Peace is a Verb.

“We pray for peace!” cries the Christian, the Buddhist, the Muslim, and the Hindu.  “We need peace,” grumble the businessmen, the traders, the CEO’s.  “We voted for peace,” complain the democrats, the republicans, and the independents.  “We fight for peace!” shouts the soldier; “We pay for peace,” sighs the taxpayer.  The world is peace-hungry.  Peace is a fad; peace is a commodity.  Politicians trade it like currency; beauty queens include it in their winning speeches.  Colleges offer classes on peace for those privileged enough to attend, and pastors sermonize it weekly for the masses.  Peace signs appear on backpacks and buttons, t-shirts and jewelry.  It shows up in songs and movies, at poetry readings and anti-war protests.

Few ever bother to define peace, and if they do, it’s often a miserable slogan designed to promote various political or religious agendas.   Even the dictionary limits peace to  “the absence of hostility, a state unmarked by violent conflict.”  What can we say about peace to the millions of starving children in India, to the thousands of broken and destitute families in Rwanda?  What can we say to the countless abandoned infant girls in China, or the Palestinians still confined to refugee camps?  What can we say to the American Indian whose ancestors were victims of genocide and the Japanese whose grandparents were vaporized by an atomic bomb?

What can we say to ourselves, we who so often ignore the suffering and misery of others?

In the middle of unfathomable tragedy, ancient words whisper.  “‘Peace, peace to those who are far away, and peace to those who are near.  I will heal them,’ says the Lord.”(1) The Hebrew word for “peace” is Shalom.  It is more than a state of mind, of being, or of affairs.  It encapsulates a reality and hope for the individual, for societal relations, and for the whole world.  It is wholeness, completeness, and oneness, both within the person and the global community.  Shalom does not merely speak of what is or what could be.  It describes the process, the activity, and the movement towards restoration.

Peace is a noun, a thing, an entity.  It does not spontaneously appear; it cannot create itself.  It needs a verb to set it in motion.

We are the verb.

We can’t just talk about peace.  We can’t just advertise peace.  We can’t just dream about peace.

We have to work at it.
And work at it.
And work at it.

Peace demands a struggle against violence, discrimination, poverty, hunger, abandonment, greed, abuse, neglect, sickness, exploitation, and war.  It requires courage, commitment, endurance, vigilance, and integrity.  It is built on preemptive measures taken before conflicts escalate and on acts of service in places where conflicts have already occurred.  It is founded in unconditional, unwavering love and an acute awareness of the global human family.  In the sage words of Mother Theresa, “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to one another.”

The child born with AIDS in Somalia is our child.  The pregnant mother forced to abort her baby because of population control laws in China is our sister.  The radical violently defending his religious ideals in Lebanon is our brother.  The little girls kidnapped and forced into sex trafficking, the CEO’s who exploit overseas workers, the druggies that sell their own bodies just to get high, the parents who neglect their own offspring – these are all our family.  Man’s skin has many colors, but underneath all his blood is red.

We belong to each other.  We are each other’s future; we are each other’s past.  Lao Tzu, a philosopher in ancient China, penned a poem that has now spread throughout the world:

If there is to be peace in the world,
There must be peace in the nations.

If there is to be peace in the nations,
There must be peace in the cities.

If there is to be peace in the cities,
There must be peace between neighbors.

If there is to be peace between neighbors,
There must be peace in the home.

If there is to be peace in the home,
There must be peace in the heart.

Peace begins with us, right here, and right now.  It begins in our homes, with our families.  It begins at our workplace and at our sporting events.  It begins in our minds.  A group of children were recently asked to define “peace.”  They came up with this:

Peace is the only battle worth waging.  It may sound simple, but it requires of us every dream, every ideal, every strength, and every hope.  It is right, and it is our duty.

To these children, peace is having a future.  It’s up to us to determine what kind of future it will be.

(1) – Isaiah 57:19

Confessions, Part 1: I am Broken.

Stopping is just so difficult.

I am a very busy person.  To be sure, there are thousands, perhaps even millions of people busier than I.  But I am still a very busy person.  I am constantly caught up in twenty different things, going twenty different places, talking to twenty different people, and somehow keeping everybody involved at least marginally happy.  Sure, there are days when I have “nothing” to do, but busy is a state of mind for me, not just a way of life.  Even when I’m sitting still, my mind can be racing millions of miles an hour.  There’s always something to analyze, ponder, and worry about.

I don’t like stopping.  Stopping is dangerous.  Stopping forces me to face what I’ve been ignoring for so long while drowning myself in business.

I’m a mess.

I’ve been broken for so long that I don’t remember what it’s like to be whole.  I’ve been tired for so long that I can’t remember what it’s like to be rested.  I’ve been empty for so long that I can’t remember what it’s like to be full.  There’s no running away from it, no hiding from it, no avoiding it.  I’m just simply a mess.  I’ve got all these secret pains and aches and feelings stuffed into places where no one will see them.

Every once in a while the miserable soup bubbling somewhere in the cauldron of my heart gets a little too hot.  Every once in a while there’s a blip on the radar, an incident that seems trivial, or a desperate word or two that escapes unawares.  There are days when I don’t want to be nice.  There are days when I’m sick of myself.  There are days when I have nothing to say, and days when my brain is so full it gives me a headache.  There are days when I don’t want to pray, think, or smile.
There are days when I don’t want to believe.

Not in God.

Not in anything.

On those days, it’s hard to be busy.  Obligations feel like chores and the tiniest trifle feels like a problem of monstrous proportions.  On those days, I just want to take my keys and drive somewhere far away, where nobody knows me and nothing is familiar.  The only issue is that I’d have to take myself with me.  It’s hard to run away from the problem when the problem is inside of you.

Salvation has become such an eternal concept in today’s church.  Everything is based on heaven, hell, and our respective places in them.  Don’t get me wrong, I believe salvation has an eternal aspect and determines our entrance into heaven or hell, but there’s one tiny problem.  On those days, I don’t care about eternity.  I don’t need a God for after I die.

I need a God for now.

I need a hope for now.

I need a healing for now.

Sure, much greater things will come in the future.

But now, right now, I need help.

It’s funny how a lot of Christian self-help books tell us to pray and trust and such and that things “will get better.”  It implies the future.  It’s just that a lot of times we don’t need things to get better at some point in the future; we need them better now.  We need peace now, love now, and above all else, faith now.

Luke 8:43-48 recounts the story of a woman who had been plagued for twelve years with disease.  After she touches the tassel of Jesus’ garment, gets found out, and casts herself at His feet, Jesus tells her, “Go in peace.”  The Hebrew word for “peace” is shalom. Our Western understanding of peace is usually the absence of conflict.  Ancient rabbis would not have limited shalom to this.  The shalom of God is the presence of the goodness of God.  It is wholeness, completeness, and oneness.  It is not simply the absence of conflict; it is the presence of an overwhelming love so powerful that it transforms the person enveloped by it.  It is not just a momentary peace.  It is an infinite peace, because it is an attribute of God, and God is infinite.  Philippians 4:7 speaks of a “peace that transcends all understanding.”  This is shalom.

When Jesus told the woman to “Go in peace,” He was really telling her to go in the whole and complete goodness of God that was transforming every aspect of her being.  There’s another word in that short phrase that catches my attention – “in.”  Jesus tells her to “Go in peace.”  He does not tell her to wait for peace, pray for peace, hope for peace, or work for peace.  He tells her to go in the realization of a peace that’s already there.  She goes, enveloped in God’s person.

That’s what I need.  I need God to be a person.  I need God to have ears when I want to scream, a shoulder when I want to cry, a hand to hang onto when I trip, and lips to kiss my boo-boos.

I so appreciate a statement made by Rob Bell – “It is possible to be a good Christian and go to church services and sing the right songs and jump through the right hoops and never let Jesus heal your soul.”

This is a confession.  I am a mess.  I am tired, empty, and broken.  I have not always forgiven, and I have not always repented.  Sometimes, I can barely hang on, and sometimes I climb over people.  I do not have all the answers, but I pretend I know it all.  I cannot exist alone, but I still keep people at a distance.  Very often I do not love.

Yet all of that is okay.  God is a person; He’s a God of now.  And now, right now, the personal God of now has His arms around me, His heartbeat next to my ear, and His lips kissing my boo-boos.

I’ve learned that a lot of people give up.  Anyone can quit.  Quitting is easy.

But I don’t want to quit.  In fact, I can’t wait for the next moment, because God is already there.  This may seem too raw, too honest.  I’m okay with that.  Being broken is beautiful.

Stopping is difficult.  I beg you, though, to stop.  To assess, to confess, and to allow the overwhelming shalom of God to wrap you up.  It’s an exiting place to be.

I’m excited, at least.

 

Because Jesus is healing my soul.