Amid the ongoing din of political discord, most of us yearn for peace. Exhaustion with charges and countercharges makes us consider “peace at any price.” This is a vulnerable time for our community and our nation. Peace is indeed much to be desired, but peace with honor, peace on the right terms.
It seems ironic when a car accident victim is described as in stable condition. One asks, “Is he dead?” There is no more stable condition than death. Likewise, peace can mean that one party to a dispute has been utterly subjugated. The peace where enemies are deprived of all their rights is hardly the yearned for outcome. This is sometimes called a Carthaginian peace. In 146 B.C., Rome won the last Punic War ending more than 100 years of conflict with Carthage (modern Tunisia). Rome leveled the city, killed most of the inhabitants and sold the rest into slavery. They plowed the ground with salt so nothing would ever grow there again. I doubt the Carthaginians saw this as a noble peace.
Peace at the price of surrendering justice is a sad parody of true peace. The word “shalom” in Hebrew is translated “peace” but it is far more than the absence of overt conflict. It means “harmony, wholeness, completeness, prosperity, welfare and tranquility.” Thomas à Kempis said he searched everywhere for peace but could only find it in a corner with a book. While, I love curling up with a book and escaping external noise, that is a pretty inadequate view of true peace.
Noted pop philosopher Jimi Hendrix once said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace.” He was very close to the truth in this statement. As a Christian, the power of love stems from the God who so loved the world that He gave His only Son to reconcile rebellious man to holy God. God, in Jesus, surrendered power for our sakes.
In chapter four of his Philippian letter, Paul discusses how to find true peace. As he wrote the letter, he was in jail on charges of sedition, facing possible execution. He was abandoned and criticized by supposed allies. He was dependent on charity to meet his basic necessities. As he reflects on this, he is reminded of Ps. 145:18, “The Lord is near to all who call on Him.” The immanence of God comforts him and frees him from anxiety. He cultivates that sense of the presence of God by making prayer the continual practice of his life, making his requests known to God with Thanksgiving. Doing this, Paul assures us, will bring the peace of God to guard our hearts and minds. Our inner peace is protected by a power far greater than the Praetorian Guards to whom he is chained day and night.
Thanksgiving is the crucial element to Paul’s formula for peace. We thank God for His past faithfulness to us, which encourages us that we will successfully navigate the present difficulties. We thank God for His promises to us, knowing that God keeps His promises. If He gives us His word, it will come to pass. We thank God for His character. His perfections are the rock on which we build our expectations for a better tomorrow. Merely presenting God with our wish list focuses us on the things we lack. Thanksgiving balances our needs with the wonders of the living and personal God who is committed to supplying all our needs according to His riches. (Philippians 4:19) We no longer feel like paupers but like children of the King who showers His generosity on those He loves.
Paul goes on to say that we must manage our thought life, concentrating our minds on that which is true, noble, just, pure, lovely, gracious, excellent and honorable. Paul understood the principle of “garbage-in, garbage-out.” In our world, addiction to negative news media or crime TV shows or racy movies or tabloids are the “garbage-in” that destroys peace. By regulating what enters our eyes, minds and hearts, we create an environment where holy God feels welcome to take up abode within us. Paul promises that if we exercise such self-control, not only will we experience God’s peace but also the God of peace will be with us (Philippians 4:9).
Peace for a follower of Jesus is not dependent on circumstances. It flows from our intentional reliance on Him as the perfect Provider for our needs, the Guardian of our hearts and the Purifier of our thoughts. The prophet Isaiah summarized this well in his words, “You will keep in perfect peace the person whose mind is focused on you because he trusts in You.” (Isaiah 26:3) Will you choose to dwell in this peace in the midst of a world in turmoil?
Doug Kiesewetter is a serial start-up business and social entrepreneur, having launched 13 for-profit ventures and many non-profits over the past 4 decades. He is currently CEO of a Montrose-based solar manufacturer and chairman of Waterstone, a public Christian foundation in Colorado Springs. Doug is a member of Cedar Creek Church. He and his wife Deborah have two adult children and four grandchildren.