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Peace and Justice are inextricably linked. As followers of Christ, we should not be afraid to – in fact we should expect to – “rock the boat” because we should be bearers of light that shines into dark corners, where the weak and poor are exploited. We should expect to come into conflict with lies and dishonesty, with prejudice and bigotry.

Jesus is often called the “Prince of Peace” and, it’s true, if you spend quite time in meditation and prayer, it will bring you peace.

However, Jesus did not always bring peace – he sometimes brought disruption. He caused division because he forced people to choose, to declare where they stood: for or against the truth, for or against the light, even within families – at times.

Flor McCarthy, a Catholic priest and monk writes, “Hence it is that the one who brings justice, without which peace has no meaning, can cause scandal and division.” He recorded the following story to illustrate this and to explain Luke 12: 49–53. I am indebted to the Rev’d Julia Denny-Dimitriou from the Parish of All Souls, St Peters, for finding this story.

Fire upon the earth

Once there was a village in a remote place. It was a peaceful and orderly village. Everybody knew their place: high caste, low caste, and no caste. Water was vital, but the people were lucky to have a good well. The only problems was that it was a long distance from the village. It was no joke for the women whose task it was to carry full pots on their heads from the well to their huts. The well was for those born into a caste. It was a gift from God to God’s faithful servants. Hence it was called “God’s well”. However, it was forbidden to the outcasts, those who belonged to no caste, the untouchables. They had to make do with water scooped from drains and mud holes which caused all kinds of illnesses among their children.

One day a bright young idealistic engineer arrived in the village. He seemed a gentle, peace-loving chap. The villagers took to him at once. They also liked the idea he came up with. He noticed the long trek the women were forced to make daily to the well. He noticed the untouchables drinking out of mud holes. Moved with compassion, he showed them plans he had drawn up for sinking a well right in the heart of the village. They would be spared the long and tiresome journey to the well. Clean and pure water would be available on tap in the village square. The women looked on the news as an answer to their prayers. The young engineer produced the plans for the project, and everyone was excited about it.

But the night before the drilling was due to start the young engineer let slip a remark: “Of course the water will be available to everyone, even the untouchables”. He didn’t know what he was letting himself in for. He stirred up a hornet’s nest. No way would the villagers agree to share the water with the untouchables!

However, after some persuasion, some did agree. Then the village was split in two. For a while the two factions faced each other, and things threatened to turn nasty. But in the end, those who were against sharing it prevailed.

They turned on the young man and let him have it: “Look,” they said “This used to be a quiet and peaceful village! Everything was normal until you came along!”

“Normal did you say?” the engineer remarked, fighting back. “Is it normal that some human beings should drink out of mud holes while others drink out of clean wells?”

But they wouldn’t listen to him. They chased him out of the village, calling him a “troublemaker” and a “disrupter” of the peace.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain