If you have a mental picture of peace as a condition where everyone minds their own business and has minimum interaction with one another, I’m afraid you have mistaken peace for individualism. Individualism can never be peace; it whispers in silence, “See to it that you don’t disturb me. If you start a fight, I can do worse to you.” Individualism is nothing but a form of insecurity, as if everybody else is your enemy.
To understand “peace” better, make it an adjective, and add the word “family” after it. What comes to your mind upon hearing “peaceful family”? Do you picture members of a family who don’t talk to each other in a quiet house, everyone in their room watching Youtube videos? If so, your view of peace is very distorted. In a family, a fight is—I dare say—normal. Arguments happen daily. There is hardly a teenager that doesn’t find his/her parents annoying, and vice versa. But is it possible to have peace in the midst of all—in Chesterton’s word—the topsyturvydom?
I believe it is. As long as they love and forgive one another.
I experience it firsthand. I definitely hurt my parents and brother, and they hurt me. But we constantly love one another, and that love involves forgiveness. When a member of the family commits a mistake toward another, hurt lingers in the air for a while, then the hurting party starts doing good things to the one who hurts him/her, starts loving him/her again, and peace is regained. The same thing happens in a bigger community. Peace in the neighborhood is definitely not awkwardness among residents who don’t know one another. Peace in a multicultural country means respect and friendliness among the different races. It is not merely a concept or an idea; it is not based on selfish interests but on respect for fellow human being.
Peace involves love and forgiveness. Loving and forgiving someone is something we actively do, not something we passively wait for. And there is a special blessing for those who work for it.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God. —Matthew 5:9
When everything runs smoothly, everyone behaves nicely, we assume peace is there (and perhaps it really is). But our attitude when something wrong happens and we are the one being wronged, determines whether the peace is true or not. Every hurt is actually an opportunity to be a peacemaker, to forgive and love. It is a test of ourselves: Do we have peace in us, or is our peace dependent to the situation? If you do have peace, if you are whole as a person, you will make the right decision: you will make peace with the one who does you wrong.
“Easier said than done,” you’d tell me, and I won’t deny it. When I studied this verse, I was deeply disappointed by a person I was supposed to respect. Our relationship grew cold and I thought I’d let it be that way for I don’t care how long. But then God spoke to me personally through this verse, and put me on a crossroad: am I going to do the will of God, or am I going to stay angry? I made a decision that day—by the grace of God. “I will forgive, and I will treat that person well,” was my resort.
What happened next? Did I lose because I gave up my anger?
It’s interesting that the word “blessed” in the verse above comes from a Greek word that literally means happy. And that is precisely what I felt after I decided to obey God’s word: I was happy. God doesn’t lie; His words are true.
I believe you want to be happy; I mean, who doesn’t? The way of the world says that when someone hurts you, revenge will taste sweet. The truth is, you will taste hell: it’s bitter. Somebody has to break the circle and settle the matter once and for all, but oftentimes we don’t want to be that somebody. We’d rather be one who receives forgiveness, not one who gives it. But God, who made us and knows very well how human being works, tells us that forgiving and loving—that is, making peace—will make you happy. It’s not simply forgetting or pretending that nothing happens. It’s saying, “I acknowledge that you have caused me an injury, but I forgive you and will love you.” This is divine. It’s virtually impossible to do so, except we have received such kindness firsthand.
There is a grandiose promise right there: “They will be called sons of God.” We will fittingly be His sons, because we imitate Him. See what He does:
“Love your enemy and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors (bad people of those days) do the same? And if you greet (be nice to) only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles (immoral people) do the same? You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” —Matthew 5:44-48
The same passage in Luke says God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. And by the way, He doesn’t just do empty talk. At the cross, the Son of God died, not for His friends, but for His enemies. It is unthinkable to me that Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him, asking the Father to forgive them for their ignorance. He is so high above human, He is definitely divine. His character is put to the severest test when He was unjustly put to excruciating death, and He passed the test. Through His death, He made peace between us and God, and made it possible for us to have a renewed life. He is the ultimate Peacemaker, rightly called the Prince of Peace.
While for many people giving away forgiveness and love would not be possible, God has made it possible for us believers who live “not by power and not by might, but by (His) Spirit.” Now the choice is ours. Will we do as the Prince of Peace have done, and make peace, and be blessed with divine happiness? Or will we hold bitterness only to hear God saying, “If you only love those who love you, . . what more are you doing than others?”