by the Rev. Willie Israel
THE IMPORTANCE OF PEACE
In a world that is increasingly torn apart by international and interpersonal conflict, the concept of peace often seems to be an unattainable goal. This is partly because of the contradiction we see between the way the political and economic world operates, and our own need to experience wholeness in our lives and our communities. Many people believe that living at peace means that they will experience happiness, freedom from pain and difficulty, and their own perception of sufficient material wealth.
Yet this is not the kind of peace that Jesus offers. It is true that people who experience peace may also have the blessings mentioned above, but this is not always the case. When Jesus told his disciples, in John 14:27, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you." , He followed that promise with the words: "I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
Jesus knew about the challenges his disciples would face following his crucifixion, and in the months, years and centuries that followed his resurrection He knew that there are some aspects of life in this world that will not change until God's reign is fulfilled on earth, and some things that won't change even then. There will always be natural disasters; there will always be sickness and grief, as part of the human life cycle. There will always be challenges and even dangers that God's people are called to face. Until God's kingdom is fulfilled, there will always be war and oppression.
Yet when we follow Jesus' admonition to put God first, to love each other, and to trust in God's plan and provision for God's children, we will be able to experience peace in spite of the difficulties we face. The peace Jesus offers comes, not from political strategies or self-help programs, but through making our God the center and focus of our lives. When we are renewed by the presence of God's Holy Spirit, we will be able to experience God's true shalom.