Aliud est de silvestri cacumine videre patriam pacis et iter ad eam non invenire et frustra conari per invia circum obsidentibus et insidiantibus fugitivis desertoribus cum principe suo Leone et Dracone, et aliud tenere viam illuc ducentem…
You don’t speak Latin. It doesn’t matter, the translation of my friend Augustine’s famous words is at the end of this entry.
Time and again people discuss that unattainable issue of peace: Peace in the world, peace in our lives, peace in our relationships with others. Not strange really, since it seems that in our little world, strife, struggle, fighting, battling and war are the status quo. What we don’t have, we want.
But Augustine wasn’t concerned with that. He’d seen his share of fights and by the time he confessed in his titular book he was pretty convinced that perfect peace would never be achieved in this world. Why? Because of politics? Because of ignorance? Because of corrupt governments? No – because of people. After all, some of the oldest human skeletons we’ve dug up have spearheads and arrows stuck in them – some skulls still carry a firmly embedded axe.
It’s in our nature.
These days we’ve been going through the New Testament book of Romans with some friends, and we’re trying to get our heads around the astonishing truths it contains. But one of the major themes is the peace that men can have with God through Jesus Christ. I know, it sounds churchy, but you know what? That’s basically the message the Church is here to spread: The fact that although all of us have fallen short of God’s perfect standards and deserve eternal punishment, He loved us so much that He paid our debt Himself. It’s what the Bible is all about, and I hope that you’ve realised that, and not herded behind those lazy voices screaming otherwise.
But that’s not all. Jesus might have paid our debt on the cross, but He didn’t automatically set us right with God. He opened the door, but it’s up to us whether we’re going to walk through it. Salvation, after all, is offered, not force-fed.
Yes, ok, I’m being Christian again – oh, dear. What a crime. But since the subject of peace pops up constantly (I mean, my University here runs one of the biggest “Peace Studies” courses in the world – though I haven’t heard of any others anywhere else), I can’t help but think that real peace, the peace that lasts, the peace Augustine was talking about, begins at the Cross. And that, in my humble opinion, is the only peace that counts – without it, no other peace can exist.
Yes, I know. We’ve heard all this before – thankfully. I’m not talking about a Christian Utopia – not on this world. I’m talking about a new life, a life filled with the peace of knowing that God is your Father and you His child. Of knowing that whatever happens, He is always there. Mystical, you say. Subjective, you say. Self-hypnotism, brain washing, the weak man’s crutch. But how can you know that Land of Peace if you haven’t walked to it?
Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.– John 14:27
These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.– John 16:33
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:1
For it pleased the Father that in Him [Jesus] all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. – Colossians1:19-20
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Philippians 4:6-7
Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you. – 2 Corinthians 13:11
For it is one thing, from the mountain’s wooded summit to see the Land Of Peace, and not to find the way there – in vain to attempt impassable ways, opposed and waylaid by fugitives and deserters under their captain the “lion” and the “dragon;” and another to keep to the way that leads there… – Augustine, Confessions VII, 21