We live in troubled times. Every week there seems to be some new horror story that shakes, disturbs and unsettles us. In amongst all of this, is there hope? And how are we to truly find peace?
Because society is stuck. Those who are in power don’t have a grip on what’s going on or have any real ability to change things.
Meanwhile, there’s more violence, terror, hatred, and division. But our hearts still yearn for one that same thing; peace.
The dream of peace in troubled times.
Peace. That tireless dream of humanity that always escapes reality. Like the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, we never find it. Although it doesn’t stop us from forever trying.
What chance then, of ever finding peace for ourselves and our fellow men and women?
Call me an optimist, call me crazy, but I believe it’s possible. Not only that, it’s vital, especially if human beings are to survive the next hundred years.
So to look forward, we need to look back, to the old Hebrew scriptures hearing how their teaching and prophets were inspired by God to bring His message and His hope for such a time as this.
Because they have a surprising message for us.
Peace, Shalom, in the Hebrew Bible, is not just the absence of war, it’s a radical, more holistic understanding of peace because it’s the bringing of wholeness.
Curious? Now is the time to rediscover, to claim, and to live out the biblical view of Shalom, peace.
Here’s how we do it.
Finding peace in troubled times between people or parties.
When we’re at peace with others, we’re at peace with ourselves. Easier said than done, right?
Perhaps. But in order to begin to create peace on a big scale, we’ve got start with the small. We’ve got to establish and maintain peace among all our own relationships. That includes our family, friends, colleagues, other believers or anybody else you have a connection with, no matter who.
Peace and good relationships can only be maintained with good communication and understanding someone else.
So far so nice.
But there’s something else too, something we all should be open to doing. I’ll call it a covenant of openness. That is that I’m open to hearing difficult things about myself if you will be too. If we aren’t challenged to live a better life and to grow to be a whole people, in relationship to each other then we can never find peace.
We can call it dialogue, a speech that is back and forwards (the original meaning) or a speech where we exchange and challenge assumptions, patterns of living, and even wrongs.
An example from recent history.
On the big scale, in recent history, South Africa sought to find healing from its racist past by setting up the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. For the time it was an incredibly brave thing to do because it meant that past injustices, grievances, and wrongs could be talked about openly and addressed. It was a big step forward for a divided country to be reconciled and healed. It happened at an individual level but it came to represent the whole.
True dialogue like this is dangerous. It is not a safe space. But it is a path to self-understanding, change and to finding wholeness.
And this truth would go a long way to healing other political divisions too, which is a tough reality for a lot of countries today. The liberal/conservative split (to oversimplify) has never been more entrenched and tribal.
But it needn’t be, that is if you choose to walk in the way of shalom-peace. Those who you think you differ most with, could, in fact, be your greatest gift. They might change you for the better, challenge your limited viewpoint (which we all have) and perhaps even deepen your own convictions, but with more empathy of the other’s experience.
By welcoming them as friends, not strangers, watch how you and your life be transformed for the better toward shalom-peace.
Finding peace in us and around us.
“Give Peace a Chance” was the rallying call during the anti-war movement of the 1960s and 70s and it’s just as impassioned today. But is this the kind of peace that the Bible talks of?
Partly, but this oversimplifies it. Shalom peace is about the safety of body and mind.
This does, of course, mean the absence of war but it also means so much more; like tranquillity, security and fullness of life. Included in the social view of shalom peace is prosperity, good health and fulfilment in life too.
Whether believers or not this is something we all need to work to bring to fulfilment and challenge whatever forces there are that oppose themselves to God’s plan for humanity. The challenge is how? The answer is found in a person.
Finding peace in troubled times from the Prince of Peace
As Christians, we have no greater example than Jesus himself, the Prince of Peace. True peace for Christians (and Jews) comes from establishing a right relationship with God.
But for followers of Jesus, finding this peace has its origin in the person and work of Jesus himself.
‘For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near.’ Ephesians 2:14-17.
In a world tormented by religiously inspired violence, where the walls of hostility are erected between us and where the egotistical and fleshly desires of religious fanatics tear the world apart, we can do no better to return to the life and work of Jesus himself.
It’s a brave and incredible thing to truly live out his example, in the power of God’s spirit.
If we live it out, then ‘righteousness and peace kiss each other’ Psalm 85:10, and the hopes of all humanity may just be that step closer.
So may the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Jeremy – Not Only Sundays (About Us).
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Scripture quoted from the NIV translation.
Images sourced on www.pixabay.com image under a creative commons licence CC.