Peace. These days it almost seems a utopian idea. Can we really have peace? Protesters filled the streets around the world as the war in Iraq began. They shouted for peace, lifted banners for peace and marched for peace. But the peace they desired is the same peace Webster defined as “an absence of hostility.” This, to me, seems like the utopian idea. Has there ever been a time in recorded history when there wasn’t hostility, somewhere, in some form?
Most major religions tout peace as a mainstay. But ironically, many wars are fought in the name of the various gods those religions claim to serve. Christianity isn’t immune from such associations either. A quick search of the Bible will turn up more than 250 references to the word peace. Many are couched in the context of Old Testament historical accounts of wars and tribal aggressions. However, an interesting thing happens in the New Testament. When Jesus arrives on the scene, peace takes on a whole new meaning. The word is no longer used to refer to the absence of hostility or war; it is solely used to refer to a state of being.
History has proven there really is no such thing as an absence of hostility on this globe. There has always been — and always will be — “wars and rumors of wars.” Is peace attainable? The writers of the New Testament spoke of this promised peace over and over again. So what is it? How can we have it?
It isn’t something you can march for or demonstrate about. It’s deeper than that. It’s not a utopian idea; rather, it’s a part of who you are, growing from a relationship with the One ultimately in control. Remember how, as a child, you always felt safe and secure in the arms of your mother or father? The chaotic reality of the world around you, good or bad, didn’t matter because of your connection with your parent. This is the peace Jesus offers. This is the peace St. Paul describes as “passing all understanding.” It is indeed hard to understand how one could be peaceful in the turmoil of this world, but it’s possible.
Imagine: You’ve just lost your job, but it seems to be all right. Your doctor has just given you a diagnosis that causes fear in others, but you take it in stride. The world around you seems driven by a fear of terrorism that altars the daily choices they make about things as menial as grocery shopping, but you feel secure. Now, stop imagining, and step into the relationship offering this kind of peace.
A 1950s church hymn says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” That’s the right idea. As long as war and strife is alive in the hearts of men and women, we will continue to see it played out around the world. Marching won’t bring peace, only a change of heart will.