Peace doesn’t mean you won’t have problems. Peace means your problems will not have you – Dr. Tony Evans
In 1866 Alfred Nobel invented dynamite, which became useful in the construction industry. His aim for dynamite was to create a force powerful enough to make life better. Sadly, people took his invention and used it for war and killing people. This misappropriation of his invention bothered Alfred greatly. In response, he withdrew 9 million dollars of his own money and began to award people who promoted peace. Today, that award is known around the world as the Nobel Peace Prize. It’s most recent winner was the World Food Programme in October. The award recognizes individuals or organizations motivated to be peace bringers where there is potential for war. And in a time where war is no longer on the battlefields but on our streets, social media, and political landscapes, we need more people who are quicker to sow peace than instigate wars. To be clear, peace is not the absence of war or chaos. This enclosed view reminds me of the short but timeless quote by Virginia Woolf, “You cannot find peace by avoiding life.” Peace is the presence of calmness on the inside despite the chaos that rages on the outside. The story of two painters below helps to further convey this point.
A Tale of Two Painters
Two painters were in a contest where each said they could paint a picture of peace. One painter painted a sunset with the sun going down over the calm water. Looking at the picture produced a sense of calm, and the painter was confident he won. The second one painted a picture of a storm. The sky was dark, and there was lightning, thunder, and dark clouds rolling overhead. The picture showed the waves crashing against the rocks. It looked chaotic. There was no way he could win. But in the bottom corner of the painting were two big stones with a bird in the middle of them. And the bird was singing! Apparently, it had a different source of peace.
The One True Source of Peace
Peace, like water, is vital for life. Water makes up more than half of the human body. The earth’s surface is covered by roughly 71% water. As important as water is, water sources filled with impurities cause harm to our physical bodies. Due to the impurities, what was deemed useful becomes harmful.
Similarly, peace requires a source free from the impurities of prejudice, discrimination, political affiliations, racism, nepotism, classism, and tribalism that are harmful to our communities. Only God provides pure and sustainable peace. Finding Him means finding peace. His peace dispenses calmness in the storms of life. Like the bird in the painting, we can be singing when life is dark, the waves of our circumstances are crashing against us, and chaos looms because the peace we have comes from a power that is greater than our struggles, fears, and hardships. Peace gives us the ability to smile in the middle of chaos. Finding God and then living by His words in the Bible makes us peaceful and willing to make peace with others regardless of our differences.
How we view people determines the value we assign them. This has major implications on whether we choose to be peacemakers or peace-takers. When we assign labels to people based on their culture, upbringing, appearance, educational level, and political party preference, we perpetuate us versus them rhetoric, which is the recipe for peace-taking instead of peacemaking. Those who don’t share the same preferences as us become enemies, and we use the dynamite of our words, especially on social media, to blow up their lives. Peace becomes a distant thought instead of a close reality.
Words carry enormous weight. When our words are filled with the impurities of anger, hatred, and contempt, we contaminate the lives of others. How we choose to communicate either reflects a peacemaking or peace-taking outlook. Before you communicate, consider how your words will impact the receiver. Will they make or take peace?
Final Thought: This season, many of us will pursue purchases for personal use or to give as a gift. I encourage you also to pursue peace and be a giver of it as well. Perhaps the best gift you can give to someone is an irenic disposition when they come your way with words that nourish and calm the heart. You may never be selected to be a Nobel Peace Prize winner, but by daily choosing to be a peacemaker instead of a peace taker, you have made a choice that is worth more than a prize. You will make your quality of life and those around you much better. And just in case you were wondering, the second painter won the contest. Stay peaceful.
Keep on Keeping on!