On September 30, 1938, Prime Minister of Great Britain, Neville Chamberlain gave a speech after negotiations with Adolf Hitler, chancellor of Nazi Germany. A portion of what he said I quote:
This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here is the paper which bears his name upon it as well as mine. Some of you, perhaps, have already heard what it contains but I would just like to read it to you: ' ... We regard the agreement signed last night and the Anglo-German Naval Agreement as symbolic of the desire of our two peoples never to go to war with one another again.'
My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honour. I believe it is peace for our time. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Go home and get a nice quiet sleep.The great irony of his words was realized when less than a year later, the agreements with Germany were in tatters and Great Britain and Germany were at war.
Peace is something Christians have prayed for since the beginning of the faith. In the book of Common Prayer the faithful have prayed for centuries, "Give peace in our time, O Lord." In some ways it should come as no surprise that so often what we pray for seems to elude us. We pray for peace and prepare for war. We hope for serenity yet live for security. We desire to beat our swords into plowshares yet recycle our steel into weapons. We pray for peace, but we live as though war is inevitable.
Jesus tells his disciples in the upper room, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid." We certainly know the kind of peace the world gives-- it's here for a moment than gone before we can blink. We watch cable news and read the latest headlines on the Internet. Since the beginning human history has been written and blood and tears and our day is no different. We established the League of Nations after World War I, the War to End All Wars, but the League of Nations is gone and the War to End All Wars... well... didn't end war. After World War II the United Nations was established and has certainly done some good in the world, but it's difficult to envision the UN bringing any kind of lasting peace, especially when nations with the greatest abuses in human rights have periodically been put on the UN Human Rights Council; and nations are much more inclined to vote their own interests than what is best for the world at large.
It is certainly good when nations are able to find peace, even if that peace does not last; but Christians should know that only the Prince of Peace can bring the kind of lasting peace we seek. Only Christ has broken down the dividing walls of hostility between us. While negotiations and better understanding and tolerance are good things, the divergent interests of nations and human communities and different and even contradictory moral values, and most of all... human sin... makes lasting peace difficult if not impossible to achieve. I must also mention that nations will do whatever is necessary to preserve their self-interests. So much for peace in our time.
What makes peace in our time even more illusory is that the church the people of God, the disciples of Jesus, the Prince of Peace think and act as if peace is the last thing we are about. As I said above, in some ways it should come as no surprise that so often what we pray for seems to elude us. We pray for peace and prepare for war. We hope for serenity yet live for security. We desire to beat our swords into plowshares yet recycle our steel into weapons. We pray for peace, but we live as though war is inevitable; and we treat Jesus' command for us to love our enemies as if it is just an ideal dream even though Jesus clearly indicated otherwise. We pray for one thing and live for another. How can the world know the kind of peace and reconciliation God desires for the world if Jesus' people are not ambassadors of peace and reconciliation?
Many centuries ago, Jesus promised peace for his followers. Thus, we must embody that peace in our communities of faith and reflect that peace to a world that believes violence is the most effective answer to what assails us. If Jesus' people do not believe that peace and reconciliation has been achieved through cross and resurrection and live in that way, how will the world even consider the possibility that loving enemies is indeed possible and that the road to Calvary leads to life... and peace?
Jesus has left his peace with us. Are we leaving peace with those around us?
Will the people of the Prince of Peace bear witness to peace in our time?