As someone who resonates highly with Enneagram type Nine, “the peaceful type”, peace has always been important to me. But what exactly do we mean when we say the word “peace”? As with many words in the lovely English language, the nuances are vast. Peace of mind. World peace. Justices of the peace. Rest in peace. Peace treaty. Peace and quiet. Peace offering. At peace.
Is the goal of peace primarily something that we experience within ourselves? Or is it an outward quality that involves living in harmony together with others?
If its truest sense is the latter, then the way of peace is not accomplished by removing oneself from an uncomfortable situation. It’s also not merely the lack of war. Peace is an active process. It is practiced in the context of relationships and evolves with them. Just like a peace treaty is continually applied, interpreted, and renegotiated even after it’s been signed, so we are called to the process of peacemaking in the world around us. To be persistent builders of peace.
Unfortunately, I fall into the trap of many “Nines” who lose sight of this vision and avoid conflict at almost all costs. I try to convince myself that everything is okay if I ignore conflict and remove myself from it. This can become so extreme that sometimes, in order to avoid inner turmoil, I try to prevent myself from having any strong feelings at all so I won’t have to feel disappointment, disagreement, or discrepancy.
I suspect the Prince of Peace took a different approach to conflict.
The Hebrew word shalom has been described as a triad of inseparable virtues: peace, justice, and wholeness. So, as people who seek to emulate Jesus, how do we bring this active type of peace to the world around us?
First of all, we should rid ourselves of the false notion that it’s peaceful if we don’t see the conflict. By letting ourselves see injustice, we can be moved to action. By letting ourselves feel the pain and conflict around us, we know where to be part of the solution.
After we know where to bring peace, we have to figure out what tangible steps to take in order to bring change (which is arguably the trickier aspect). I went to this year’s Christian Community Development Association conference in Detroit and left feeling like I had a decade’s worth of peacemaking action steps to enact. The conference skillfully highlighted this reality: there’s no middle ground. We are either part of the solution or part of the problem, and standing idly by doesn’t mean we are fulfilling our purpose.
Jesus calls us to advocate for those who lack the basic necessities of life, to stand alongside marginalized brothers and sisters, to give those without power a voice, to resist the temptation to meet violence with violence, to foster community and well-being for all of us, to speak out against systems of oppression and empire, to create and educate, and to proactively love our neighbors…all of them.
None of this is straight-forward, easy, or fast. This will take time. It will take God’s grace. It will take a lifetime of presence and persistence. True peace requires thoughtful action and great sacrifice. The Prince of Peace showed us this while he walked among us, and he continues to bring his peace to his world through his people. Us for them.