In the musical Rent the character of Mark sings: “The opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation.” The narrow definition of peace as merely the absence of destruction is turned on its head in a story about art and artists, but it has more universal application. True peace is not something we passively experience; it is something we do.
After World War II, the United States initiated the Marshall Plan to help a devastated Europe recover economically. This aid included former enemies Italy and Germany, as well as neutral countries like Iceland. At the same time the U.S. oversaw the reconstruction of Japan, including a security arrangement that still exists today. These decisions were not altruistic on the part of the U.S. Leaders understood simple withdrawal from conflict was not the same as peace, which requires an ongoing effort. They understood peace as doing justice.
If we want to have peace – personal, interpersonal, or international – in our own lives, we can’t rely on outside forces to retreat from conflict and leave us alone to our apathy. Acts of creation and generosity can transform enemies into allies, battlefields into sources of shared harvest. To have peace, we must do peace.
For all his message of doom, the prophet Amos does paint a picture of what the peaceful Kingdom will look like:
they shall rebuild the ruined cities and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and drink their wine,
and they shall make gardens and eat their fruit. (Amos 9:14)
It is not that these activities are possible because we live in some conflict-free vacuum we label peace, but that these activities are peace and create the conditions for its survival.
We all have conflicts. What cities of friendship have we left in ruin? What vineyards of opportunity have we trampled? What refugees of family have we driven away? We can choose to simply retreat from these battles, but let’s not mistake indifference for peace. Rather, let’s regroup and prayerfully consider how we might do peace. When we do peace rather than wait for it, the harvest will be abundant.
Comfort: We are not helpless in the face of conflict. We can rely on God to show us how to live peace.
Challenge: Explore organizations in your local community which work toward peace. Look for ways you might contribute.
Prayer: Relieve the troubles of my heart, and bring me out of my distress. Consider my affliction and my trouble, and forgive all my sins. (Psalm 25:17-18)
Discussion: Where have you settled for indifference instead of peace? What can you do about it?
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