Monday, August 5, 2019

Peace: Has It Become an Endangered Species?

Peace. What does it mean? If 100 people were asked that question, we’d hear 100 different answers. But we’d probably find general agreement that whatever peace is, we don’t have much of it these days.

When World War II ended, there was great rejoicing as peace treaties were signed to end conflict in both Europe and Asia. Newspapers bore huge headlines announcing war had ceased. Unfortunately, as throughout human history, respite from war didn’t last long.

The promised peace of the 1960's, the "flower power"
variety, never really materialized.
Today we stay in a state of high emotional alert. Doomsayers warn of the threat of nuclear war. The Middle East remains a hotbed of concern, terrorism an ever-present danger. Who knows where the next hostilities will break out – or when? It’s futile to speculate why. “Just because” seems to be the best rationale for constant human conflict.

Discord in politics has soared to an all-time peak, with little hope for improvement among the ranks or across the aisle. “Never the twain shall meet” seems the prevailing motto. Ironically, it was a Twain – Mark Twain – who said, “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.” Peace isn’t welcome in the halls of government.

Peace’s absence has manifested itself even in our schools, churches and homes. Teachers get a whiff of it starting in kindergarten; by the time students arrive at the collegiate level, they need suits of armor for warding off antagonism from ideological foes. Religious institutions are often at odds; local congregations aren’t immune to strife. In homes, peace can seem precious, priceless, and uncommon.

So where can we find peace? There’s no aisle for it at Walmart. You can’t order a year’s supply of it on Amazon. If peace were an organism, it would be placed on the endangered species list. Where, oh where, can it be?

Whenever I find my emotions in internal uproar, as seems to happen whenever I watch the news, or spend too much time on social media, I try to remind myself of the one certain place peace can always be found: In Jesus Christ, and Him alone. 

One of my favorite reminders is Isaiah 26:3, which declares, “The steadfast of mind (the Lord) will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You.” Then there’s Philippians 4:6-7, which admonishes, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus, the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6), faced more opposition and hostility during His earthly ministry than any of us could ever imagine. Yet He taught His followers how to find peace despite the surrounding storms. He assured them – and us – “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). 

Better than anyone, Jesus knew how rare and fleeting peace can be. The world can’t provide lasting peace, He was saying. We can find it only in a genuine, growing relationship with Him.

Does that mean that followers of Christ turn into peaceful Pollyannas, oblivious to the growing chaos around us? Not at all. In fact, He stated choosing to follow Him could result in another form of discord:Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:34-35).

Following Jesus doesn’t come without a cost. If necessary, it means choosing Him over family, friends and others, as courageous believers in nations dominated by religions like Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism have experienced. However, the peace we find in Christ supersedes anything life and the world in which we live can provide.

This is not something we’re to keep to ourselves like a cherished gem. We’re to extend the Lord’s peace to anyone and everyone we encounter as we go through each day. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:17:18).

Indeed, this is part of our calling as Christ followers – not keeping peace but making peace: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

In a world and an age where peace seems so fleeting, through Jesus we not only can find peace, but also can show others where it can be found.

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