“Peace” is more than one of our society’s values; it is a virtue that all humans should pursue. But what is peace and how do we pursue it?
War has always been one of the ways to win peace. But it is one thing to win the war – an entirely different thing to win the peace.
The war in Iraq was over in a few short days of intense fighting. It was so fast that the long slow build up made the actual fighting almost seem like an anticlimax. Yet the peace has been much harder to secure.
Peace has always been hard to win. The peace treaty of Versailles at the end of the First World War has been widely criticised as creating the conditions for the Second World War. The long Cold War that followed the Second World War is another demonstration of the difficulty of winning peace.
If war is not the way to peace neither is appeasement. On his return from the unjust Munich conference Mr Chamberlain famously declared a peace for our time”. The year was 1938! The “agreement” was with Adolf Hitler.
Part of our problem in pursuing peace is failure to appreciate what peace is. We think of it as the absence of something (war) rather than the creation of something positive.
But creating something positive requires us to have a clear view of the good life that we believe in. Democracy or multi-culturalism are hardly the issues that will secure peace. Nor will prosperity or materialism. These are not necessarily wrong things but if that is all we have to offer we will be as disappointed as the people upon whom we (sometimes undemocratically) impose them.
So what is peace and how do we find it? It is not to be found without some of its accompaniments like truth and justice, forgiveness and love. It is not to be found by human efforts because we who are sinful will always be at war with one another.
God’s peace “surpasses all understanding”. Our sinful hearts will never understand the way to peace. The world did not understand the peace that Jesus came to bring. They did not like the Prince of Peace but rather violently crucified him.
Yet it was in his death that peace was established. As the Scriptures say “he is our peace”. He created peace not only between God and us but also between us. For by Christ’s death for sin we all have access to the same Father. Irrespective of our background or our sinfulness we are united into the same family of forgiveness.
The peace that Christ created for us is our rich relationship with God. So with the peace he won for us we also receive health, salvation, righteousness, safety and prosperity. Some of these we experience now. Others have to wait till Christ returns. But the peace with God and each other starts now, even in the midst of wars and rumours of wars.
It starts now and can be experienced now, but it still requires us to pursue it. It is the gift of God in Christ Jesus, and part of the fruit of the Spirit, but it still is something we must put into practice in all our relationships. So we are commanded in the scriptures:
“If possible, so far as it depends on you live peaceably with all.” (Romans 12:18)
“Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14)
“And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (Colossians 3:15)