier to target and abuse.

Why should Christians, especially those preparing for ministry, care about this? First, churches, like municipal leaders, are part of the public square. It is in the interest of churches to have a thriving common sphere of activity in which we engage in shared discourse and debate to shape our common life. Second, the trend that is revealed by the resignation of these local officials is not confined simply to municipal office. Many people in leadership roles, including clergy in congregations, are finding themselves on the receiving end of more and more abuse and vitriol. It is no wonder that across many churches there is a sense that many clergy are considering leaving ministry. For whatever combination of reasons, one of the effects of the pandemic has been to make many of us angry, upset, or enraged. We are taking it out on one another, including those who step forward for the largely thankless but absolutely vital task of local government leadership.

If there was ever anyone who had a right to be upset or even vengeful, it is Jesus Christ. Betrayed and condemned to death in a sham trial, Jesus rose again from the dead. But instead of using his new position to get back at those who had wronged him, to inflict violence on those who had used violence on him, he returned to say, “Peace be with you” and to send his followers into the world as emissaries of this peace. As we heard from The Rev. Michael Lapsley, guest preacher at the college last week, at the very core of our calling as Christians is the call to set aside the desire for vengeance and retribution and instead, in Christ, seek healing and restoration.

As I read the stories of what these local government officials are enduring, I think of the fruits of life in the Holy Spirit that Paul cites in Galatians: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The call of Christians is not to retreat to our private lives but to remain engaged and active in the public square. As we do, perhaps Christians can model a little bit more of these fruits in a society that seems increasingly devoid of them.

Faithfully yours,

Jesse Zink