Romans 14:19 – Let us then pursue the things that make for peace and build up the common life.
Anybody who opens a newspaper or listens to the news will tell you that our world is hardly a peaceful place. With so much going on in the world, how can those of us with faith continue to hope for and work towards peace?
However, since the news is supposed to keep us glued to our newspapers, radios and T.V.'s so that the advertisers can do their thing, it has to be dramatic. As a result we are told mostly the bad news. What we know little about is that there are millions of people in the world who are doing all kinds of things to encourage peace, whether it be in their own homes, at work, in governments, or in politics at large. We don't often learn about these folks, nor are we aware of the tremendous good that they do.
What do such common folk do? They promote peace by offering some prayers, by taking the neighbour's kids for an afternoon while parents get a break, by writing a letter protesting against the use of personal land mines or military hardware exported from Canada to military governments elsewhere, or by the simple (yet risky) act of opening communication lines in their homes. All of these and many more prevent the forces of evil from destroying our world.
When I feel discouraged I sometimes recall the people I was blessed to know in Nicaragua 10 years ago. At that time there was a war going on. The "contras", supported by the U.S. and financed by exchanging drugs for guns, were blowing up bridges, shooting at civilians, destroying farms (including one that Canada had built three times!). Today Nicaragua shares with Haiti the sad distinction of being the poorest nation in the western hemisphere.
Yet the people I came to know and love were the most hard-working and peace-loving people I've met. They knew much grief, had very little, yet were the happiest people I've known. Only the wealthier ones seemed unhappy.
Why didn't they give up? Why did they keep on working for peace? Maybe because they are good at grieving (and going on). Maybe because they knew what a difference peace-making makes in their lives. Maybe because they don't let "possessions" stop them from developing the strong relationships that sustain them. Maybe because their faith is very strong.
They taught me one more thing: "peace" is not the absence of war or conflict. They were at war, and yet lived peace. No, peace is an attitude toward life, despite the craziness life sometimes throws at us.
Robert Louis Stevenson tells a story of growing up in Scotland around the turn of the century. His family lived on a hillside, outside of a little town. Each evening he would sit in his family's kitchen, look down on the town and watch the lamplighter light each of the town's street lamps. He would say, "Look, mother, there is a man who punches holes in the darkness."
Prayer: God of peace, light your candle of peace within us so that, in the power of your love, we might punch holes in the darkness. Amen.