Some people place bowling trophies on their mantles. It’s okay to put your
accomplishments on display, as long as you don’t brag about them. After all, you worked hard
for them. Be proud, but don’t gloat.
Although I was never even an average bowler, I admire people who excel at kegeling, as
it is sometimes called. Good bowlers are graceful, and their movements are rhythmic.
I have a mantle, but no trophies. Well, maybe I do, in a way.
I like to read; and through the year, I place the books that I have read, one by one, on a
shelf. At the end of the year, I look at them and feel a sense of accomplishment. They are my
trophies, so to speak. My wife, however, takes a dim view of my trophies; she sees them as
clutter. Imagine that.
At the end of 2020, I looked at the stack of books which I had read in that year; and I
discovered a trend, a completely unintended common denominator evident in several of these
One book was about how the great powers of the world colonized peoples and areas,
and then exploited both (Guns, Germs, & Steel, by Jared Diamond). Since my wife and I had
planned to go to Ireland, a trip delayed at least a year by COVID-19, I read about Ireland and
Northern Ireland. A sad, yet important piece of history of both countries is how each has
struggled against the tyranny of the British (The Twelve Apostles, by Tim Pat Coogan; A Secret
History of the IRA, by Ed Maloney; and Paddy’s Lament by Thomas Gallagher). Then there was a
book that documented how the Ku Klux Klan has terrorized black Americans after the
American Civil War and up to the present (Burden, by Courtney Hargrave). The most recent
book which I have read describes the brutality with which the Israelis treat the Palestinians,
who were displaced beginning in 1948. (Apeirogon by Colum McCann). A few of these works
mention in passing the treatment of the Natives in North and South America.
Did you see the trend? A recurring theme was the rich and powerful oppressing and
exploiting the poor, vulnerable, and often trusting groups of humans who usually had not seen
misery approaching on the horizon.
What was the end-result of this unconscionable treatment of the peoples who found
themselves on the short end of the stick of history? Among the results are resentment, the
mildest reaction; hatred, which was the most common response; and violence, which was the
most destructive effect.
During His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus peered across the Kidron Valley at the
Holy City, and said, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for
peace!” (Luke 19:42) It is not difficult to imagine Jesus, in this century, expressing a similar
lament and adding these names: London, Moscow, Berlin, Washington, DC, Birmingham, Tokyo,
and many others.
One thing which makes for peace is ironically the One who wept over Jerusalem, as He
continues to weep over the world today.
On one holy night long ago, a baby was born in the village of Bethlehem. The prophet
Isaiah had referred to this child as the “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). And indeed, He is. Those
who give themselves over to Christ and live in His Kingdom, as far as it is possible at this time,
find peace. If individual Christians testify to that truth and are transformed by it, what would
happen if an entire nation would do that? Or two nations? Or more? Skeptics scoff. Cynics
sneer. “Simplistic,” they say.
But has any nation ever tried it?
The peace which passes all understanding, the peace which Christ offers, is more than
the absence of conflict. It is being at one with the Triune God. It is living in harmony with one’s
neighbor. It is wholeness. It is Shalom. Peace is all these things and more, because in Jesus
Christ, there is forgiveness, kindness, and mercy. And those things make for peace!
Peace is a gift.
Peace comes from Christ.
Peace is a responsibility. We, the beneficiaries of Christ’s peace, are beholden to share
His peace in the living of our lives.
As the song says regarding peace, “Let it begin with me.” On second thought, peace
begins with Jesus Christ, and it flows through those who follow Him.