During the Christmas Season we yearn for peace in the world and in our hearts. Greeting cards express this hope, and our own rough edges tend to smooth as we wish one another peace and joy in the New Year.
The longing for peace reminds us that we are brothers and sisters of one world. All our borders are artificial and only outline what we claim for ourselves. Yet the earth does not belong to us, as Chief Seattle once said. We belong to the earth. “All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected.” Our boundaries tend to keep us apart, giving us permission to love only our own. But when we die, all that we claimed for ourselves is dispersed. A stingy approach doesn’t bring peace and joy. A welcoming heart builds community and leaves a legacy of love.
While we wish for peace it appears that waging war is easier. Red and Rover in a cartoon by Brian Basset say it so well. Rover is asleep on a rug and Red awakens him to ask, “Rover, wanna play war?!” Rover responds by putting his paw over his ear. Red pleads, “Awww, c’mon. Six rations of milky bones daily.” The next scene shows them both flat on their tummies on the carpet. Rover says, “How come we never play ‘peacekeepers’?” Red replies, “Too difficult.”
Red is right. Peace is difficult because it has to begin with our own commitment to soften our responses to anger with gentleness. For those greedy for possessions, compassion needs to replace a selfish heart. Competitors can strive to achieve winners rather than losers. Gallantry is for saving lives, not destroying them.
A passage from the Epistle to the Colossians gives us a good place to start as we long for peace:
“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (3:12-14)