Salt&Light Word in Season: How can I find peace?
Word in Season is a monthly series of original Bible devotions and reflections from leaders in God's Kingdom. This month we look at peace as we remember International Day of Peace on September 21.
Belinda Tan // September 1, 2023, 12:14 am
Peace is not the natural state of the world, notes Belinda Tan. But God's love can give us the peace we seek. Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash.
Exactly 20 years ago when the US invaded Iraq, a local radio DJ took calls from his listeners to gauge their reactions. I will never forget this exchange with one of them (though these are not their exact words): “So, do you think this war should happen?”
“Yes, I think it’s good.”
“Oh, why do you think so?”
“Because it’ll benefit the economy.”
Are you shocked by this response? Or are you unsurprised by the attitude that other people’s losses are fine if there could be personal benefits?
For me, that was my first time realising that not everyone feels world peace is necessary or even desirable.
Since then, wars within and across national borders have proven this over and over again.
If you stare straight into the heart of human darkness, it is natural to feel despair.
Close to 80 years after its founding as an international peace organisation, the United Nations (UN) still has to declare: “Never has our world needed peace more.”
To the UN, peace is about the absence of armed conflict. But they have also identified interconnecting causes of violence: Human-induced climate change has led to struggles over food security and clean water. Socioeconomic inequalities have led to too much in the hands of too few when there is actually enough for everyone. All kinds of extremisms have led to senseless violence and lost generations.
Peace only comes about when all these pieces of the puzzle are resolved.
But it seems impossible to eradicate war.
“Never Again!” was the universal declaration after the Holocaust. But attempts at genocide and crimes against humanity continue to be documented around the world.
If you stare straight into the heart of human darkness, it is natural to feel despair over the past and present, and deep anxiety over the future. As a Christian, I am drawn to ask: What solace can we find in Scripture?
The nature of peace
In the Bible, we find a surprising degree of agreement with the UN on the interconnected nature of peace.
Peace is not merely the absence of conflict, but also wholeness and well-being.
Peace also comes when different pieces of a puzzle are put together. It is not merely the absence of conflict, but also wholeness and well-being.
Peace is not an abstract ideal, as though it is something to dream about rather than bring about.
Peace is something that should be done — peace-making is the task and the responsibility of all who identify themselves as children of God (Matthew 5:9).
Moreover, the making of peace is entwined with the doing of righteousness (Psalm 85:10, James 3:18). Though it was said by a general that “if you want peace, prepare for war”, it has also been said by a pope that “if you want peace, work for justice”.
Peace-making involves all of God’s creation, both human and non-human.
Peace is only possible when there is justice, including climate, socioeconomic and legal justice.
Why is there no peace?
Where the Bible differs is in its diagnosis of why there is no peace.
Peace is not the default state of the world. Chaos is (Genesis 1:2). Peace or wholeness comes when the messed-up pieces are arranged in God’s intended order for the world (Genesis 1:3–31).
Sin threatens this order by opening the door to chaos (Genesis 4:7). One person’s indiscretion can lead to a shattered family and shockwaves across generations. One government’s corruption can lead to catastrophic failures during natural disasters and national emergencies.
Paul testified to the inexplicable peace of God in the worst circumstances.
Peace is easier said than done. When false prophets declared to a nation under threat: “Peace, peace” when there was no peace (Jeremiah 6:14, 8:11), they were doing more than telling the people what they wanted to hear. They were also blinding them to the reality of their broken relationship with their God.
Self-deception is not peace-making, and neither are empty prayers and promises. Peace is only complete when there is reconciliation with God.
Even the Gospel of Christ does not offer an easy peace (Luke 12:51). The most warlike apostle has to be Paul, who persecuted Christians before encountering Jesus on the Damascus road (Acts 9:1–19).
Yet, when he surrendered his life to the Gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15, Colossians 1:19–20), he did not find an absence of conflict. He fought using words (Acts 9:20–22), fled plots against his life (Acts 9:23–30), found himself in legal trouble (Acts 16:16–40), and finally ended his days in prison (Acts 24–28).
Nevertheless, Paul testified to the inexplicable peace of God in the worst circumstances — suffering that he was neither numb to nor could do anything about (Philippians 4:7, 2 Corinthians 7:4–6; 12:7).
How to have peace
What does the hard work of peace-making entail?
When we exemplify this peace of Christ to a world plagued by disorder, we bear the fruit of the Spirit for our communities.
Loving our neighbour and our God (Matthew 22:37–40). This might mean facing how we ourselves might be obstacles to peace. This might also mean confronting lies we have told others and ourselves about why there is no peace.
But in all things, we need not be robbed of the peace that Christ has promised (John 14:27; 16:33, Colossians 3:15).
When we exemplify this peace of Christ to a world plagued by disorder, we bear the fruit of the Spirit for our communities and point them to the One who loves them and gave Himself for them (Galatians 2:20; 5:22–25).
May it be that they, too, will know the love of Christ and receive His peace.
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