“Peace be with you” . . . did I really mean that?

I’ve heard it said that peace is not simply the absence of war, but the work of justice.
For those shaking handsof us who adhere to the Christian faith tradition, we often say words such as, “Peace be with you”, “Go in the Peace of Christ”, “Grant Us Peace”, or simply, “peace” to each other during our formal liturgies and other gatherings. The other great faith traditions offer similar utterances as well within their own ceremonies, rituals, and daily conversation. These words, either spoken or sung, are often accompanied by some physical gestures such as a handshakes, hugs, kisses, or waves – some carried out with stiff formality and sometimes with great gusto and passion. As with many such rituals which we humans do on a regular basis, I feel that we often forget what we’re really saying and what this really is supposed to mean as we perform them. This thought entered my mind this morning as I participated in this practice with members of my local faith community. Was this am empty gesture on my part? What are the implications if I really meant it and acted upon it?
. . . which leads me to my main point:
What are leading causes of war and other forms of civil strife, both foreign and domestic?

bombed village
I have spent 30+ years as an educator – teaching at the high school and university levels and serving in state-wide administrative and coordination roles. These roles have provided me with the great privilege of working with youth, their parents, fellow educators at various levels, elected officials, agricultural professionals, business people, and government representatives. During these years, I have also had the great opportunity to travel to and work in foreign countries (the latest one is struggling to rise from the ashes of a protracted, bloody civil war) in agricultural and diverse people talkingeducational development projects. I have witnessed great blessings and kindness as well as deep suffering and struggle. I have seen great humility and unselfishness and I have seen great pomposity and corruption. These experiences have indeed helped to shape my world view and better understanding of the complex human condition.
In all of these experiences, whether they be domestic or international, I have found that a common denominator to a particular society’s travails has been deep misunderstanding and corresponding mistrust of the other: the person or culture who is different from the prevailing majority. An important link to establishing peaceful, just societies, but which is often broken (or never allowed to become established), is that of listening to the other with an open mind and a softened, contemplative heart – the building of healthy, “right” relationships.  Have I been doing a good job of that? What about all of us as citizens of the world? More to come (I’m trying to stick to my rule for publishing short posts) . . .
Peace be with you.

2 thoughts on ““Peace be with you” . . . did I really mean that?

  1. I am no longer a Christian, or a follower of any religion, but was raised in a very religious family, and still occasionally attend church services (Christmas Eve, Thanksgiving, funerals, etc.), and although I really like that part of the liturgy: “Peace be with you!” “And also with you!” I totally agree that sadly, it is often just lip service. This is one of the many problems I have with organized religions. So many of the “Christian Right” are also in favor of wars. I am not. See https://cherylbecker.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/why-cant-we-all-just-get-along. I totally understand that not all followers of religion feel this way, but it does bother me that many vocal “religious” people do. It seems to me that if you are a Christian you should be passionately opposed to violence and war. As in “My peace I leave with you,” and “Thou shalt not kill.”

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    • Thanks for your honest and thoughtful reply. I often think of the countless wars that have taken place over thousands of years and how many lives have been lost. If any organized religion (or society, for that matter) really means what it says within the usage of the word, “peace”, there certainly must be better ways of resolving differences (not always easy, though, within the complexity of humanity). Having said that, if I truly wish to consider myself to be a man of peace (and I’m really working hard at it), I definitely must always be monitoring what is churning within my own soul and what language I use when reacting to people and situations with whom I am in conflict. Is it violent or does it come from a non-violent, contemplative place? (Spoiler alert: it is not always so pristine and lovely.) At the risk of seeming cliche, achieving peace in our society does indeed begin with me.

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