It would be a reasonable conclusion to say that the whole of human history could be described as a cycle of three reoccurring phases – 1) Events leading up to war; 2) war being waged; 3) and the aftermath effects of war. So even though every generation has cried out for peace, peace has never really been on the agenda — except as peace defined on our own terms . . . of being in control. Wanting a better world is a noble dream . . . but wanting a better world on our own terms is the very stuff of which nightmares are made.
For even when we reduce this to the microcosm of individual relationships, we discover the very same war/peace paradox at work. When we seek to be at peace with everyone in our lives, invariably we end up fighting to create and maintain the type of peace we imagine should exist. But isn’t this the same way we approach love? We desire unconditional love — but we end up practicing conditional love. This is because even though we hate to admit it — what we want most, is a world created in our own image. But could it be that fundamentally, we aren’t even at peace with ourselves?
The whole reason for seeking professional counseling is so we might learn how to be at peace with ourselves — someone to walk with us through the mine field of our fears and anxieties, to help us locate those self-sabotaging behaviors besetting us, and to develop within us a better self-talk language. But the truth is — it really doesn’t matter whether or not we’re even in counseling – we all share the same fallen diagnoses. Paul puts it this way “but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” ~ Romans 7:23, 24.
So, what are we to make of “peace on earth, good will toward men”? The atheist will, undoubtedly, surmise this to be the seasonal pipe dream rhetoric of a delusional, misguided mythology. But all the same, he keeps his longing eye on the idea that all of humanity might someday be perfected by evolution . . . and in that evolved perfection, find peace. But it is the confession of the Christian faith that peace must first be found in Christ – because apart from him, we invariably default back to our own definitions of peace. For only in the peace of Christ are we capable of transcending every circumstance.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace, born into a violent world, only to suffer a violent death at the hands of a violent people. But even so, we can know peace — for it is in his resurrection, we are given a hope capable of animating a real and lasting peace. Therefore, during this Advent season I whisper “peace be still”, to quiet the war that rages within my own heart. I say “shalom (peace)” to all I meet, regardless of whether they consider me their friend or foe. And I say “peace on earth, good will toward men” to a world longing for peace — so that it might finally realize that peace never begins in the vain imaginations of men . . . it begins in a manger.
May the war within you find peace on earth . . .