If we stop dreaming about peace, war will become normal

September 21, 2016 : Christians pray for world peace. This occurs every year, because on 21 September churches observe the International Day of Prayer for Peace. Does this change anything? Well, yes, at least one’s own attitude. Already Jesus admonished that we be at peace with ourselves and make peace with our neighbour.

The United Nations observes international days in order to impress them upon people’s memory. They are to have a lasting impression. But length is a problem. Do people even want to be reminded about peace? Sometimes the wish for a peaceful world seems so bizarre, so infinitely far away. Constantly there is news of new conflicts flaring up. Many of the victims are children—it is all so needless. Nearly every day there are civilian casualties, something that is prohibited per se, and yet it happens all the time. War correspondent is a profession, resistance fighters are caught between the fronts, and humanitarian relief organizations wear blue helmets. Nothing has changed.

Peace is a requirement of the gospel

Should we stop dreaming about a peaceful world? Most certainly not! If we all stop dreaming about peace, war will become normal. Especially Christians are called to pray for peace. This is one of the requirements of the gospel.

“But whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you” (Luke 10: 5–6). Here Jesus makes it clear that peace cannot be imparted to those who do not want it. Neither can it be wasted nor defeated, and, if accepted, it does not go away empty-handed. For the Jews “shalom” means more than just the silencing of guns. It goes much deeper and means well-being and health, wholeness, and happiness. For Christians, too, to propose peace should be more than a courtesy. Behind this is the desire for salvation and healing through the sacrifice of the Son of God. This greeting of peace is entirely free from unattainable demands or subtle threats or vengeance for past hurts.

Peace, as relevant as ever

Jesus makes it clear that obviously not all people accept the peace that is offered them. But even if the peace that is communicated is not accepted, the messenger will not go away empty-handed. Even if the intended recipient is not filled by peace, the messenger is. Decisive here is the effort of wanting to bring peace.

And, finally, peace is free. It does not affect budgets or public funds, it does not require any negotiators, nor bribes, nor backup plans, nor missile silos. Peace is completely silent and pleasant. Peace is when a child who has fallen down gets up again. Peace is life.

Praying for peace

I pray that

  • people extend a greeting of peace when they meet and wish each other a good day.
  • people treat each other kindly—in the family, among friends, neighbours, and the congregation.
  • children do not have to experience any more wars and that words like “bombs”, “close combat”, and “air raids” are foreign words for them, something they hear only from their parents.
  • hate, threats, insinuations, and pride and arrogance are transformed into peace, kindness, harmony, and respect before they are ever thought.

I pray that all of us, like the shepherds in the field, enter the stable in Bethlehem and hear the angels sing: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

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Photo: Oliver Rütten

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