Peace is a big topic, it is arguably the single thing that Jesus came to teach us about and bring forth into the world. He was, after all, the Prince of Peace. Peace is the end goal of everything he taught. As Christians it is where we should set our sights, it should always be at the front of our minds, it should be the driving force behind everything we do. But what is peace, where does it come from, and how do we find it?
Jane Adams defined peace by saying:
“True peace is not just the absence of war but the presence of justice”
Peace is more than just an agreement to not hurt each other but it is a state of being and a way of thinking that leads us to compassion, forgiveness, cooperation, and charity. We often think of peace as a contract between two nations. Like a peace treaty, or amicable relations between states.
But peace is not only found in the relationships between countries, it is also found in the relationships of people with their neighbours and their family, and most importantly it is found inside the human heart.
If we are ever to find peace in the world we must first find peace within ourselves. Before we can end the wars between nations we must first end the wars that we fight inside our own minds. As an internal state peace is equilibrium, it is balance, it is harmony and if we can maintain that harmony and calm the wild seas of our own minds then peace will begin to radiate out of us, but if we cannot still the storm then conflict will pour out of our mouths and into the world around us.
We create or destroy peace with every word that we speak and every gesture that we make. A smile can change someone just as easily as a disapproving glare and we are too often unaware of the immense force we wield with our expressions and our tones.
The more you give it away the more you have. And if you try to gather it together and stock pile it for yourself it will quickly dwindle away into nothingness.
Peace is forgiveness, it is a feeling of love for everything and everyone no matter what the situation. It is the ability to see goodness in every situation and understand that the people around you who are doing things or saying things that upset you or others are really just stumbling, they’re getting lost, they have forgotten the love that is inside them.
The ability to pity the harsh person, or the thief, or the liar is the ability to have peace. To maintain a stillness in your mind when you are confronted with the chaos of our broken world and the sad and confused people who inhabit it is to know peace. And to know peace is to spread peace.
Even though peace is equated with stillness it must always be moving from one person to the next.
It must be allowed to flow between us and through us and from us. It is like breath, you can breathe deep and get lots of air but you can’t just hold onto it, you have to let it go, you have to recycle it back into the atmosphere – because we all breathe the same air. Just like air peace surrounds us and sustains us, we share it, we all need it, but no person can keep it for themselves.
And this is what makes peace so beautiful, you and I are connected on a very deep level. The air and the water that make us who we are and give us life are the very same as all the generations who came before us and all the generations who will come after us. So every breath we take we can remember that we are not as separate from each other as we like to think.
Just like the atmosphere peace is dynamic, it is an interaction between yourself and everything else but it is also the way you interact with your own internal nature. In order to find internal peace we must be able to reconcile those parts of ourselves that we try to ignore, the parts we just pass over.
Just as we must forgive those who have forgotten and have strayed from the path of God, if we wish to find peace within ourselves the very first thing we must be able to do is forgive those dark parts of ourselves.
We must be able to see ourselves as God would see us – small children who haven’t quite figured it out yet.
When a toddler throws a tantrum because someone brought them milk in a cup that was the wrong colour and yells at the top of their lungs, it is a little frustrating. But we would never judge their character for it. We are all children, and we haven’t learned yet either.
But children are still subject to pain, even if it does seem silly to the grown ups in the room it still hurts like crazy for the child who is thrown into the depths of despair over what is really a trivial matter.
And I’m sure we’ve all been to a birthday party where too much sugar and intense excitement creates a rippled effect of emotional melt downs and existential crises. It moves from one child to the next until chaos breaks out and everybody has to go for a time out.
This is how our conflicts look to God because we do the same thing. We get all in a huff about something that, in the grand scheme of life, is really quite trivial and then we get the people around us all wound up with us and before you know it we are a bunch of children crying because the piñata didn’t have the ring pop candies that everyone wanted.
So we see how the roots of war and outer conflicts really stem from internal states.
When someone cuts in front of you in line at the cash register or drives through a giant puddle going way to fast and splashes mud all over you, you have an opportunity to practice that peace, to say to yourself “It’s just a little mud” and more importantly “That person must be so hurt inside in order for them to act like that, my muddy jacket is nothing compared to the loneliness they must feel if they are treating others that way”.
When you can pity their unfortunate situation and forgive them, then you have found peace. And others will see your peace and emulate it. It is as if we are all walking in the fog looking for light. When you find inner peace then you become a lighthouse, you become something that others can emulate and the more people join in the brighter life becomes. We must always stand in the light, and be the light for others regardless of how many times we are bombarded with the ignorance and rudeness of others. As the Dalai Lama put it:
“Do not let the behaviours of others destroy your inner peace.”
But what if we are lost in the shadows? It’s all well and good to talk about being the peace that shines out through the darkness, but how do we become that peace? How do we transform our pain and our selfishness into peace and forgiveness? How can we be full of peace and light when the world so often seems full of misery and pain and deceit? What if there is no lighthouse to be seen, what if we and everyone around us are stuck in the ruts our own selfishness has made? How then do we find that light of peace?
Again, the answers are inside us. Through the power of the Holy Spirit we have the ability to transform our own pain into love. God has shown us this through the life of Jesus. In a world where even the holy were wicked, where imperial forces oppressed the people relentlessly, where there was no pity for the leper, or the blind, or the widow.
It was into this world that Jesus came and it was in that darkness that he transformed his own pain and suffering into a beacon for the people to see with. He simply refused to return the hate he was confronted with daily. He accepted the ridicule of others and gave them love in return. He simply said “No, I will not be part of this”.
Peace is the natural state of the world, and the natural state of every person. It is less about creating peace and more about unearthing it from the massive pile of garbage we have piled on top of it. Pure unadulterated peace is at the core of every person and that includes you. Underneath all the bitterness, resentment, and self righteousness we are all holy people.
You are a miracle of God and holy beyond measure but for whatever reason we have decided to let all this junk pile up on top of us. But we don’t have to anymore. There is nothing stopping us from saying “No, I will not be part of this”. And when we do Jesus is right there to help us clean up. He is right there to take away all the clutter that is preventing our light from shining brighter than the sun.
He will gladly wipe away the tarnish that has built up around our minds and souls and reveal the shiny, pure copper that we are. But we must be mindful to keep polishing, because as we live our lives that green junk will continue to grow on us.
And it’s a scary decision to make, don’t get me wrong. We make ourselves very vulnerable when we do this. All of our lives we have learned to look out for number one because no one else will. We have learned that if there is a weak point in our defenses someone will exploit it, we have learned that nice guys finish last, and that people are out to take advantage of us, so be careful and don’t really trust anyone cause if you give them an inch they’ll take a mile.
And the sad thing about it is that there is truth in that line of thinking. There are people who want to take advantage of you, being generous and forgiving will not help you climb the social or economic ladders, being patient and considerate will not help you get a job with 3 figures. When it comes to the cut throat world of politics and business nice guys DO finish last.
But that’s ok. Part of finding that internal peace is realizing what is of real value and what is not. We may end up helping someone who turns around steals from us before they take off and we never see them again. At first glance this situation seems to be a loss but when you remember that God places infinitely more value on your willingness to help others than he does on the bit of money you just lost some perspective is gained.
Having peace means knowing what is of value and nurturing it without concern for trivial things like money or pride. It means that love has become the most valuable thing to you and you are willing to be vulnerable in order to spread it to others. As Jimi Hendrix put it:
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, then the world will know peace”.
So, my friends, go out into the world and see peace hiding underneath all the rubbish of life. Help to tidy up the world and pick up the clutter that is blocking the light from shining all around us. Look inwardly for peace and know, without any doubt, that there is pure unbreakable peace within you, know that it is the very foundation that your soul is built upon and boldly let it shine out through the fog. Resist the temptation to engage with people who are causing conflict, do not be part of what makes the world so dim and remember the sacred duty inherent in every moment. Live a life worth living and be an example to everyone you meet.
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