How do enemies become friends?
Joshua 3: 7-17
7 And the Lord said to Joshua, ‘Today I will begin to exalt you in the eyes of all Israel, so that they may know that I am with you as I was with Moses. 8 Tell the priests who carry the ark of the covenant: “When you reach the edge of the Jordan’s waters, go and stand in the river.”’
9 Joshua said to the Israelites, ‘Come here and listen to the words of the Lord your God. 10 This is how you will know that the living God is among you and that he will certainly drive out before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites and Jebusites. 11 See, the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth will go into the Jordan ahead of you. 12 Now then, choose twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. 13 And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord – the Lord of all the earth – set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.’
14 So when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is in flood all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So the people crossed over opposite Jericho. 17 The priests who carried the ark of the covenant of the Lord stopped in the middle of the Jordan and stood on dry ground, while all Israel passed by until the whole nation had completed the crossing on dry ground.
The seeds of peace lie in courageous leadership, courageous leadership depends on deep humility, deep humility has its origins in wisdom and wisdom has its source in God. Joshua knows that he cannot lead the people of Israel in his own strength, but only in dependence upon God.
It seems to me that too many of our leaders today are self-reliant, depending only on the force of threat or on the advice of generals and while I know that the world is a dangerous place - and would be among the first to say that we still need brave women and men who are prepared to stand between us and the enemies of peace - we also need a new army of brave women and men in leadership who are prepared to follow the example of Christ, giving themselves over to the risky business of making peace.
It is only possible for enemies to become friends if we are prepared to speak to our enemies while they are still enemies. That is the only way that I know of making a lasting peace – it is a risky and sacrificial path. In this week our poppies will be worn to remember those who ‘gave their tomorrow for our today’, these women and men were truly courageous, but it takes no less courage to sit across the table from our enemy and talk about what might make us friends.
God of all the ages, we know that there is a time for war and a time for peace; but, today we pray forgiveness for all that lies in our hearts and in the hearts of our enemies that lead to violence and hostility.
Teach us to be a people guided by the love and the example of Christ whose way of peace was risky and sacrificial.
Make each of us channels of your peace and when our leaders meet their antagonists prepare them for dialogue which breaks down barriers and lays the foundations for reconciliation. Amen.