St. Francis of Assist once said, “Before you speak of peace, you must first have it in your heart.”
We are all looking for peace. We look for it in all kinds of places and ways, but it is very elusive despite our desperate attempts to attain it. Few people are really at peace. After all, the world around is seems to be in chaos a lot of the time. It is anything but peaceful. There is a great deal of anger, mistrust and violence. There is a lot of uncertainty and many things that are beyond our control no matter how hard we try. We get frustrated when we can’t change circumstances or people. We experience pain and anxiety when things are inexplicable and when life isn’t fair.
And yet, one of the names for God in Scripture is “Jehovah Shalom”, which means “I am the God of peace.” Jesus also said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). God tells us that it is possible to have peace, but it has nothing to do with problem-free living. Rather, it is a gift that comes from God.
Scripture talks about 2 kinds of peace. The first kind is peace with God (Romans 5:1). In order to experience any kind of peace in our lives and world, we first need to be at peace with God. This peace comes from right relationship with Him made possible through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to be afraid or alone. We can be God’s children if we accept His gift of redemption and can be made right with Him… be at peace with Him. We cannot have peace in our lives, or personal peace, until we are right with the Prince of Peace.
Secondly, Scripture talks about the peace of God. Once we are at peace with God, He provides for us His supernatural peace that passes all understanding to guard our hearts and minds (Philippians 4:7).
I’ve been spending some time at universities over the last few weeks trying to assist with mediation and negotiations, and here, in the midst of this great turmoil and chaos, it has again become so clear to me that unless we find peace within our own souls, we will never achieve it in our universities, our communities or our nation. Right now, we as a nation don’t seem to be at peace with God. We are arrogant. We are angry. We are bitter. If we are to see any resolution reached or calm prevail, it is critical that we do the work of ensuring we are at peace with God and with ourselves.
Some of us in the church have been criticised for our role in the university mediation because of our view in terms of non-violence. The church’s role – and the Christian’s role – in this conflict, and in any conflict, always has to be to bring peace. Violence in any form or fashion, is not acceptable, no matter what the cause.
So, how do we get and maintain this peace that passes understanding that God gives us, even and especially in the midst of difficult circumstances?
- If we want the peace of God, we must abide by God’s Word (Psalm 37:37; Psalm 119:165).
- Focus on God’s presence. Learn to practice his presence. This doesn’t mean that we must be oblivious to what is going on around us, but we get to choose every day, where we will focus our attention, and that will determine the kind of peace we have (Isaiah 26:3).
- Trust God’s ways (Proverbs 3:4-5). Not all our questions will be answered in this lifetime. Peace comes when we trust God, even when His plans don’t make sense to us.
- We have to ask for it – Paul encourages us to “let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6).
- If you’re not praying you’re worrying. You cannot simultaneously worry and pray.
Lord God we pray that our heart would break for the things that break your heart.
Let us never allow our hearts to grow cold and hard.
Let our hearts, eyes and spirits be open to the work of Your Spirit as it prompts us to do your work among the poor and the vulnerable.
Help us to be at peace with you so that we can be at peace with ourselves and others, and be peacemakers in the world.
In the Name of Christ,