Wednesday 21st September marks the UN International Day of Peace – a day designed to ‘commemorate and strengthen the ideals of peace’ across the world. Few people would disagree with this aim, but the idea of peace can still feel quite remote. It can sometimes seem ‘out there’, disconnected from the practical, complicated business of our everyday lives and relationships.
For followers of Jesus, peace isn’t a lofty aspiration for us to take out and dust off once a year. Nor can it be safely admired at arm’s length. According to Jesus, peacemaking is central to our identity as part of God’s family: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God’ (Matthew 5:9). Peace is meant to infuse every part of who we are, shaping us into the likeness of our Father, the One whom St Paul describes repeatedly as the ‘God of peace’ (e.g. Romans 15:33). Peace is something we are invited to inhabit and then to live out.
This peace comes from being reconciled to God who has reached out to restore relationship with us in Jesus, and who transforms us from the inside out.
Peace is not passive but dynamic, so much more than the absence of conflict and violence. The word which we translate as ‘peace’ is originally ‘shalom’ in the Hebrew of the Old Testament and ‘eirene’ in the Greek of the New Testament. Both are rich with meaning. Brought together, they encompass both our inner assurance that comes from the presence of God and the pursuit of wholeness, justice and mutual flourishing in community.
In this context, peace is not simply a nice idea but rather it is a challenging call to pursue integrity, justice and new life in all of our relationships – with God, with ourselves, one another and with creation – day in, day out. Living out our identity as peacemakers involves bringing the pain of conflict and violence before God in prayer. But it also involves small, everyday choices. Trying to have more patience with the family member who rubs us up the wrong way or actually listening to the person we’re having an argument with, instead of just reloading with our comeback.
This doesn’t always come easily or naturally, which is why the habits we develop are so important. The three habits at the heart of Difference – Be Curious, Be Present and Reimagine – can give us a practical way to lean into our identity as peacemakers, especially when the going gets tough.
Peacemaking is the daily work of allowing God to shape our patterns of thinking, speaking and acting within each of the fractures we encounter – big and small. Through these habits, peacemaking becomes not only what we do but who we are. In the words of Martin Luther King Junior, ‘Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal’.