Are you a channel of God’s peace?

The world stands in desperate need of peacemakers, says Michele Morrison, but are we upto the job?

What the world needs now is not just love, sweet love: it cries out for peace.  Blessed are the peacemakers, Jesus taught. And rare as hen’s teeth, it would seem.
On a global scale, nations are tense, poised for conflict if not already engaged in it. Struggles over territory, religion, resources, or historical grievances pepper the globe, and a sneeze on one side of the world can cause a convulsion of violence on an international scale never before experienced. Look at the results of 9/11.
Perhaps the political scene mirrors the personal. We live in an era of unprecedented inner turmoil. As a health issue, the NHS is overwhelmed by patients with depression and psychological disorders. As a social issue, substance abuse (resorted to in pursuit of inner peace?) occasions violence and mayhem on our streets and in our homes. As a lifestyle issue, competitiveness and selfish ambition characterise many of our workplaces and often even our churches.

Scripture tells us: “A heart at peace gives life to the body, but envy rots the bones” (Proverbs 14.30).  Christians are called to be channels of God’s peace, yet many churches can be hotbeds of envy and sharp-tongued criticism.

I remember a bumper sticker in the States: “He who dies with the most toys, wins.” It’s a race, then, of acquisition. We’ve got to keep striving to get, to be, to do more than the next guy.

Paul’s claim, “I have learned to be content in all circumstances,” must be foolishness to millions, but even for Christians it is a tall order.
Francis of Assisi made peace his prayer: “Make me a channel of your peace: where there is hatred let me bring your love, where there is injury, your pardon Lord, and where there’s doubt true faith in you”. He wrote those words hundreds of years ago and we’re still singing them: the human condition hasn’t changed much.
The real cause of humanity’s lack of peace is that we are out of step with our Maker. Even those who are not Christians suspect that there “must be more to life than this”. There is a Christ-shaped, black hole in them which cannot be filled by any substitutes.

By reconciling us to God, Jesus has plugged that hole. We Christians know that and it’s up to us to live it out – to ‘channel’ peace between a stressed out world and God, who can touch hearts through lives yielded to, and therefore at peace with him.

But we’re not great at yielding and as channels, we can get choked with rocks of unforgiveness, bitterness and criticism. Our channels get silted up with Self, with anger, with envy, with our own agendas. We need divine intervention on a daily basis to dredge these channels, to keep them clear for the outward flow of his peace and love. How does he dredge out the blockages? The Bible is sharper than a two edged sword. It is a perfect tool for dredging and we need to read it prayerfully.

Jesus told his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” John 14.27.  Jesus recognised that it takes effort to be at peace. “Do not let . . .” Our hearts’ natural inclination is towards trouble, not peace. So how do we stave off anxiety and fear?

Scripture gives us the antidote to anxiety – keeping our minds on/in Christ and the laws of God. “Great peace have they who love your law” (Psalm 119:165).
In our twisted, worldly way of thinking though, it can seem irresponsible not to worry, as if worry were an act of love. It takes effort to step aside from the churning waters and leave the problem with the Prince of Peace. It is so easy to be sucked into and even foment, conflict and turmoil. We all have opinions; we all know people we don’t like. It is easy to pass on information which heightens conflict, which feeds discord, which stirs the pot and upsets people.

I’m reminded of the Rapids in Dundee swimming pool. My kids used to love going into this circular waterway, which has a very strong current that sucks you in, and carries you along at speed. I used to have to ‘rescue’ them by bracing myself in the calm water just outside of the rapids, ready to grip an outstretched arm and haul the child back into peaceful waters. It wasn’t easy and, if my feet were not anchored firmly enough, I would get swept away and carried off round the rapids myself. We can only be a channel of God’s peace if we are standing firmly on the Rock.
When the peace of Christ inhabits us, we radiate it. The storms of life may rage around us, but Jesus can keep us in the eye of the storm. “He himself is our peace”  (Ephesians 2:14). 

Sometimes, it is the prayers of others that are the channel to God’s peace. Who do you know, right now, who is desperate for Christ’s peace? Do you pray for him/her/them? Do you drop them cards of encouragement, send short texts, make phone calls or pray with them?

Make me a channel of your peace. May all my strivings cease as I submit to the Lordship of Christ, respond to his command, “Peace! Be still!” and walk out into the world shod in the shoes of the Gospel of peace, bringing reconciliation with God to a world at war with him. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).

Test yourself

Try our quiz and see how you score as a peacemaker

1. You are taking your son to catch a plane, having allowed too little time. Traffic is heavy and the clock is ticking. Do you
    a) Say “I told you we should have left sooner”
    b) Try to drive on the hard shoulder
    c) Keep quiet and pray
2. You join a group of chatting friends and find they are sharing gossip about a new woman in the village. Do you
    a) Listen attentively so you can pass on the information accurately
    b) Share the details you had already heard about her
    c) Suggest the conversation isn’t kind and change the subject
3. At a coffee morning, conversation revolves around global warming and terrorism. Do you
a) Tell them about the man round the corner arrested for having bomb-making equipment
    b) Talk about your experiences in the tsunami
    c) Introduce Jesus into the conversation
4. Your husband is anxious about the credit card bill. Do you
    a) Lie about recent purchases and hope he doesn’t look next month
    b) Apply for another card and buy your winter wardrobe with that
    c) Promise to spend less and pray about it
5. A friend expresses concern about a mole on her arm. Do you
    a) Tell her about your gran’s mole that became a melanoma
    b) Say sympathetically how bad it looks to you, too
    c) Pray for healing and for peace and then gently suggest she should see
         her doctor
6. You console a tearful woman after church, and she confides she’s been hurt by another member’s lack of compassion. Do you
    a) Share details of someone else she’s hurt
    b) Confront the other person then and there
    c) Invite the two of them for coffee at your home.
7. The praise band of which you are part has practised the choruses for a service. The minister substitutes two of them for a couple of hymns on the organ. Do you
    a) Burst into tears, storm out and change churches
    b) Accept his decision but sing the hymns off-key
c)  Sing the hymns and speak to the minister later about your
8. Your husband and son are doing DIY together and there is a dispute over technique. Do you
    a) Go shopping and leave them to it
    b) Offer your own helpful suggestions
    c) Put on the kettle (if the power’s still on!)
9. Your children are hotly disputing whose turn it is to wash up. Do you
    a) Help them into boxing gloves
    b) Shriek that you’re fed up with all their fighting and throw a plate to
get their attention
    c) Make a chores chart to avoid future disputes
10. On hearing that you and another woman meet regularly to pray for your
teens, a woman from your Bible study comments that your kids really need prayer. Do you
        a) Retaliate that at least they have a life
        b) Share this hurtful comment around so others see how lacking in
compassion she is
c)  Take it to God in prayer

What do your answers tell you? Do you spread an atmosphere of calm or do you storm in like a raging bull?  Are you a channel of God’s peace?