The third need in attitude is being at peace with one self and others (Galatians 5:22). I would like to call it, “the ability to ease tensions.” Jesus encouraged His disciples thus, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). On Christmas 1924, Thomas Hardy penned these words: “Peace upon earth was said; we sing it and pay a million priests to bring it. After two thousand years of mass, we have got as far as poison gas” (Wa. 2376). Since then, scientists have added the “H Bomb” and some “Nukes.” Neither scientific progress nor religion has brought us peace. Rather, they have turned us into nervous bundles of fear.
From the beginning of time, man has imposed his perception of peace on others by using methods that create fear. Peace was an external public concept. It did not come or originate in the heart of the individual but from public opinion. To the contrary, Jesus was giving to His followers a peaceful heart, free of fear. It was an inner peace that could not be disrupted by the unfavorable “circumstances or conditions.” Jesus’ world was not free of hardships; yet, He was at peace within himself and as a result with God and His fellow men. He could even forgive His enemies. The same inner peace He passed on to His disciples and they were to pass it on to their followers (John 20:21-23). He sent them into the world to spread peace to those that were willing to receive it (Mt.10: 13). Peace was to be part of their attitude or of their inner self. Jesus was not going to be around to pass it on anew every day. The followers had to learn to make peace part of their life and inner being. That was how they became peacemakers (Matthew 5:,9).
Two thousand years have passed between us. Can Jesus still pass on to us his kind of peace? He can, but not without our help. Neither could Jesus give peace to the disciples without their help. There has to be a desire and an earnest longing in our individual hearts to want the kind of peace that puts us in a state of tranquility and harmony that no longer succumbs to external interference. It becomes a state of mind that no longer terrorizes our inner self. Most of our inner turmoil is self-inflicted. We allow our conscience to be seared and our soul to be spotted with mistakes that we could have avoided. We become afraid of facing ourselves, our neighbors, and our God. How do we wipe clean our slate and have peace invade our attitude? It is the question, “What must I do to save myself?” Without inner peace, I shall not find serenity anywhere else.
It is not some commodity one could purchase and install it when needed. We live in a nervous world, surrounded by nervous people, and we ourselves are very nervous. How do we begin by easing our tension? We must begin to look into our conscience and see what is nagging at it (Romans 2:15). Peace cannot enter into a heart that is defiled and unforgiving (Galatians 5:19-21; Matthew 6:14-15; 15:19). If our heart is preoccupied with satisfying our own physical pleasure and justification of our ego, we shall never be at peace with ourselves or with any one else. Surgery and treatment must begin with our own desires. Some times amputation is required before there is restrained on our part for forgiveness and reconciliation to take place (Matthew 6:21-48). Prevention is the best medicine. If we do not attend to our ill-advised actions or mistakes, they will escalate into uncontrollable problems. We must nip the bud in the head before it opens up. We must not let weeds take over our heart and expect peace to flourish.
What about the person that is in too deep and believes that only God can bail him/her out? Stop going in deeper and God will not bale us out. We must quit while we have a chance to change our ways. The Bible and history are full of people that cleaned house and allowed peace to enter their hearts. Saul of Tarsus turned from persecutor of Christians to defender of Christ and struggled all his life to make up for the harm he had caused (Ephesians 3:8; Acts 9:16). He spent his life in a ministry of reconciliation (II Corinthians 5:18-19). The evidence that there has been a change is when we do good things (Ephesians 2:10). The idea that when we accept Christ, our past is being taken care of is not Pauline nor did it come from Jesus. In a small way, I did not find peace until I apologized and made amends for my mistakes. Those that I could no longer make up for, I have thrown myself on the mercies of my Lord the Christ. Please do not take your salvation for granted when you know you left a trail of debt behind. We shall not answer for our faith but for our deeds (Romans 2:6; Revelation 20:12).
In Alberta Canada there is a city called Witaskawin. It means “The Hills of Peace.” The following story has been passed on. Christian missionaries had come to the province and made contact with the Cree and Blackfeet Indians. The Cree prince Maskepetoon was violently opposed to the missionaries and at war with the Blackfeet. The persistence and patience of the missionaries did win the Cree prince over to Christianity. In a violent confrontation with the Blackfeet Maskepetoon’s father was killed. The young Cree prince settled his best horse and rode into the Blackfeet camp and demanded to face his father’s murderer. When the killer appeared, Maskepetoon declared, “You have killed my father. Now you must be my father. You shall ride my best horse and wear my best clothes.” The guilty one exclaimed, “My son, you have killed me (Wa. 981)!” Peace is always within our reach, but if it is not in our heart then it will not flourish. Without it, our attitude will not improve.