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The Jesus Factor in Justice and Peacemaking

Summary: The relationship between Jesus and peace has been a confused and controversial subject. Was Jesus essentially a peacemaker? Does the Jesus approach to peacemaking apply to social-political peacemaking or primarily to personal peace? Did he advocate nonviolence as well as non-coercion? Is his way the only way to peace? How do we reconcile Jesus’ teachings on peace with God’s judgment? What kind of power does Jesus claim?

Can we learn anything from a figure who lived in a context so different from our own?

How do Jesus’ teachings relate to teachings from other faith traditions?
Is there a tension between modern, evidence-based practice and Jesus’ teachings? Does Jesus have any relevance for practical efforts toward peace and justice?

In this surprisingly short but sophisticated book, Kraus tackles some of the most complicated and controversial issues in biblical interpretation with clarity, simplicity, and practical relevance. He does argue that Jesus’ way is a way of peace, though it is not the only approach and does not rule out all coercion.
Moreover, the way to peace cannot be understood as a series of rules, or interpretations of a few passages, or as dogma to be imposed. Rather, Jesus offers an overall “gestalt”—a pattern of thinking grounded in a vision of right relationships and the importance of respectful dialogue, a peace to be realized not “through hegemonic religious domination but through God’s offer of conflict transformation across religious boundaries!”

For the past fifteen years I have been part of the Center for Justice & Peacebuilding (CJP) at Eastern Mennonite University, a practice-oriented graduate program that brings practitioners from dozens of countries and many faiths together to learn from each other. My own area of work is in restorative justice, but our team includes colleagues with backgrounds in conflict transformation, trauma healing, organizational health, and community development. We see these fields, and others, as essential parts of peacebuilding.

Although we are explicitly Christian, we acknowledge the contributions of various religious faiths and seek to create a hospitable climate of respectful, open dialogue in which all of us who participate learn from one another. In his Preface, Kraus notes that this book was originally envisioned for us at CJP and our diverse community. Although the manuscript has gone through many transformations since that original vision and is now relevant to a much wider audience, I believe he has accomplished his original goal. This book will be a real asset to our CJP community of learning and practice.

If you are a Christian interested in peace, if you are a Christian justice or peace practitioner, if you are Buddhist or Hindu or Jewish and interested in understanding connections between your own faith and Christian approaches to peace—then this book is for you.

—Howard Zehr, Harrisonburg, Virginia
Professor of Restorative Justice, Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, Eastern Mennonite University

 

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