I confess – I’m hearing voices again. Well, actually it’s more like music. They are musical voices. (commonly called a choir) They are singing the words to a favorite old song of mine, words which now keep running through my mind. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. Let there be peace on earth, the peace that was meant to be.” Probably no coincidence that I would be wistfully wishing for peace now, when there seems to be so little of it in our city streets and across our country. And across the globe as well.
Conflict is nothing new. (Solomon always said, there is nothing new under the sun) And he was right apparently. Conflict was present in the very first family on earth. Cain killed his own brother, Abel, and we have been at odds with each other ever since, it seems. Not exactly what God intended for us. Not even close.
And so here we are today still fighting each other. Nations fight against other nations. Within those nations people fight against each other for power and control. Generation fights against generation, labor fights management, religions oppose each other while simultaneously fighting within themselves – just as Cain and Abel fought within their own family. There is no peace.
Romans 12:17-21 has some very relevant and good advice for me, if I want to pursue peace. I am told, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is Mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord. On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”
Wow! That pretty much says it all. If it is that simple, why don’t we have peace in our daily lives and in our world? I guess it is harder to follow this advice than one would think. I am told as far as it depends on me to live peacefully with others. So it has to start with me. I am not responsible for others’ choices, but I will be held accountable for my own.
And then I’m told, do not take revenge. Why? Because that’s God’s call. “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power; The Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished.” (Nahum 1:3)
Today’s gang culture would be totally revolutionized without the revenge thing going on. It is precisely revenge which keeps everything in motion for gangs and their agendas. Actually revenge is a common motive for much of our violence, as people attempt to pay back or to right real or perceived wrongs.
Jesus’s advice to me to show my enemy kindness, to feed him, clothe him etc. is as counter cultural today as it was when He first told His followers more than two thousand years ago to do the same thing. Not much has changed since then because human nature doesn’t change.
If I really want to be counter cultural, if I really want to be a true revolutionary, I must do that whole turning of the cheek thing. I must practice what Jesus preached in Luke 6:27-31 when He said,
“But I tell you who hear Me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
Responding to other people like that would definitely reverse the revenge cycle. But who is bold enough, strong enough to take that first step? I thought everyone wants to be a trend setter, but apparently when it comes to peace everyone is a follower, waiting for someone else to make the first move – the first to offer the other cheek – the first to offer a gesture of kindness or the first apology.
Who will be first in turning the other cheek? Could it be me? The song in my head continues on, “With God as our Father, brothers all are we. Let me walk with my brother, in perfect harmony.” As Gary said to Julius in the movie “Remember the Titans,” “I know now that I was only hating my brother.” We must recognize our common humanity. We must realize there is more that unites us than divides us. Where I choose to focus will determine my perceptions. My perceptions will determine my actions. Therefore, I would do well to keep my focus on God and His word.
If peace is to begin with me, I need to focus on my Heavenly Father’s instructions.
“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. . . . ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:8-10)
“Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14)
Lord, let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me!
love does no harm!
sincerely, Grace Day