When you consider what people faced and are still facing in the form of a pandemic, politics and financial issues, it is very easy for soft-spoken and non-violent individuals to become frustrated with everything. It is at that point in time when we all must stop and realize that we are truly sons and daughters of God Almighty. We must put aside our differences and rise above all of the harmful and caustic language and posturing. Our words should be filled with the spirit of love for one another and the desire to listen to each other. We should desire unity and love and learn from our past in order to forge a brighter future for all. Our goal should be very simple. We are a nation of law and people who help their neighbors.
I am not saying we are perfect. Our nation has had its darker moments, but there are also bright spots that make you feel proud. During national disasters, we come together to feed, clothe and give shelter to those in need or who have lost everything. We mourn with those who have lost friends and loved ones and hold them close. We celebrate those great moments together and we feel that we can do anything especially when we work together for a common good and goal.
A nation is not a group of individuals; it is a family. A family that works together and takes care of one another during peace or war or during times of feast or famine. It doesn’t matter what your race, ethnicity or anything else is. We are a family. When we see someone hurt, we reach out to lend aid to that person. We feed those who are hungry and give them drink. If they are naked, we provide them with clothing. We pray for those in need of comfort and let them know that they are not alone. We are a family. As the old adage reminds us, “a family that prays together stays together.”
Our lives are full of wonder and beauty. As I write this message, I see a beautiful grey winter day. It is cold and crisp. In the words of Charles Dickens, it is the “piping for the blood to dance to.” Even on the greyest and darkest days, we can still see beauty in the world. But, the one thing I see is peace. I see people helping one another in stores to reach boxes or cans that are too high. People greeting each other with a “good morning” and parting with a “have a great day”. This is a world of people who live in peace and harmony and work out their differences peaceably.
Jesus said, as recorded in chapter five of the Gospel of Matthew, “God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.”
As children of God, we must always exemplify a Christ-like attitude and behavior to all. He provided for us those model traits that each Christian should demonstrate daily. Yes, we must do this daily. We cannot just simply pick a day when we will be Christ-like or choose a day that is our cheat day. In fact, one of the names of God is Jehovah Shalom, which means, “The Lord is Peace”. It is used 170 times throughout the Bible.
Although some biblical scholars believe that “Jehovah Shalom” is more of a title than a name of God, I prefer to see it as a beautiful name. It gives us insight into God and helps us realize that God is truly the giver of peace.
David writes in Psalm twenty-nine, “The Lord gives his people strength. The Lord blesses them with peace.”
During this time, we must use that strength that God has given us to get past our differences and work together to rebuild our nation. We must accept God’s blessing of peace and share it with everyone daily. We cannot just simply accept it and keep it to ourselves. That peace is special, because it comes from the Lord our God. It is too precious of a blessing to be squandered or not shared. Peace is delicate and fragile and must be kept with the utmost vigilance.
In chapter fourteen of the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”
When we are troubled and afraid, we act violently and without understanding. Under normal circumstances, those violent tendencies are locked up, but they are still there. As Christians, we know that violence is not the way to resolve issues. The world really doesn’t understand or give peace the same way as God can. That blessing of true peace can only come from God and it is His alone to give.
We, as a nation and as a people including all those around the world, need to reflect on the events that we have witnessed. Rhetoric and vitriol need to be put aside and peace should reign superior in our lives. Calling for unity in one breath and then using hateful words to refer to people is not the way to peace. It only stokes the fires of hatred and mistrust in all.
In his second inaugural address, President Lincoln said these words to a nation that was torn apart by a Civil War, “With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan -- to do all which may achieve and cherish a just, and a lasting peace, among ourselves, and with all nations.”
Mr. Lincoln spoke from his heart, a heart that, like the nation, was torn. His desire was to “bind up the nation’s wounds” and get on with the business of rebuilding it for all. Unfortunately, he never saw that desire become reality. Hatred and violence took center stage and changed the course of this nation. Although Mr. Lincoln didn’t live to see this nation undertake that awesome responsibility, let us take up that banner and bind up the wounds and forge a just and lasting peace not only for ourselves but also for all generations to come.
We have received the blessing of peace from Father God. We are at a crossroads in our history as a nation. Do we choose the road that leads to more violence, vitriol and bloodshed or do we choose the path of peace, love and unity? If we choose the former, then we are doomed to see our nation torn apart even further. If, however, we choose the latter, we can bind up the wounds, build stronger ties to one another, love one another and, most importantly, live in peace as God truly meant for us to do. When we take that first step on the path of peace, we can truly say that we are the sons and daughters of God and stand firm in His grace.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.