2020 was a strange year—from the drone strike that killed General Qasem Soleimani, to COVID-19, the death of George Floyd and the presidential election to name a few. Where was the “peace on earth” the angels proclaimed at Jesus’ birth? “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased” (Luke 2:13-14).

If the events of the year 2020 teach us anything, it’s that peace continues to be elusive. Will we ever be able to be at peace with one another? Will we have a lasting response to the racial upheaval we experienced in 2020? In this New Year I am wondering what “peace on earth” will look like for my beloved Seventh-day Adventist Church.

What is the role of the church?

The answer to this question will vary significantly from region to region and from individual to individual. And that is because the root cause for the absence of peace goes much deeper than just communities getting along. I believe the cause is a three-letter word that has begun to drop out of our mainstream vocabulary: SIN. Sin is the breakdown of the “cross” relationship–first the vertical relationship that links man to God, and then the horizontal relationship that links man to man.

According to the Scriptures, peace is really a matter of choice. First, God chose to come down to be born on earth to bring salvation healing, and thus to mend this vertical broken relationship. We all need to choose that healing for our individual selves because only God can heal our broken personal world. Only God can make peace with us.

Second, Emmanuel came into this world, “emptying” himself into the infant of Bethlehem precisely for that reason—to bring peace as a gift to mankind. Speaking of this peace mission, the prophet Isaiah said, “For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).

Finally, the current challenge is for the church of God to do some serious thinking. If we are to identify with Christ and be part of this peace mission, I submit that we must incarnate ourselves into communities that are different from us.

Proactive actions

In the Minnesota Conference office I have witnessed two of our white sisters ask what they could do to help. The involvement of our Youth director and our Human Resources director in community service and a march for peace last year in the affected section of Minneapolis in the aftermath of the riots was a powerful gesture.

I talked to them after their experience with their fellow African-American Adventists in the event for racial reconciliation. Their testimony of “listening to the stories and empathizing with the pain” was impactful. I believe that their act of stepping outside of one’s comfort zone to engage a community that is different is a microcosm of what the Seventh-day Adventist Church needs to do across the board.

I may be naïve, but I think all these events of 2020 tell us that God wants to deal with us on the basis of Christ’s birth, and that now is the time for the church to be proactive and act on behalf of God. We have been talking about this serious issue of race relations since the 1800s! The question now is when will that angelic proclamation “Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth” mean something to a world racially divided?

I want to suggest that it’s time for YOU to proactively move out of your comfort zone and cross the racial line, bringing the gift of peace across. That’s what Christ did for us when He came into our world. And maybe that’s what He meant when He said, “Go and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:37).

For our political leaders, I think that means reaching across the aisle. And for church members it means becoming Christ-like.

Let’s go out of our way to give the gift of peace in a more practical manner—no abstract or sentimental stuff.

Jesus says this gospel of the kingdom must impact peoples’ lives in a more meaningful way in this world, if it is to be meaningful in the world to come. I believe that we have an opportunity in 2021 to see God do an incredible work, something new. The Lord wants His church to change and grow. God wants us to love our neighbors enough to challenge them to be part of God’s kingdom.

Please, let’s not wait until another crisis hits us. Let’s give the gift of peace to our communities: black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American—every person caring for and being accountable to each other. Then we can truly experience peace.