Isaiah's "Peaceful Kingdom" text is a beautiful description of what this world might look like if we were living in peace. "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid." It depicts typically adverse relationships becoming loving ones. A peaceful world is one where love reigns over conflict and hatred.
When people are at odds, I believe the entire conflicted relationship stems from a misguided desire to make others do what we think they should do. Let's look at some of the cultures and subcultures at odds in our world today.
Some conservative people hate the LGBT community. They believe it's wrong, and the community ought to change or hide who they are.
White supremacists believe blacks are inferior. They believe black people are dangerous or stupid, and should be locked up because they can't behave like they think they should.
Terrorists believe privileged worlds are mindless, self-indulgent consumers. They believe the lifestyle is wrong, and should be punished with the penalty of death.
All of these conflicts come, not just because people disagree with one another, but because people demand others change to become more like them. There's no wiggle room for independence, for differentness, or for free thought. No room for two seemingly conflicting ideologies to exist in the same space.
Isaiah's description of a peaceful kingdom doesn't describe a lion shedding his mane and starting to grow wool. It doesn't suggests that the bear will stop walking on two legs and walk only on four like the cow. A peaceful kingdom doesn't require that the animals (or people) stop being who they are -- except where being who they are is harmful to others. The peaceful kingdom does describe bears grazing like cows, because the alternative is eating the cow. It does describe snakes refraining from biting a child, because the alternative is the child's death. A peaceful kingdom gives us space to be who we are, as long as our behaviors aren't harmful to others. A peaceful kingdom doesn't demand people change to be more like us just because we think they should.
I get overwhelmed when I consider the entire world and the sheer magnitude of making this a peaceful world. But I don't have to solve the world's peace problems. I only have to do what I can to make my part of the world a peaceful world. This means I refrain from imposing my ideologies, perspectives, and behaviors on others. I give the people in my world space to be who they are, even when their behaviors are displeasing to me. In my family we are free to make our own mistakes and experience the consequences of our mistakes. How else will we learn? We are not free to engage in behaviors that harm ourselves or others. But we can be ourselves.
My house is a peaceful house, for the most part (nobody's perfect). I can see glimpses of cows and bears grazing together.
And it's a beautiful thing to behold. Thank you, God. Amen.