Thursday marked the 36th annual World Peace Day, a day dedicated to promoting peace among young people worldwide.
World Peace Day was somewhat offset by the president’s speech to the U.N. on Tuesday, in which he threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” and the redoubled efforts of North Korea to develop missiles that could strike the U.S.
Amidst all this bombastic saber rattling, it may be hard to see what role we, as individual Christians, play in bringing about a more peaceful world.
There’s been no shortage of suggestions that we pray for the president. That is appropriate, for any president. I would add it’s worthwhile to pray for all world leaders, including Kim Jong Un, that they be guided to pursue justice and peace on the earth.
But, aside from praying for world leaders — and I don’t discount the power of prayer — what role do we play in transforming this world?
The answer lies not only in the content of, but in the audience to which Jesus addressed his teachings.
Jesus did not preach to Caesar, to Pilate, or to the Pharisees — the power brokers of their day. Jesus preached to the lost, the sinful, the sick — he preached to those who desperately needed a peace that transcends and can transform this world.
Jesus preached a peace that was a threat to the political and religious powers of his day. It is a peace that remains as radical, as powerful, and as threatening to some in power today.
This peace that is the promise of Christ does not begin in the halls of power. It begins and resides in the hearts of believers willing to die to themselves, to forsake pride, fear and vengeance, to take up their cross and follow Christ.
The world cries loudly that this is the path of folly, just as the world denounced Jesus in his own time. And, some of the voices stoking fear and war lust today do so from the pulpit.
Bucking the fervor of popular sentiment is hard. But, rejecting the ways of this world is precisely the path to which we are called, hard or not.
Jesus prepared the disciples — which includes us, if we would follow him — for the difficulty of this path in John 16:33:
“I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
We may not change the hearts of the powerful. But Caesar is not our concern. Our concern is to conquer our own hearts, to dispel fear and hatred in the light of Christ, and to follow the path that conquers this world.
To see our path in the darkness of this world we may well follow the advice of Paul, in Colossians 3:15:
“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”