Today we heard of yet another mindless act of violence: a gunman fired mercilessly on concert goers in Las Vegas, killing 50 and injuring at least 400 people. The perpetrator, 64-year-old Stephen Maddock, then killed himself.
As Christians, we are called to be peacemakers in all situations, whether it be personal dilemmas, conflicts in relationships or helping someone else resolve an issue. However, in the midst of increasing violence and terror attacks around the world, how can we fulfil our duty as Christians to make and keep peace?
Don’t create peace, but channel it
Wisdom can come from unlikely sources. In his insightful book ‘Revolution’, Russell Brand refers to the famous prayer of St Francis of Assisi but takes an interesting perspective. “I just want to be a channel of the peace”, Brand says, “The peace exists; I don’t need, thank God, to create the peace…the peace is already there”.
Brand touches on a very important point here that should be our first step. We don’t have to spend our lives struggling to create peace, but actually initially acknowledge that it is already there, all around us and within us. Brand talks of an “awareness” of something beyond ourselves which “cannot be captured with language any more than you can appreciate Caravaggio by licking the canvas, or Mozart by sniffing the notes on a stave”. It is this awareness that we must access in our lives, a peace from God that is beyond all of our understanding and inadequate descriptions. Whether we find that in meditation, like Brand, or another medium like prayer, that is for ourselves to discover in our own spiritual quests.
Jesus says “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” in the Gospel of John. Jesus gives us peace, which means it is his, and therefore God’s, to give. Peace is the presence of God and we need to find God in our everyday lives in order to find peace and then channel it in our lives. It is important to ignore the material and hectic world that we get so easily lost in and focus instead on our faith.
Give peace to others
So, if peace was given to us by Jesus, and from God, it must be our job to share it with others. The question is how we tackle such a challenging task. Firstly, we must try to live a peaceful lifestyle. That doesn’t mean being quiet at work or fasting for one day a week! Instead, we should try to speak openly about our faith, engage in spiritual discussions and show love to those we see: family, friends and strangers!
Perhaps you can tell someone that you went to church on Sunday, share a Bible quote that you found with a friend who might like it or pray with others from your church or home group. Talking about your faith doesn’t need to be a forceful undertaking but should actually be a gradual and progressive dialogue with those who you think would be interested or need it.
Praying is an incredible way to give peace to others. Prayer is a great tool for reassurance, soothing of troubles and finding quiet in a busy day. When you are aware of people’s problems, tell them that your thoughts and prayers are with them, let them know you are supporting them. If you are fortunate, you may have the opportunity to pray alongside others which can be an incredibly calming experience for those involved. Prayer is central to finding, channelling and sharing the peace that has been given to us.
Prayer in peaceful action
But, we must not fall into a passive peacefulness. We must share peace by holding those to account who seek division and hatred. It is important to call out what makes you, as a Christian with your own beliefs, uncomfortable, whether it be sexism, racism, homophobia, transphobia or any other prejudice. Christianity wasn’t always a huge body of people with complex hierarchies of leadership and multiple doctrines. At the very beginnings of Christianity, it was just a schism, or breakaway, of Judaism. Mark Kurlansky writes “Christians were becoming more troublesome rather than less”, being outsiders in society, set on following the teachings of Jesus in a society opposed to such values and adamant on waiting for his return. In everything we do as Christians, we must remember the origins of our beliefs: we should not conform to society but challenge everything we encounter, actively sharing God’s peace. Peace can be found through God and channelled in prayer, in conversation with others and in action.
We may not be directly affected by the events in Las Vegas, but we can be praying for those that were: for God’s peace and stability to come. And we can be praying for God’s peace to fill our own hearts in those moments when we hear of events that do shake us. We can also ask God to help us step out and be instruments of peace in the lives of those we interact with.