Practicing Peace in a Violent World

The last few weeks, as I have watched and read the news, I can physically feel my heart begin to sink. With the events that have been taking place in Egypt, Arizona, Russia, and throughout the world, I am often overwhelmed by the amount of violence that seems to surface on an all too regular basis.

And, this is not just something that happens somewhere else…senseless acts of violence occur every single day in your town, your school, your place of employment. While the scale of violence differs, there is violence nonetheless.

And so, when I hear and read the news reports of all of this violence that occurs in our city, our country, and our world, I find myself feeling hopeless and desperately crying out, “What can I do?”

This morning, while doing some devotional reading, I found a bit of encouragement in Romans 12.

Verse 3 says, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”

When I hear of violence, I tend to lash out in self-righteous judgment. And, I’m pretty sure that just does not help things.

So, for me, the first step is to have a clear understanding of who I am. Generally, when I hear reports of violence, I puff myself up with prideful arrogance…patting myself on the back for not being like “those” people. If I gain a clear understanding of myself, I’ll see that I’m really not as perfect as I like to think that  I am…that I’m really not so different from those who commit heinous acts of violence. Gaining a proper perspective on who I am just might keep me from so quickly lashing out in judgment.

Romans 12:9-21 offers up some wisdom on how we may be able to overcome some of the violence and evil that seems to prevail in this world. It says, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.  Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.  If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:“If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

I’ve always wondered how we can practice peace in such a violent world.

Romans 12 tells us to “live peaceably with all”. And, it seems that peaceful living is closely associated with love.

The answer to the question of how we can practice peace in a violent world, the answer to the question of what I can do in light of the violence in our world seems to be love…genuine love…love for all…even our enemies.

This love is the kind of love that isn’t just love in theory…this is meant to be love in practice. Feeding and giving drinks to our hungry and thirsty enemies…not seeking revenge…instead, seeking to do good…to all.

The call to love one another…even our enemies…is overwhelming! And, yet, it is central to the message of the Gospel.

I wonder, what would happen if Christians began to take the call to love God and love one another (even our enemies) seriously?

Maybe the violence in this world would begin to decrease and peace and unity might increase. How will you show love today?

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