Peace is one thing that we long for, pray for, desire above all, and yet so often we look at peace as contingent on someone or something else. “If only he would______, I could rest in peace.” Or if “God would bring peace to this world, I could be at peace.” Or “If she would just do ____, I’d be fine.” Peace is out there, not in here. Peace is someone else’s job, not mine. “If only my boss…” “If only my son were…..” The clear message to ourselves is that we can’t be at peace until something else outside of ourselves is accomplished.
Jesus challenges this way of thinking. Near the beginning of the Farewell Discourses in the Gospel of John, Jesus reassures us: “Do not let your hearts be troubled.”[John 14:1] And later in the same chapter he adds, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”[John 14:27]
He has left his peace with us. Why have we not taken it up as our standard of behavior? The banner under which we live? Why do we not have the quality of relationship with Christ that gifts us with peace and all the other fruits of the spirit—those things we acquire just by virtue of following him.
Our ability to be at peace is a sure sign that the Lord is working in us, transforming us, that we are surrendered to him. Contrary to the culture’s teaching on peace that it is contingent on having enough or the right stuff or job or friends or money, Jesus is saying: “Be peace in this world. Be love and joy and self-control and kind and more. Show this world how to live by your life, not by your words.
Up to now we Christians have depended on preaching to attract converts, but mostly we’ve been saying “do as I say, not as I do.” The call now is to live peace, love, joy and all the fruits of the Spirit. Be peace in the world, don’t wait for Israel and Iran and the Palestinians to make peace. Don’t wait until China and Taiwan are reconciled. Don’t wait for someone, something else.
Be at peace with your neighbor, your spouse, your children, your family, your enemy, your life. Jesus taught us how to do it. He listened, he loved, he challenged when he thought others were wrong, he hung out with the outcasts, he accepted his death, but mostly he loved. He didn’t care whether the people he talked to and healed were Jews or Samaritan’s or Romans or rich or poor. He loved everyone. He forgave everyone. He suggested we go farther than requested, that we walk the extra mile. He taught that we should offer a second cheek, not react in kind. He lived caring for the rejects of society. He had a heart for the poor. He wasn’t just preaching that we take care of the poor, he hung out with them, talked to them, asked, “what do you want?” He had a loving, healing presence. Crowds were drawn to his message, yes, but also to his being—loving, forgiving, including, healing. And yes, peace.
Do you have time to just be with someone? To hear their story? To accept what they are telling you as true for them? Do you listen for deeper nuances and meaning below the surface of what they are saying? Are you present to others? Or, as they talk, are you just formulating how you’ll answer them?
Peace requires trust. It requires love. It requires inclusion. It requires being present, listening to the other. It requires acceptance and grace. Without Jesus’ presence in our lives, I am quite sure we would not be capable of peace. And with the Lord? Everything is possible for us and for the world. Our ability to be at peace is a true measure of our relationship with the Lord. If we live in peace, then we rest in his arms. If we don’t, we need to draw a lot closer to him.
Try peace. Try love. Try forgiveness. See what happens in your world when you do.
Questions to ponder over the week: Am I living at peace with the way the world is? With my life the way it is? With my family? What keeps me from being at peace?
Try out other features this week: on the home page, “Disciplined? No!” and on the Meditations page, “It’s the Relationship, Dummy!”