Summary: What is peace, how do we get it, and what are the consequences if we do not obtain authentic peace?
Peace. All I want is an hour of peace! If I could just shut out the noise, pull the plug on the telephone, and send everybody packing for a couple of days, I’d be all right.
Have you ever said that? Have you ever felt as though you were on the very edge of falling into an abyss? You were in the midst of such turmoil that you were about to self-destruct? Has there been a time in your life when you would give almost anything for just a little quiet, just a day, no, an hour, even ten minutes of peace?
I see some parents nodding their heads! I see some schoolteachers with their eyes rolling back in their heads! I see some office workers who had one of those days when the phone would not quit and the boss brought an endless stream of new assignments! Peace. We want peace.
But it is not just peace in our personal lives that we want. We also want a world in peace. When Serbs slaughter Albanians and Albanians retaliate against Serbs, we want peace. When Ulster Protestants insist on provocative marches through Catholic neighborhoods, so that Irish Catholic hotheads pepper the Protestants with pipe bombs, surely we long for peace. A moment of peace.
When a man, driven by his own demons and fueled by despair over losses at the day-trading exchange, can bludgeon to death his family and strike out at everybody; when the name Columbine reminds us that evil that stalks the earth, we hunger for peace.
And in a city where, despite all the positive, some are still afraid to leave their homes at night, some fear to drive on certain streets, and even church members, whose faith, they say, is in God, fear coming out for prayer meeting – in such a city, we want peace. We need peace.
The trouble is that not only do we not know how to get peace, we are not even clear what peace is! Not only does peace elude us, but we are not even sure we understand what peace is.
The author of Hebrews has very pertinent words for us. He knows how to get peace. He knows why we don’t have peace. And he knows what the consequences are when we neither know how to get peace nor why we do not have it. This ancient writer, having spoken very clearly about the work of Christ, is not about to let up on that theme when he comes to the issue of peace. He will tell us that it is in Christ and in what Christ has done that the real deal comes concerning peace.
Let me use a little play on words today to help us get at this. You all know the old English nursery rhyme, “Pease porridge hot, pease porridge cold; pease porridge in a pot, nine days old.” By the way, it comes from the 16th Century, and refers to a major of London named Pease, best known for levying very high taxes. Poor people had only a few vegetables to eat, and very little meat, so they would throw whatever they had into the pot, heat it up and eat, let the leftovers get cold and just throw in whatever they got their hands on the next day. Some of the Pease porridge might be seven, eight, nine days old! Not a very appetizing picture, is it?
Well, the mistakes we make in searching for peace are not very appetizing either. So let me play with these words just a little. Pease porridge hot; I’m going to call it “Peace Pottage Hot.” Peace pottage hot. You’ll see why.
The issue is peace. What is it, how do we get it, and what are the consequences if we do not have authentic peace?
When I say that we don’t know what peace is, I mean that we confuse peace with being nice. We think that all is peaceful if folks are blandly nice to each other, pleasantries are exchanged, there is a certain level of politeness. Nice equals peace. Or so we think.
But did you know that niceness often conceals hostility? Were you aware that the guy who smiles in your face and is excessively polite can actually hide profound anger? Haven’t you felt, even when somebody was being very correct with you, that there was a deep-seated hostility and a corrosive prejudice there? What’s going on?
We have thought of peace as passive niceness. We have thought that peace meant stay out of the way, don’t get in his face, shuffle and smile, keep your head down. We think that we can make peace by avoiding confrontation. But we don’t. Not at all. We don’t make peace by avoiding the truth. We may push conflict to the side, but it will hit us anyway. We don’t make peace by being passive and sweet and oozy-goozy. That will come back to haunt us, as anyone knows who has lived through the racial tensions of the last few decades. Peace is not achieved by being passive. Peace is an active pursuit of justice.