The concept of peace was like a refrain in my early years. Every Sunday morning in the Catholic church where I grew up, we exchanged a “sign of peace.” I was an admirer of Mother Teresa, who often wrote and spoke about peace. “Works of love are works of peace,” she said. We regularly sang a hymn in our church that begin with the words, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.” It’s a beautiful song with admirable sentiments. I truly wanted to “take each moment and live each moment” as a peacemaker.
Yet, theologically something is missing in that song.
On my own I have no peace to give. I recognized early on that I’m much more prone toward rage, resentment, and revenge.
Peace must begin with someone other than me. It must begin with the God of peace (Romans 16:20), with Jesus, the Prince of Peace.
The apostle Paul made this clear. Jesus “himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility. . . . His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace” (Ephesians 2:14-15). “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way” (2 Thessalonians 3:16).
Note that several times in the Gospels, when Jesus entered a room with his disciples, especially after his resurrection, he said, “Peace be with you” (John 20:19, 21, 26). This was not wishful thinking or even a command, and it was more than just a familiar Jewish greeting. It was a reality of his presence.
Jesus is the true source of peace (and love, wisdom, grace, etc.), and so I can be a peacemaker only when I am connected to him (John 15:1-8). Peace is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22); God develops it in me as I remain in him.
I’m sure you’ve heard the adage, “No Jesus, no peace. Know Jesus; know peace.” But it goes beyond this. When we know Jesus, we can also share his peace—that is, peace with one another and peace with God—with others. When we know him, we can be his peace in a culture of hate and discord. “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).
If we as leaders in Christ’s church want to promote peace in our world, we don’t start by teaching our people to be peacemakers—we train them to fully follow the Peacemaker. When the Prince of Peace is truly Lord of people’s lives, when they live in obedience to him and in communion with him, when they regularly abide in him, then they will overflow his peace to people around them.
In other words, we don’t need to focus on producing peacemakers, we need to focus on developing disciples. When we do that, we will get peacemakers.We don’t need to focus on producing peacemakers, we need to focus on developing disciples. When we do that, we will get peacemakers. Click To Tweet
If there is a lack of peace in our world—and in our churches!—it means we are not living in abiding connection to the Prince of Peace. We have been cut off from the Source and become useless branches lying on the ground. No wonder we live in a society so poverty-stricken of peace.
I recall a plaque containing the Prayer of Saint Francis that hung in our kitchen when I was a kid. I believe it’s a more accurate, biblical description of how peace can come to this world. I altered it slightly to drive home the point:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring your love.
Where there is offence, let me bring your pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring your union.
Where there is error, let me bring your truth.
Where there is doubt, let me bring your faith.
Where there is despair, let me bring your hope.
Where there is darkness, let me bring your light.
Where there is sadness, let me bring your joy.
Amen. Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with you, Jesus! Grow us and bear the fruit of your peace through us.