Where does peace begin? Is it about nations and treaties? It is a religious movement? If it’s only external, how can I ever experience it?
We’ve just passed another Memorial Day. A time when Americans pause to remember those who have died in military service. Coincidentally, the scripture passage for the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend was from the Gospel of John where Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid” (John 14:27).
Remembering those who have died in military service makes me long for peace, true peace.
I long for the day when the peace of God spreads across the face of the globe and all of humanity sees itself as a family or, at least, as a group of neighbors sharing a relatively small rock.
Sunday also happened to be my late Father’s birthday. He would have turned 75, but his life was cut short by the long-term effects of Agent Orange. Although he survived his military service, he is always top-of-mind for me on Memorial Day.
Jesus says he doesn’t give as “the world” gives. As Osvaldo Vena explains, it’s important to know that “the world” Jesus refers to is the world where Pax Romana (the peace of Rome) ruled the day. For 200 years the Roman Empire enforced peace by allowing some amount of self-rule in the places it conquered, provided they paid taxes to Rome and submitted to Roman military control.
Jesus says that kind of imperial peace simply isn’t good enough. He offers something better.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he calls the peace Jesus offers “the peace that passes understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Interestingly, Philippi (home to the Philippians) was the site of a decisive battle between Octavian and Mark Antony in 42 BCE. It was The Place where the Roman Republic died and the Roman Empire was born. (You can read about it here.) For generations, it was a place where veterans of the Roman army settled when their military service ended. It’s also the place where Paul, working with Lydia, established the first Christian church on the continent of Europe (Acts 16:9-15).
As thoughts about the peace of God, Memorial Day, and my late Father’s birthday converged and melded together, a new awareness arose within me.
It’s tempting to think, “I’m in turmoil because the world is in turmoil,” but what if it’s the other way around? What if the world is in turmoil because we, individually, are in turmoil?
I realized that before the peace of God can spread across the globe, it first needs to spread across … me. It needs to be in my heart. It needs to be in how I live and in how I treat others.
But, how? How can I live a life that helps declare and share the peace of God? Jesus offers the peace that passes understanding along with a promise: “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you everything and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).
And so I pray:
Come Holy Spirit. Infuse my life, infuse ME, with the peace of God, the peace that passes understanding. Soothe my troubled heart and answer my fear, that I may be a piece of your peace in this world.
Does Memorial Day make you think about peace? What does it mean to you that Jesus gives not as the world gives? Do you know the peace of God? Tell me about it in the comments, in an email, or on Facebook.
More Like This From Beth:
Beth was a guest on the Strangely Warmed Podcast. The title of the show is a reference to one of John Wesley’s Holy Spirit moments when he said his heart was strangely warmed at the realization that God truly loved him. Click here to listen to Beth discuss the Easter 6C readings with Taylor Mertins!