Some people would say that Jesus was a peaceful man. And that is a basically true statement. But I think that we have to understand that peace wasn’t necessarily his primary interest, at least not peace in the way that we often see it.
Because sometimes I think we misread what peace is supposed to be. We might sell peace short and settle for the absence of conflict. Or even worse, we may settle for peace at any price, swallowing our disagreements and never coming close to true healing in our relationships. There are families in which never a harsh word would be said, but the underlying hostility is palpable. There are workplaces in which there are never any arguments, but there is also never any cooperative work done. Sometimes there are relationships where fear replaces love and respect.
And this is not the kind of peace that Jesus would bring us today. This is the One who came to set the earth on fire, and his methods for bringing us to peace might well cause division in the here and now. But there is never any resurrection if we don’t have the cross. And so there will never be any peace if we don’t confront what’s really happening. The fire has to be red hot and blazing to burn away all that is unhealthy if there is ever to be any new growth.
And so today we have to stop settling for a peace that really isn’t so peaceful. We may just have to have that hard conversation we’ve been trying to avoid. Of course, we do it with love for our brothers and sisters, but out of love we also don’t avoid it. Our words and actions must always be guided by the fire of the Holy Spirit, but we must never choose to neglect the Spirit’s guidance and instead just settle for something that is really not peace. We have to work for true healing in all of our relationships.
The Psalmist tells us today that “the earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” That goodness resides in all those people God has given us in our lives. This day, we are called to relish their goodness and work for lasting peace with all of them.