Back on New Year’s Day, I asked you, my readers, what you wanted me to ponder in 2024. I received only one response—via email. That friend asked me to ponder peace. She was not more specific, and over the ensuing months, I’ve been reflecting on what I would share. As we approach the longest day of the year, it somehow seemed appropriate to consider peace in an increasingly long season of national and worldwide upheaval.

I grew up in the 1970s, in a thriving church environment where peace felt possible and tangible. Perhaps it was the positivity of the thriving middle-class families around me. Perhaps it was the affluent neighborhood. While I definitely faced challenging interpersonal issues, I had a sense of hopefulness. The world around me seemed to be at peace—to my innocent eyes (and protected white body) anyway.

Interestingly, the first political event that I recall was watching Nixon’s resignation speech. I’ve realized since that it set a cynical tone in me regarding social institutions. I’ve never really trusted the government or political leaders. Other events, over the decades, have confirmed that leaders aren’t to be trusted to do the best thing for me—though I might benefit as they do what’s best for themselves and their “tribe.”

So, I’ve learned to live within a paradox around social issues. I believe we can “give peace a chance,” but I also don’t trust anyone else to make it happen. The current national and global trends toward nationalism and authoritarianism might seem to bring peace—for those in the tribe or group that’s in power anyway. But they are not conducive to a deep, pervasive peace that “lifts all boats.” When not everyone can afford or access a boat, those without a vessel of some sort will drown in the rising tides.

At this point, I believe that to embrace and work for that deep, pervasive peace is profoundly countercultural. When Jesus preached about peace, he was being countercultural and counter tribal. After all, the Jewish leaders who colluded with the Romans were doing it to “keep the peace.” That didn’t help those who weren’t in power and suffered from Roman taxation and oppression.

In that same land today, Netanyahu is bombing Gaza because he wants the total destruction of his foes—and we see how poorly that’s working for any peacefulness for the powerless on both sides, who have nowhere to go to escape the terror of war.

So, where do we find peace? Perhaps we come closest when we can engage in moments of truly unconditional love. Perhaps those moments can bring peace to our small part of the world by showering love without an agenda on those who may desperately need it.

What do you think?

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