Wednesday, July 16, 2014
What is Peace, Really?
By Micky Wolf
Some consider being at peace in direct relationship to physical war involving sects or countries whose forces utilize a variety of weapons capable of rendering great destruction. Eventually, if one side or the other prevails or wants the violence to end, they instigate a way to achieve peace. Whether or not that is realized or for how long a truce lasts only time will tell.
Is there ever an occasion when it is necessary to go to war? Absolutely. Yet, we must be particularly careful if we choose this option as justification to bring about the desired peace.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not suggesting there aren’t occasions for a “just war”, however, most Christians consider this a serious issue. In part, Catholic doctrine states the following:
All citizens and all governments are obliged to work for the avoidance of war. Despite this admonition of the Church, it sometimes becomes necessary to use force to obtain the end of justice. This is the right, and the duty, of those who have responsibilities for others, such as civil leaders and police forces. While individuals may renounce all violence those who must preserve justice may not do so, though it should be the last resort, "once all peace efforts have failed." [Cf. Vatican II, Gaudium et spes 79, 4]
Why is it so important to examine our motivations to go to war? For starters, the desires of our sinful nature are often intermingled with the good intentions of those of the Divine presence.
The real war…
Battles, violence, and war among communities and nations—in the name of true freedom (religious and otherwise) no less—seem to be occurring somewhere in the world at any given moment.
But what about the war-like thoughts and feelings you and I carry around in our heart and spirit? Those internal conflicts that leave us sleepless, confused, or upset? The slightest trigger and boom, we find ourselves in a battle with others or self.
Getting honest with what is unsettling us usually preempts the need to expel the junk on others. Of course, this means we have to confront the conflict within in order to enter into a personal peace which will transcend self—which is not to say we are responsible for their peace.
The why of war…
On a broader level, too often our justification and reasoning for going to war—battle—is more about one-upmanship or domination than bringing concerns or differences into the light for the purpose of achieving resolution—authentic peace—that is meaningful and lasting.
On a personal level, we resist getting to the why of our inner turmoil because we are afraid of what we might discover about who we really are, the choices we make, (or fail to make) and the way we behave. What if it turns out the root cause of my frustration is not really about the way my spouse behaves but rather how their habits or tendencies mirror my own imperfections?
When we finally surrender to the process of allowing God to show us some of the finer (or is that worse?) aspects of who we are, it doesn’t take too long for most of us to realize the battling and warring going on in our souls is not easy to acknowledge, let alone change. After all, if I have some responsibility in creating the circumstances that lead to discord—a nice way to describe home-front war—then that means I need to be part of the resolution. Or better yet, work things out with God before I ever unleash my stuff on the other guy.
Christians, me included, are fond of repeating the Scripture about how God loves “to work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Well, thank goodness!
On the other hand, there is something much larger at stake when it comes to living in peace, personally or corporately: In the end it is not enough to wage war to achieve justice without treating the underlying causes. "Injustice, excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust, and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war" [CCC 2317]. The Church has no illusions that true justice and peace can be attained before the Coming of the Lord. It is the duty of men of good will to work towards it, nonetheless.”
Yes, this applies to governments and nations. And yes, this applies to you and me.
Maybe the real question we need to ask ourselves and ponder with God when we are thinking and feeling war-like is this: have I truly exhausted all efforts to achieve peace?
To move through daily life with this kind of heart attitude does not mean caving in or acquiescing to the most literate or loud person in the room. What it does mean is being the kind of Christ-servant who God can depend upon to go the extra mile for the sake of bringing about true peace and justice. From God’s perspective, this will always begin with my heart and my home before extending to my community and my country.
Is there some kind of war going on in my soul?
How do I feel about cooperating with God to get to the root of the unrest?
What does “once all peace efforts have failed” mean to me?