We live in a world torn by violence, division, oppression, injustice, anger, ignorance, chaos, and, ultimately, hatred. It is a broken world, full of broken people. Confusion and fear reign. We jump to sides, immersing ourselves in ideologies to protect ourselves and make sense of the raging discord and turmoil. We create “us vs. them” narratives to justify ourselves; and whenever tragedy strikes, we are quick to point the finger to the other side.
Today, I don’t want to point fingers or call names or lay blame. Today I don’t want to stand on any one side of a political fence. Today I want simply to pray and cry out for peace.
But what is peace? Peace is not simply the absence of violence and war; peace is union and harmony. Peace is not simply the absence of oppression; peace is justice, delivered with mercy and compassion. Peace is not simply the absence of anger and sorrow; peace is real, true happiness, which is deep and unending. Peace is, ultimately, the product of love.
If we do not know love, we can never know peace. But what is love? Love is not a feeling you have towards someone. Love is not an emotion. Love is not mere affection or romantic sentiment. Love, by definition, is not an emotion, but the active will for the good of others. No matter what you feel towards someone else, whether an individual or a group of people, seek their good. No matter what. Love always seeks the good.
But pride is the exact opposite, and from it comes only hatred. Pride seeks only the good of the self, above all others. Pride uses others as means to its own end, rather than as ends in themselves. Pride sees people as objects to be used. But the ultimate, and tragic, irony of pride, is that in seeking only its own good, it can never achieve any good whatsoever, even for itself. In seeking only its own good, pride always destroys the self. And this is the whole cause of all hatred and violence and evil in the world, on large and systematic scales as well as small, private ones.
We seek healing and answers and solutions to our problems, to “fix” our societies. We wonder why there is terrorism and mass shootings and systematic racial injustice, but we seem always to be looking for external causes, and thus external solutions, without ever turning inward to heal and mend and fix our own personal brokenness. And until we do that, our societies, and our world, will never know peace.
Peace begins in the heart of each and every individual, when he/she loves every neighbor as him/herself. Until you love your brother and sister, until you actively will and seek the good of your neighbor, until you pray for your enemy, until each and every one of us perfect these practices in our own individual lives, there will never be peace. There will never be justice. There will never be joy.
That is the whole vision and end of Christianity, that love and peace would be produced in the heart of each and every individual, and thus that it would overflow out into the whole world. The death, violence, racism, hatred, crime, terrorism, disorder, chaos, confusion, and corruption of our societies do not begin “out there,” and they will not be fixed “out there.” They begin in the hearts of each and every one of us, and that is where we must wage war against them, that is where we must defeat them.
In the face of the events of this past week, I urge all of us to actively will and seek the real, true good of everyone around us. I urge that we pray for and weep with those who have been hurt, who have lost loved ones, who are currently oppressed and afraid and desperate for relief. Mourn for them and with them, mourn at tragedy and injustice and evil and hatred. Seek their good by calling out for truth, justice and equality.
Pray and weep also not only for the victims of these horrible crimes, but for the perpetrators as well. Pray that truth will be revealed, and justice shall be served fairly to all who deserve it. But pray also with compassion and mercy, that those who have done wrong will find light and forgiveness. Pray for their families as well, that they might be healed too.
We, all of us, are in desperate need for peace. I cry out for peace, and run to the only source from which I know peace flows:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).
Violence is overwhelming. Hatred is tiring. Anger is a burden. Pride brings only discord and division. This is the world we inhabit, not only in the west, but all over the globe, not only now, but for all of human history. And yet we are offered this help:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
All actions of violence, from the horrendous atrocities of mass shootings and acts of terrorism, to the small lies and cruel words we utter to those we love, are ultimately produced from our own pride and hatred. This is the complete and total opposite of the humble but powerful love of Christ:
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13).
If we respond to acts of violence and hatred with our own anger and hatred, we will never have peace. There is no peace in pride, anger, or hatred; but only in faith, hope, and love.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
When we have faith, hope, and love, there is no fear, but only peace. And Christ is our Lord of peace:
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Love produces peace, which is the only light and hope in the darkness of our world:
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).
Finally, there is no other cure, no other remedy, no other hope for personal and systematic brokenness than this love and peace of Christ:
“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:4-9).