What Is Peace?

Author: Karen Hoover


“We are bombed every day, every night and nonstop. Enjoy what you have, enjoy peace, it’s really valuable. Don’t take for granted what you have now, because it is so vulnerable.”

                                                                                    A Ukrainian woman, now a refugee


“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.”  Matthew 5:9


Ever since seeing this woman on the television news this week, I have been haunted by her words. To be honest, they are still turning over in my mind as I write this meditation.  How is it that such a wise admonition can be spoken so clearly during such trauma?  What am I to do with her commandment now that I am one of its recipients? What is peace? Why is it so elusive when peace is what everyone so easily claims they want? How can we possibly “enjoy peace” in our own lives when so many of our brothers and sisters worldwide are caught in webs of utter destruction, abuse, injustice, sorrow, hunger and thirst? And when our own sense of unity and security is so vulnerable?


We seek solace and guidance by praying to God to bring peace. Yet Isaiah tells us that the God we worship is both the maker of peace and the creator of evil (Isaiah 45:7).  We turn our hopes to Jesus. But in Matthew (10:34-39) Jesus declares, “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” And then he commands us to leave our families, take up our cross, and follow him.


Jesus is teaching us the way of peace here and telling us that it won’t be handed to us on a platter.  The sword he speaks of is the implement of justice, which cuts through everything that prevents peace. May I suggest that the sword of justice accomplishes nothing if it simply lays there, taken for granted? Instead, justice must be wielded to overcome injustice. Our congregation’s Just Peace Covenant declares that there is no peace without justice. So if we truly want peace, we must work for justice. We must speak to power and declare the truth of God’s love for the entire creation. The vulnerability of peace, of which this woman speaks, is that we do not adequately make for the conditions of peace. Peace is defended—and extended to all—by our work to achieve justice for all.


Perhaps instead of feeling overwhelmed by the dramatically changed world that now confronts us and the horror of the pictures we see, we should instead hear the words of this Ukrainian woman as a contemporary voice of Jesus in our own time. Let us respond by redoubling our efforts to follow Jesus and become the justice-makers and peace-makers he calls us to be.


Dear God, in this Season of Lent help us to listen carefully and to watch closely to learn more fully how to be followers of Jesus. Then strengthen us to act decisively and boldly to be peacemakers in our time. And pour out your special blessing and insight on those official representatives who are working so hard to end the destruction so that peacemaking can begin. Amen.



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