I have always made the naive assumption that the ultimate vision for the world, was peace. I believed that world leader’s primary aim and societies lasting goal,was to create and maintain a world that lived together in peace. Moreover, I have always assumed that those who identify themselves as Christian, hold the prophetic vision and hope that: “He shall judge between the nations and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” But today, I’m not so sure that has ever been the true vision or lasting goal. Today, I find myself asking the same question Jesus asked the Roman Empire as he road into Jerusalem on that fateful day that the Roman empire also road into the city. “Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace.” Indeed, would we even know today the things that make for peace?
Today, peace is pie in the sky. It’s not taken seriously. I dare say the cynic in me questions if its even desired. I wonder, can the prospect of peace be taken seriously?
My call to discipleship means means working for and living into peace. It means that if peace is not at the center of the conversation, then neither is Jesus Christ, nor the message of the Gospel. If peace is not at the center, something else has replaced it: greed, power, lust, hatred, aka evil. It’s only when we invite peace in and strive to achieve it that we are working for and following and relying on a power higher than ourselves. Achieving peace cannot be done without prayer and reliance on God. This vision of peace is not owned by the Christian faith alone.
The things that make for peace require a different conversation that isn’t nearly as sexy as guns and weapons, salacious commentary, rude behavior, and greed. If peace entered a conversation on gun violence, it would be laughed out the door, and be seen as weak and spineless. If we had a parade in Washington DC that showed the power of peace, it would be mocked. We have forgotten that our weakness is what makes a strong. We have forgotten that love is stronger than hate. We have forgotten that peace is not an adjective, but a verb. We no longer know the things that make for peace.
I cannot provide the answer to achieving world peace. God knows people wiser than I have tried to teach the ways of peace. But I can provide some insight on how to achieve internal peace, and I believe the two are connected. We cannot have peace in the world, if we don’t have peace within ourselves. Achieving internal peace is a daily exercise. You are never one and done.
First, you begin with fundamental belief and knowledge that you are loved, held and safe in a something bigger than yourself. For me, that Something is Jesus. It begins with allowing yourself to be wrapped and held in the love and grace of God. I don’t know if many people know that they are unconditionally loved anymore, or if they ever have known. But if we want world peace, we have to tell the broken world that God holds them, loves them and sees them and we have to look upon those who have different values and see that they are loved, even if they don’t know it. The bully in the classroom is hurting as much as the kid being bullied. What would it take for us to convey to those who we call “thugs, evil, crazy,” that they are loved, valued and held? We must teach this to all children. Every day. We have to love the children of this world as if they all our children.
“When I say it’s you I like, I’m talking about that part of you that knows that life is far more than anything you can ever see or hear or touch. That deep part of you that allows you to stand for those things without which humankind cannot survive. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.”
― Fred Rogers
Second, we have to surrender ourselves to that love and put our trust in it. We are not the center of the universe. The world was not made for our existence alone. We are part of something bigger and we have to put our trust in a Creator who has been here far longer than we will be, and will be here long after. What would it take to surrender all of the stuff we carry, put those things in a bottle and let them float down the river, so that all that is left is our true selves? As long as we carry greed, arrogance, jealousy, hatred, past hurts, unmet expectations, or addictions, we cannot hold peace. But if we can surrender that stuff and know that they don’t serve us and just let it go, we can make room for peace. – For the record, this is not easy. We hold fear and anger and as long we hold those heavy weights, we are weighed down and there is no room for peace.
“Letting go gives us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness. If, in our heart, we still cling to anything – anger, anxiety, or possessions – we cannot be free.”
― Thich Nhat Hanh,
Third, we have to want it more than anything else. If we do not want peace, peace will not present itself. It’s not going to force itself on you. When I am not at peace with myself or with others, I feel unsettled, anxious, and self centered. I am not putting my mind on Divine things. I am Martha, at work, trying to fix, trying to get praise, trying to prove myself, trying to justify myself. If, however, I can put my mind on divine things, then what I discover is that I have received grace and I can extend grace to those who have hurt me. I no longer give them power. Revenge and peace cannot coexist.
“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day:
– I shall not fear anyone on Earth.
– I shall fear only God.
– I shall not bear ill will toward anyone.
– I shall not submit to injustice from anyone.
– I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering.
Jesus said, “blessed are the peacemakers, for there’s is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
For Equilibrium, a Blessing:
Like the joy of the sea coming home to shore,
May the relief of laughter rinse through your soul.
As the wind loves to call things to dance,
May your gravity by lightened by grace.
Like the dignity of moonlight restoring the earth,
May your thoughts incline with reverence and respect.
As water takes whatever shape it is in,
So free may you be about who you become.
As silence smiles on the other side of what’s said,
May your sense of irony bring perspective.
As time remains free of all that it frames,
May your mind stay clear of all it names.
May your prayer of listening deepen enough
to hear in the depths the laughter of god.”
May the peace of Christ be with you.