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“If You Want Peace…”

I’ve always liked the slogan, “If you want peace, work for justice.”

It’s a 1972 quote from Pope Paul VI, according to an online site summarizing five sources. The quote expresses the connection between peace and justice, which require “honoring, respecting, and protecting the dignity of all human beings, and eliminating the threats to their dignity.” It is also related to global issues, such as wars, poverty, and human rights, challenging us to work for justice if we want to see a more peaceful world.

But most of us are also interested in another kind of peace, the personal kind that’s related to our reaction to adversity, anxiety, boredom, loneliness and all the problems that confront us in our daily lives.

This kind of peace is at least as hard to come by as global peace. Social media is full of advice about this kind of peace and as I mentioned in a recent blog, we need all the help we can get.

A Ready Source of Peace

But many people searching for God have a ready source of peace that is often ignored, instead buying into the idea that the Bible, and religion – yes, ORGANIZED religion – has nothing to say to us in today’s world.

A recent Sunday reading portrays the appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples, people who had abandoned him, and even denied knowing him, in his most perilous hour. They were hunkered down in a locked room, fearing that they would be targets of the people who had tortured and murdered Jesus. And how did Jesus greet them?

Instead of exhibiting any kind of rancor toward these who had shown themselves to be cowards and turncoats, he says, “Peace be with you.”

People familiar with the gospels may not be surprised. Earlier in John’s gospel, after predicting that his disciples would “scatter” at his arrest, Jesus is quoted as saying, “I have said this to you that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world.”

Not The Kind Most People Seek?

And earlier still, Jesus uses similar words, saying, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you,” seeming to indicate that “his peace” is not the kind that most people seek.

So what, exactly, is the difference between Jesus’ peace and the “world’s” peace? Well, I don’t know “exactly.” But I imagine that Jesus’ peace has little to do with the kind prescribed by psychologists, counselors or online gurus.

Jesus’ peace is “not of this world.” It has to do with trusting God that no matter what – even untimely death or death in old age – God is with us, loves us and will take care of us.

It may seem that that kind of trust requires more faith than we’re capable of, a case of the “skeptical” in “skeptical faith” getting the upper hand.  


I acknowledge that that kind of trust, which I have no doubt results in peace, seems illusory, and that it does require much faith. It doesn’t involve immediate results, however. It may come and go even for those who have cultivated their faith their entire lives.

But that’s what Jesus offers.

Seems to me that Pope Paul VI’s slogan about the relationship between peace and justice may not be of such a “different kind” than the personal peace Jesus offers. It’s not a theoretical thing. As I’ve mentioned before in these blogs, “doing” your faith strengthens it.

If we work for justice, if you “honor, respect, and protect the dignity of all human beings, and eliminate the threats to their dignity,” won’t it result in both the world peace and the “personal” peace that we seek?   

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