Philippians 2:1-2: “Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”

We recognize an auto immune disease when a body’s immune system goes bonkers and starts attacking and damaging its own tissues. We also recognize a family in trouble when family members won’t stop hurting each other. We all need unity and peace. Our bodies can’t function without it. Societies can’t prosper without it.

Jesus, aka the Prince of Peace, is the source of peace. Wouldn’t it behoove the Prince of Peace to eliminate global warfare? Curiously, ending military conflicts has never been the first on His agenda – His peace movement will eventually lead to that, but first and foremost Jesus is interested in bringing peace to the human soul. Wherever we are, whoever we are, His peace offer stands – if He finds you knocking on Heaven’s door, He will open it wide and let you in.

In the 66 books of the Bible peace is mentioned 249 times. Today’s world is riddled with friction, and this is probably the reason why the Bible emphasizes our need for peace. A disciple whom Jesus nicknamed Peter wrote in one of his letters (1 Peter 3:8):

“Finally all of you should be of one mind. Sympathize with each other. Love each other as brothers and sisters. Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” *New Living Translation

There is such a thing as a recipe for peace – according to Peter’s recommendations here are its listed ingredients:

  • Be of one mind – in order to be on the same page with another person we need to refrain from assumptions, ask questions to clarify and explain our own thought process.
  • Sympathize – walking in someone else’s shoes is generally an eye opener.
  • Love – treat every person with respect.
  • Be tenderhearted – empathy goes a long way and is a blessing for anybody facing life’s rough patches.
  • Be humble – humility brings people together; pride will drift us apart.

Nobody understands people better than God. When we have trouble understanding each other He is the best source of wisdom. Agreement, consensus and harmony require a lot of work, but believers are not without help. With the Holy Spirit in their midst God’s children have a very efficient means of communication. God’s Spirit will guide them into all the truth giving them understanding even in most perplexing matters. United in Spirit and in truth, the bond that connects believers goes deep. Loving one another and working together with one mind and purpose, God brings peace into this hurting world.

Isaiah 26:3: “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in you.”

When unrighteousness is revealed, bloodshed disclosed and the guilty are called out, the prophet Isaiah asks the faithful to pray. Interestingly he calls them to go home and shut the door (Isaiah 26:20):

Go, my people, enter your rooms
    and shut the doors behind you;
hide yourselves for a little while
    until his wrath has passed by.

Coincidentally this resembles current shelter-in-place orders, a decree for people to stay in their homes, one of the key strategies to avoid COVID-19 infection. On March 11, 2020 the novel coronavirus disease COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. On March 13, 2020 a national emergency was declared in the United States concerning the COVID-19 outbreak.

According to the prophet Isaiah there is a time for disclosure (Isaiah 26:21):

See, the Lord is coming out of his dwelling
    to punish the people of the earth for their sins.
The earth will disclose the blood shed on it;
    the earth will conceal its slain no longer.

In the US there have been public disclosures of long-hidden sexual abuse cases and especially cases of racial hate crimes. Examples of injustice and innocent bloodshed have been videotaped and publicized. These things are no longer concealed, but revealed. Injustice is a festering wound of a people; only by cleansing and dressing the wound can there be a chance of healing. In this respect time of disclosure represents time of hope. At last we address the overlooked issues and allow ourselves to grieve and initiate the necessary change.

Heaven cries as earth is going through terrible times (Isaiah 24:4):

“The earth dries up and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish with the earth.”

Nobody relishes the time of judgment. It is however a necessary evil. In tumultuous times prophet Isaiah asks the children of God to continue trusting their Heavenly Father. Perfect peace is promised to people devoted to the Lord.

Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

One of the many ways God has sided with humankind is by way of language. We can literally discover Him when we open the Bible and start reading. The Scriptures appear like corrective lenses through which we can view the Big Three more clearly: God, humanity, and the world.

God communicates. He breathes His Spirit through His Word, and His Word brings life. God spoke the universe into existence; in the same way He speaks life over our dead human spirit. His intention is to revive us. That’s the spiritual reality which offers an amazing opportunity, a door wide open for every person on this planet.

When after His resurrection Jesus entered the room where His followers were hiding, He came with peace. “Peace be with you!” He said. His presence turned everything around. Jesus still has this effect on people. He currently prays for you and me; and He speaks peace over our anxious souls.

Trusting in God diminishes our worries. The peace of God makes everything better, even in the worst of circumstances. It’s the kind of peace that no one can explain. God just is and so is His peace. We can rest in His presence because we belong to Him.

We all come from God. Our souls inside of us know that, and our souls long to return. We need to follow the prodding of our souls. Returning to God closes the cycle and makes everything complete. That’s the secret of God’s peace.

So hold me Jesus,
Cause I’m shaking like a leaf
You have been King of my glory
Won’t You be my Prince of Peace

Rich Mullins

John 16:33: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

If life had a name, then I’m sure its middle name would be Trouble with a capital T. First and last name? Constant Change! And we can get overwhelmed; we can get stuck; we can get overly attached; we can get numb; we can get depressed; we can get sweetened or hardened dealing with whatever life throws at us. Note that our hearts are fragile. We need to take good care of our hearts, or else we’ll be overcome by life’s middle name.

How we handle trouble is similar to digestion. Food is worthless and can actually kill us if our bowels refuse to work and our whole digestive system shuts down. Food has to be processed to be of any value. So does life. We need to take time to process life’s events, especially life changing events.

Allow yourself a break when lots of things happen, when we arrive at a crossroad; when changes come our way, when we feel pushed in a corner, when we feel powerless, when we feel angry, especially when we feel defeated and don’t see a way out of a situation. All of that are sure indicators that we need a Time Out.

Jesus spoke words of life into everybody’s struggle when He said:

  • “Take heart!”

We need to take our hearts seriously. The best favor we can do to ourselves is to reconnect with our Creator.

Jesus said:

  • “I have overcome the world”.

Knowing and believing that Jesus can work through every issue with us will guard our hearts from descending into desperation. Jesus added:

  • “I have told you these things so that in me you may have peace.”

The most precious ointment on a wounded and broken heart is the ointment of peace: the peace of knowing everything is going to be alright; the peace of knowing that God cares; the peace of knowing we are not alone; the peace of realizing that God is near; the peace of knowing we are being carried.

Jesus can connect us to peace because He is the source of peace. Shortly before His death He told His followers (John 14:27):

“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.”

“Peace be with you” is not an empty wish of His. It is quite real. And Jesus wants to lay it on us. Take it from the One who knows you best and let His peace reign in your heart and soul.

Isaiah 9:6: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

Mary and Joseph had just begun to feel relaxed. Every day well-wishing people came to pay homage to the child. Some offered help, others brought expensive gifts. Three distinguished visitors had traveled a long distance to present them with gold, frankincense and myrrh. Shepherds had been spreading word of their special baby in the local neighborhood. Everybody was excited and happy. The Messiah was born!  

As they retired for the night, Joseph considered prolonging their stay in Bethlehem to give Mary a chance to fully recuperate before hitting the road again. – That’s when it happened. – He looked around and saw an angel standing in the room. It was the angel of the Lord. Time seemed to stand still for a moment. Then the angel addressed him (Matthew 2:13):

“Get up”, he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

Joseph woke up, startled to realize, it was a dream. He immediately woke Mary, and they left within the hour.

Mary and Joseph were in the eye of a storm as they packed up and left for Egypt. They fled just in the nick of time, right before Herod’s soldiers arrived who methodically killed all infants and toddlers in Bethlehem and its vicinity.

And so it was that Jesus narrowly escaped the massacre. Still, other babies were killed on that horrible day. Does this make any sense? – No, that’s the point! These are senseless murders, and they are symptomatic for the greater problem humanity has: We were created human but we evolved and became inhuman. The killings are a sobering reminder why the Messiah had to come in the first place.

The life of Jesus was no Rose garden. Early on, he had to deal with offense and life threatening situations, which is why He can appreciate what we are going through. He empathizes with us and carries us through our worst nightmares, even death; He never leaves us nor forsakes us.

This world is badly broken. Jesus came to heal the world. The Prince of Peace is more than just a pat on the back and a quick fix. His mission is to get to the bottom of things. Jesus’s parting words to His followers were (John 14:27):

“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.”

Healing our hearts, Jesus heals the world. Having turned our affairs over to Him, we have made peace with God. Peace on earth is a revolution from within and begins in the temple of our hearts.

“Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God “
Songwriters: Buddy Greene / Mark Lowry

Matthew 2:4-6: “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

The town of Bethlehem, Hebrew בֵּית לֶחֶם Bet Leḥem for “House of Meat” is a place with a long history. It was King David’s hometown; he came from a shepherd’s family.

From ancient times, large numbers of sheep were crisscrossing the fertile hill country of Judea, a premier spot for shepherding. Tending sheep in the Middle East 2000 years ago was a demanding and dangerous job. Wolves were common, and there was no compensation for livestock taken as prey. In general, shepherding was frowned upon as a sub-par profession. Shepherds shared the same unenviable status as tax collectors and dung sweepers.

Bethlehem – Israel’s sheep metropolis – this was the chosen location where Jesus was born. Why not a more prestigious place? Why not Jerusalem? Good question! Nobody really knows. As a general observation, God seems to have His eye on common people. He likes to choose the unlikely, and this may rub some of us the wrong way; ideally though, God’s way of loving people should inspire all of us to let go of any prejudice we have towards outsiders.

When Israel exited Egypt in 1500 BCE, they were despised slaves. God rose to the occasion, and the nation of Israel was born as they passed through the Red Sea into the Sinai Peninsula. God comes through for us in very unlikely circumstances; and He chooses unlikely places, such as Bethlehem in Judea, to do His work.

Never underestimate humble beginnings. Don’t despise a small manger in an inconspicuous little town. This manger held a special baby, the King of the universe, the Shepherd of God’s people and the Messiah of the world.

Colossians 3:16: “Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

“Wo man singt, da lass dich nieder. Böse Menschen haben keine Lieder” – a German saying, which loosely translated means: “Wherever people get together to sing, join them. You won’t run into bad company there; evil people don’t have songs.”

My grandmother’s Dad was Walter Seelheim who knew how to play the accordion. At night, he played in dance halls, which were popular in Germany in the 1920s. Well-paid jobs were scarce after the Germans had lost World War I; playing music at night probably helped my great grandfather to feed his nine children. My grandmother had seven sisters and one brother. Times were hard, but they knew how to have fun. At night, the girls who shared a bedroom fell into harmony singing old folk songs to pass the time.

Singing together is such a bonding activity. About choral singing Julia Layton wrote in her article: “The Physical Effects of Singing”:

“A study published in Australia in 2008 revealed that on average, choral singers rated their satisfaction with life higher than the public — even when the actual problems faced by those singers were more substantial than those faced by the general public. A 1998 study found that after nursing-home residents took part in a singing program for a month, there were significant decreases in both anxiety and depression levels. Another study surveying more than 600 British choral singers found that singing plays a central role in their psychological health.”

It’s no secret that not everybody can sing in tune, which would be a major deal-breaker for joining a choir. Singing in the shower, however, it won’t matter how we sound. Singing is simply good for the soul which is why the Lord encourages us to keep it up (Psalm 33:3):

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy.”

An added bonus for making music is that we typically don’t engage in violence as we sing. How do we change the world for the better? Obviously, not by violence; the message of Christ is a message of peace. The peace movement initiated by Jesus starts within the human heart. Making peace with God, we spread peace wherever we go. That’s the power of Christ’s message in a nutshell – and we can sing about it.

Mom and I singing together in 2015

Colossians 3:15: “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.”

If God’s peace is like a river, I want that river to take me wherever it leads, and in peace go wherever the Lord sends me.

Here is an aspect of God’s peace: We are called to live in peace with one another as opposed to being divided in hatred and strife; we are called to respect and appreciate our differences as opposed to being hostile and resistant to anybody’s viewpoint that differs from ours.

Actually, if it makes sense to not put God in a box, neither do people belong in one. Let us rather celebrate our differences instead of getting upset. This is a good rule of thumb that can be applied to any situation where we do not share the same outlook on life. That also goes for politics. Democracy thrives on negotiating different viewpoints and the ability to collaborate. This sets democracy apart from a totalitarian regime.

On a more personal level, how boring would it be if we agreed on everything? Praise the Lord for open-mindedness! Could you imagine where we would be without curious and exploring people questioning the status quo? Let’s be thankful for all probing questions, thankful for conflict arising out of these questions and thankful to God who guides us through the mystery and gives us peace in the midst of the unknown.

“You think the only people who are people
Are the people who look and think like you
But if you walk the footsteps of a stranger
You’ll learn things you never knew, you never knew”

Stephen Schwartz

Psalm 118:5-6: “When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; he brought me into a spacious place. The Lord is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

When booking a flight I always try to get an aisle seat. Without having to climb over several people’s legs it is much easier to get out of the seat. I guess I am a bit claustrophobic. Claustrophobia is an irrational fear. It is unlikely that a small, stuffy room poses any mortal danger and yet, this is exactly how a claustrophobic person feels – threatened to be running out of space, air, and time.

Tight places

Overdue bills can have a claustrophobic effect on us. When we don’t know where to go and what to do to pay our next bills, then we are financially in a tight place.

Tight places

What can people do to us? A whole lot! People can uplift us, encourage us, but they can also mislead us, shame us and even destroy us. Bullies can pin us to a corner and we feel that there is no escape.

Tight places

How do we humanly react to tight places? If in trouble, we instinctively revert to fright or fight. A frightful person goes into hiding. An aggressive person fights back. Neither approach works in tight places. How do we hide in a small stuffy room? And how do we fight back in a trap?

Locked into a tight place we need outside help. It is practically impossible to free ourselves since this is the very nature of tight places. We are stuck! However, there is still one thing we can do – We can cry out.

Even though it does not sound very attractive, crying like a baby is the smartest move in tight places. The key to freedom is prayer. We cry out to God and immediately the tides have turned: We are no longer powerless when we entrust ourselves to the King of kings and Lord of lords.

It is not our smart minds that move the world. Our prayers do. Prayers are by no means our last resort. How often prayers have changed the course of history remains to be seen. God will lead us from tight places to wide open spaces. As we are waiting on Him He blesses us with His peace that surpasses all understanding.

“Deep peace of the running wave to you
Deep peace of the flowing air to you
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you
Deep peace deep peace” – Irish Blessing

Matthew 26:52: “‘Put your sword back in its place,’ Jesus said to him, ‘for all who draw the sword will die by the sword.’”

Wer Feuer frißt, scheißt Funken. Literally – He who eats fire s**ts sparks. A masterpiece of German idiomatic art! It’s a warning – he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword.

If you can imagine a world not run by military power, then you can imagine God’s kingdom and what Jesus stands for. “But how else are we supposed to protect ourselves from our enemies?” is the question. Well, our defense system is no long term solution. The sword can temporarily correct a hostile situation, but will never bring lasting peace. That’s the limitation of the sword. Meanwhile we are hooked on a defense system that could potentially blow up our planet and eradicate all life on earth. It will take a revolution to change that, a revolution instigated by God Himself.

We all live in countries with a defense mechanism. We all witness violence, and we all are prone to use violence. The non-violent approach on the other hand is foreign to us. The way Jesus submitted to the Roman authorities set a precedent for all God’s children around the world. Jesus introduced us to a new chapter in the history of mankind, also illustrated in the Book of Isaiah. Isaiah described the future of mankind like this (Isaiah 2:4):

“He will judge between the nations
and will settle disputes for many peoples.
They will beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not take up sword against nation,
nor will they train for war anymore.”

The non-violent approach will eliminate the need to defend ourselves. What do we have to lose? We do not have to prove anything, and we do not have to be right. If we speak up, it doesn’t matter if people agree or disagree, listen to us or ignore us. We might have something to say, but actually, so does the person next to us. So, before speaking up it would behoove us to listen first. By doing so, we show some respect. Have you ever noticed that listening goes a long way towards developing empathy? It turns enemies into human beings. We also appear more credible in any dispute if we hear our opponents out before putting in our own two cents. Jesus always listened before He talked, and He touched many people that way.

Can you see that with this kind of attitude it’s pretty hard to imagine advancing any cause, even a good one, at gunpoint?

So what if our lives are in danger? – Even though it’s very counter-intuitive, weaponry is still not the answer. It never was. Jesus demonstrated it. So did His followers. Ever since its inception the Jesus-movement has been ignored, openly ridiculed, violently opposed, all to imply that the way of Jesus has no future and neither have God’s children – and yet the opposite is true: God’s children carry our future. What is considered unrealistic and impossible will be a “dream-come-true” one day. There will be a world without weapons. There will be a world not built on blood-shed and power abuse; instead God’s world will be built entirely on love, love that completely overrides evil and is much more efficient than all our sophisticated weaponry put together.

Instead of self-defense, all our capacities and resources are used for life and growth in the kingdom of heaven. When we live according to the principles of life and love God’s kingdom sprouts and spreads. Looking around us, we may already detect the beginnings of His kingdom. We too can jump on that bandwagon and become part of it. There is only one catch: And yes, you have guessed it: We have to let go of our sword.

“Give me love
Give me love
Give me peace on earth”
George Harrison