I am a big fan of peace. I don’t really like conflict, I do thrive in the cut and thrust of parish life, but I do really appreciate the opportunity for my wife and I simply to go off somewhere nice and quiet, and get away from it all. The reality is that in our interpersonal lives there is not really peace. Our household is noisy because there are so many people in it. There is the occasional conflict, but nothing too serious. Some of our friends over the years have had such serious conflict they have separated. So peace doesn’t always reign in our lives. The world it seems is a big fan of peace as well. One of the reasons for the European Union was so that there would not be the conflagration of the First and Second World Wars. The United Nations came out of the Second World War for the same reason. The First World War was called the “War to end all Wars.” Except it didn’t. The Second War came only 20 years after the Great War, and the reality is that there have been wars all over the world, Korea, Vietnam, Malaya, Borneo, Angola, the Congo, Yom Kippur, etc. So if we are all a big fan of peace in the world, and peace in our lives, why doesn’t it happen? Well, two reasons, both interrelated.
- We are Sinful fallen Human Beings
- We have not placed God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit at the centre of our lives, and the life of the world.
While there may be some who will say something like, that’s all very well and good, but not everyone is a Christian and their faith or no faith means they cant do that. To which my response is, that’s why we continue to fail in our peace efforts, but that principle is really another conversation.
The problem as I see it is twofold. First is that the world thinks it can sort out the issue of peace, it can’t. Second the reason the world can’t do this is that it is antagonistic to God and therefore rejects God and therefore rejects the true author of peace.
Biblical peace is not about an absence of war, or an absence of conflict. Biblical peace only comes about when God is at the centre of your personal life, and the national life. This is the call of Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets. Put another way hostility arises from not knowing God. Peace comes about from knowing God.
So what does Biblical Peace look like? First Peace is a blessing, not a greeting, as some seem to think, especially in the modern liturgies where we “Pass the Peace”, or as some, unkindly put it, the “disturbance of the peace!”. Second, Peace which is not a mere absence of conflict or trials, or tension, it is about a oneness with the Father in bringing eternal life to the family of God in this world of death. Third, it is a gift of God. Jesus says in John “Peace I give you.” Fourth, Peace is always associated with a right relationship with God and his people.
Practically this is worked out in two ways in the bible, and I give these two as examples there are others. One is national, the other personal. They are still linked. When the city of Jerusalem was being besieged Jeremiah said to the inhabitants, throw open the gates and let them in. They are getting in anyways, so let them in and be the people of God amongst the Babylonians. They rejected his call, the Babylonians breached the wall, and carted everyone off to Babylon, and so they had to learn how to be the people of God in Babylon. The nation went into exile, and they had to learn to be at peace with themselves amongst the Babylonians, understanding that God was with them in Babylon. The other example is Jesus himself on the cross. The ultimate expression of oneness with God, and therefore the ultimate expression of peace, is Jesus’ cry, “Father into your hands, I commend my spirit.” In other words, Father, you and I are so one with each other, I trust in you at the moment of my death that you will deal justly with me, and I am at peace with that.
What all this means for us is that we have to put God at the centre of our lives. This is our mission and vision here at St. Johns. We know, from experience, that if God is not at the centre of a persons life, then nothing gets worked out properly over time. Only when God is at the centre of a persons life can a person truly have peace. They might be in middle of personal conflict, but they are at peace with themselves for they are one with God, and they have total confidence in God. Only a nation made up of such people can be truly at peace with its self, and only then can peace truly reign in the world. For my own part I believe that world peace will only occur when Jesus returns to judge the living and the dead. In the meantime we are called to make God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit the centre of our lives, and in doing so living in peace. The more of us who do that then we will be bringing about the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven, and we will be hastening the day when the Lord will return and peace will truly reign. This Holy Week and Easter, why not try putting God at the centre of your life and see what comes of that?