Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. -- John 14:27
The peace of Jesus is different from the way peace is established in the world. The world's way is so dominant that the way of Jesus seems counter-intuitive. But why? Why does establishing peace by peaceful means seem more impossible to us than establishing peace by violent means?
Knowing how to establish peace is a necessity between any two or more people, whether because of disagreements between equals or struggles between those with power and those without. Eventually, all parties involved tire of struggling with each other and desire peace. So how did Jesus teach us to make peace?
Well, Jesus did not make peace by violence. He did not arm himself and fight back against the Roman oppressors, as the Zealots did. And Jesus did not make peace by separating himself from everyone who thought differently than him, as the Essenes did. Jesus was engaged with those who thought differently than him. He talked. He listened. He loved his enemy. He healed them. Even though he could have destroyed his enemy with a whisper, he chose to humble himself with quiet dignity, and even to suffer torture and die on a cross, in order to change the way of the world.
But, the way of peace that Jesus taught takes time; it is a much slower process. Perhaps that is one reason why people do not turn to it more often. We want an end to the unpleasant disagreements, an end to oppression, an end to our enemy, and we want it NOW. With great impatience, we can think of only one of two ways to make that happen quickly: by force or by separation.
History has shown repeatedly, however, that aggression only leads to more aggression, sooner or later. And in separating ourselves we lose contact with all that is good in the other. The only way to establish peaceful co-existence is by peaceful engagement. Christians are not unique in understanding this. In fact, some Christians do not understand this at all!
Though people of faith are not the only ones who desire peace, I think of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Throughout the history of the three Abrahamic faiths, there have always been movements of this way of peace. Within the ancient history of Judaism, there is the example of Elijah, who showed his people that to care for and feed one's enemies creates loyalty and peace. And within Islam there is a long history of peaceful co-existence between Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Muhammad valued others who also desired peace.
And yet, within Judaism and Islam and Christianity there have also been movements of aggression: of forced agreements, and of "death to the infidel." Christians need only remember the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Holocaust to understand that we, too, have not always followed the way of peace that Jesus taught.
Establishing peace between people, however, takes humility. It takes forgiveness. It takes seeing the humanity and similarity in our enemy. It takes trust and vulnerability. It takes a tremendous amount of courage. And it takes caring about the future of our children -- for to such belongs the Kingdom of God. We have the perfect example in Jesus, who did not establish peace through omnipotent power, but through suffering and sacrifice, and patience.
Dear Lord, you said that "wherever two or more are gathered, there I will be." Thank you for showing us the sacrifices you are willing to make so that we would know of the sacrifices that create lasting peace. Without you, where would we be? Love always, Pam