Any speaker worth his salt knows that first impressions are everything. You only have but a few moments to establish a rapport with your audience or they are lost. Knowing this, speakers will use “never fail” material to soften up those listening. Examples of this range from pictures of their baby (everyone loves babies), pets (ditto), self-deprecating humor, etc. Nothing is 100% fail proof, but they are pretty close.
I feel like the word peace carries with it the same tendency. It’s the “never fail” word. If you want to be liked, feel righteous, or win an argument you just throw out the peace card. It’s fail safe because no one wants to argue against peace. It’s not a popular position to say “No” to peace. No one wants war, strife, or disharmony and so peace has this altruistic ring to it.
But I wonder if peace has begun to lose its meaning in our world today. It’s so easy to want peace, but what do we really mean by that? In most cases, it just means we want everyone to leave everyone else alone. Peace has been diminished to the point where it just means let everyone do what they want to or avoid conflict.
The point I’m trying to make is not that peace is bad. Genuine peace is great. However, we should be careful how we use the word and it should never become the sole goal. Let me explain before you think I’m crazy!
Let’s start on an individual level. People crave peace. We long for peace in our lives. Inner peace is highly sought after. It’s the ultimate goal for many people. But what if peace comes at a cost? Should I feel good about sitting on my couch at peace with myself while there are those who suffer daily? Should we not be a little disturbed that people go hungry or that children go without clean water? Should we not weep with those who weep? Maybe we can have peace while we serve and love people, but I would argue peace without compassion is akin to throwing your life away. It may feel good, but it’s not accomplishing anything. It’s not that we can never feel good about ourselves. I just think we sometimes feel at peace because we’re numb or calloused to what goes on around us. That’s not peace.
Now, interpersonal peace. I hate conflict. I’m one of the first to shy away from it. I don’t like arguing. I don’t like awkward conversations. Maybe you’re like me in that regard. However, I think we miss something important if we define peace as the absence of conflict. Perhaps your friend is cheating on his wife. Do you preserve the peace in the relationship or do you have a tough conversation? Maybe someone in your family has a habitual, destructive behavior. Will you see them through to the other side? People’s lives are messy. We’re going to get messy if we take the time to listen, to care, and to be there for them. We should strive to love and value our neighbors, but there are times when we must sacrifice peace.
Finally, international peace. War is terrible. No doubt about it. I hate that I’m almost numb to the fact that soldiers die every month. Ultimately, I wish there was no need for war. But is peace our sole objective? Setting aside our wars today (I don’t want to debate those), if we knew of a country who tortured its citizens, who left them homeless, who stole their children, would we be obligated to act in some way? Maybe not militarily at first, but would our efforts for peace trump standing up for injustice?
We have become a bumper sticker culture. Develop a pithy saying, slap it on the back of a car, and you create a movement. But our culture has denigrated peace into being little more than isolationism in our personal lives, in our relationships, and in our foreign affairs. To answer the title of this post, “No, peace is not overrated.” True peace is certainly a worthy aspiration, but finding true peace is altogether different than avoiding conflict and pain.
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
So what do you think? What defines peace in your mind? Do you agree peace has become too watered down?
This post was part of a blog carnival on peace hosted by Bridget Chumbley’s blog. You can read the rest of the posts here.