John Lennon sang, "Imagine all the people living life in peace." Picturing it in your mind is one thing, but I believe that peace is more than a dream. Peace is possible. We are called to pray for it (Psalm 125:5) and we must work for it.
If peace was just to be imagined rather than experienced, Jesus would not have told us that persons who make peace would be blessed. He said, "You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family" (Matthew 5:9, The Message).
Yesterday was the first Sunday in Advent. The World Methodist Family on every continent was called to observe a sacred time of fervent prayer for peace for all humankind. From the dawn of the day in the Kingdom of Tonga until the end of the day as the sun set in Samoa in the South Pacific, the Methodist/Wesleyan family around the world was praying for peace in many languages. But praying for peace is not enough.
"The wisdom that comes from above leads us to be pure, friendly, gentle, sensible, kind, helpful, genuine, and sincere. When peacemakers plant seeds of peace, they will harvest justice" (James 3:17-18, Contemporary English Version).
Eugene Peterson puts the words of the Apostle James this way: "Real wisdom, God's wisdom, begins with a holy life and is characterized by getting along with others. It is gentle and reasonable, overflowing with mercy and blessings, not hot one day and cold the next, not two-faced. You can develop a healthy, robust community that lives right with God and enjoy its results only if you do the hard work of getting along with each other, treating each other with dignity and honor" (The Message).
In other words, through the hard work of living peaceably with others, a person can create a climate of peace in spite of the presence of turmoil and dissension. A courteous, gentle attitude toward others goes a long way to making peace. The wisdom that God gives leads us to be "willing to yield to reason, full of compassion and good fruits; it is wholehearted and straightforward, impartial and sincere" (The Amplified Bible).
World peace will not be simply and easily achieved, but a good start is for persons of faith to live peaceably with one another. I do not have the influence, authority, or power to create peace on earth among all people, but I can be at peace with my neighbors, co-workers, and others. That is a beginning.
Sy Miller and Jill Jackson penned words that have been sung and said millions of time since they wrote Let There Be Peace on Earth (UMH 431). "Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me... Let peace begin with me; let this be the moment now. With every step I take, let this be my solemn vow: to take each moment and live each moment in peace eternally. Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me."
St. Francis of Assisi captured the vision of what it takes to be a peacemaker. His prayer has been repeated throughout the years and across the world. If we would follow the wisdom in that prayer, I am convinced the world would be changed.
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen
During this Advent Season, let us be peacemakers as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.
[Taken with permission from "Monday Morning in North Georgia," Nov. 28, 2011. North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church.]