It was not accidental that a historic peace agreement for Northern Ireland was made a few years ago on Good Friday. To people of goodwill on both sides of the sectarian divide, the ultimately loyalty to Christ, and the significance of the holy day, made a powerful contribution to finalising a deal.
It is therefore tragic that, in this Advent season of looking forward in hope to the coming of the reign of God, a similar spirit could not prevail.
Recriminations turn on the symbolism of photographs of guns. This is claimed to be a “humiliation” of those who give them up.
But surely, it could have been portrayed as a huge victory for both sides. The gun only has the power to destroy. It only has the power of Herod in beheading John the Baptist, or the power of Pilate in putting Jesus to death on the cross.
But what the gun can never yield is the real power to do good for the people, build a kingdom, and build hope. What was on offer in this Advent season was the opportunity to go forward in faith to a new kind of kingdom, with a new law and a new authority, in which people on both sides of a bitter divide could have worked together for the good of all.
It has been made abundantly clear to people on all sides that there is no sharing of that kind of power to do good, unless the power to destroy through the bomb and the bullet are completely renounced. There is no humiliation in publicly giving up the power to terrorise in favour of the power to do good. It is simply a sign of coming to maturity.
A single spoilt child can wreak enormous destruction on beautiful treasures. By contrast a craftsman can spend a lifetime to create works of value and beauty.
What was needed as a symbol of the new spirit of the age was not just photographs of weapons. Rather, it was to see Gerry Adams and Ian Paisley symbolically attempting to beat the guns into ploughshares, or tie broken guns in the shape of a cross. Perhaps it needed that symbol to be set up permanently somewhere as a sign of a new age, and a new kingdom, and a new kind of rule.
The Good Friday Agreement was delivered because people on all sides appreciated the symbolic power of the day. If only the significance of the Advent season could make people appreciate the need to bring in a new kind of kingdom.