"Peace is not an absence of war; it is a virtue, a state of mind, a disposition for benevolence, confidence, justice.” * We live in a world of wars on the large scale, and not much peace on the smaller scales. Our cities, neighborhoods and homes are often mini war zones. Even when the surface seems calm, the attitudes underneath are far from benevolent or virtuous. It sounds easy sometimes—John Kennedy once said that “Our problems are man-made, therefore they can be solved by man.”** I have heard so many people, from major politicians to ordinary people, explain patiently that they are a person of goodwill, therefore, if the problem is explained rationally, then others will understand and cooperate.
We can see that it's not that simple. Even with a desire for a solution, we all come with differing experiences and expectations that we ourselves often don't recognize and understand. Someone who been cheated, for example, will read things into others' behavior that may or may not have any relationship to reality. In my business, state regulations require that we get a customer's signature on a repair estimate and approval of any necessary increases. Our customers' expectations may not match our estimates, and the discussion may not be peaceful. I remember a lady who came in one day with her husband's shopping list of items that averaged about $5-10 each. He had told her not to pay more than $2 each. Sometimes the problem is information, but people’s hearts are not that simple.
What makes it difficult is that from a Biblical point of view, our problems may not be man-made, and not solvable on a human scale. We see evidence throughout history and Scripture that there is evil in this world; the “prince of this world” does not promote true peace. Jesus told his followers that “In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Recently when a pushy customer was being loud and unreasonable out in the shop, I was led to pray hard for peace. And about an hour after the customer stomped out muttering threats, he came back, apologized for his behavior, and was willing to make peace. The change was in his heart. Even when we figure out the tricks our minds can play on us, recognition is only the first step in breaking the hold of longstanding hurts and reactions. Once again, we are back to a key choice: are we willing to give up whatever is interfering with the peace of our own hearts, and peace with the others in our lives? The track record of our ability to make peace on our own effort is not good; true peace comes from the Prince of Peace.
*Baruch Spinoza, 1670