Peace is an essential component of a fulfilling life. Constant conflict spends our energies, wastes our strength, and distracts us from the really good things in life. But we often settle for an imitation of peace rather than the real thing. I often settled for a harmony that was not real because instinctively I knew that real peace would require me to make some real sacrifices.
In fact, I have faced quite a few situations in which a genuine accord seemed impossible so I accepted something far less in order to avoid a reality that I did not want to admit to. The real deception, of course, was that I was being godly in upholding some fragile compromise. I laid down my desires, my needs, and even the truth in order to achieve a momentary semblance of calm.
But making peace, a very different skill from keeping the peace at all cost, is a costly endeavor. And there is no guarantee of success. But Jesus was the ultimate peacemaker, and it is from His example we learn the difference. So as I began to grow out of being a peace at all costs type of person, into a person who was unafraid to make herself known, the first thing I learned from Jesus is that truth is essential.
- Peace requires truth. I remember working at a college where the professors were a group of committed believers. The administration was too, but a serious breakdown in communication had taken place. One of the professors declared that as followers of Christ, we needed to be at peace with our current authority. While it can be hard to disagree with that, I felt the urge to speak up, though I was a junior member of the assembly.
You can’t have peace without truth I said. And the group was quiet. It went without speaking that the problem was that we didn’t know what was true, and the administration wasn’t willing to open themselves up to our concerns. Needless to say, the conflict continued, though many of the professors swallowed their anger and put their heads down and kept their mouths shut.
If you are lying or swallowing your resentment in order to keep the peace, you don’t have peace. You have defeat.
What was missing about the idea that followers of Christ should be at peace is that Jesus regularly challenged authority. He questioned the religious authorities constantly, bringing into question their delusions of righteousness. Sometimes He even got a bit rowdy, as in the case of the money-changers.
- Peace often requires confrontation. One of the best pieces of marital advice I ever got was to complain early. Avoiding an issue allows resentment to fester. We fool ourselves into thinking that if we ignore a problem it will go away. Maybe in some cases, it does. But in my experience, denial more often leads to ugly blowups.
If I share what is on my mind, then I am engaging in a real relationship. If I hide my true feelings in order to avoid a scene or any awkwardness, then I create a situation ripe for misunderstanding. In fact, the moment I hide who I am, I have left the relationship and am engaged in a false reality. How can you have real unity with a false front?
Jesus confronted evil when He saw it, rebuking the disciples or others when He observed something that struck Him as wrong. I love that He defended the woman who broke the alabaster jar in order to cover His feet with its perfume. He did not shy away from making Himself known. When I allow myself to be transparent, I have to include the less pleasant thoughts and feelings as well as the ones that are more acceptable.
- Some people don’t want peace. It took me a really long time to come to terms with this reality. I am by nature very trusting. Peace has always been such a basic desire of mine that I was completely unprepared for a world in which some people thrive on conflict. My ex-husband was such a person.
In fact, a great many people do not want calm. I have grown to realize that some people have a lust for violence. Or they have a thirst to win at all costs. Perhaps the current ruler of North Korea is such a person. Certainly, many of the Roman emperors were as well as any number of dictators, terrorists, and criminals. While I believe God can and does have the power to change hearts, I also believe that free will is a sacred gift from God. He will not cross that restriction He has placed on Himself.
But with such people, the only accord that can be achieved is through justice. In fact, the two are deeply entwined. And bringing about harmony can require a fight that costs us almost everything. A couple world wars prove my point.
- You can have peace within regardless of your situation. I first experienced the inexplicable peace of God during my first marriage. I had just finished making dinner. I placed the burrito in front of my husband who quickly took a bite. It was still piping hot and he burned his mouth. In a rage, he hurled the food across the kitchen against the wall. It created a mess that was about six or seven feet wide and easily as high.
I left the room and fell on my knees before God. I can’t describe the anger I felt. It burned like a coal just under my skin throughout my whole body. But I wanted God more than I wanted revenge. As I confessed my wholly justified rage and gave it to Him, His peace filled me. I cleaned up that mess in utter tranquility of spirit.
As I hummed to myself a worship song, my now ex-husband watched me clean it up. He was waiting to see my humiliation. But in truth, I barely noticed him. That is the moment he lost control of my emotions. That is also the moment that I believe his hatred of me became solidified into a resolve to destroy me.
But God is a God of serenity. He delivered me from that marriage and the emotional and physical violence in it.
The truth about peace is that it is living in freedom. In real peace, you can be yourself unashamedly. You can tell the truth, express your emotions, and confront difficulties from a place of love rather than anger. Just make sure you know what is true. Sometimes peace is only possible through separation. At other times, peace requires fearlessness and a willingness to fight for justice.
If you spend your life walking on eggshells, ask yourself if what you have is really peace. It may just be bondage masquerading as peace. Make peace with God, yourself, and your fellow man. There is no peace to keep until real peace is made.
And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Mark 4:39
This book changed the way I understood peace. It is a must read if you are serious about conflict resolution at home and at work.
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