I’ve been doing some research for our Advent series on becoming people of peace, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Last week was crazy scattered and I felt I had moved away from my center. It wasn’t good. Fortunately, I was motivated by an assignment to do some biblical research on this topic and it’s definitely helped me to return to a sense of calm.
I went to seminary with a bunch of missionary types and the concept of “person of peace” is huge in that community. The idea comes from Luke 10 where Jesus sends out the 70 and gives them instructions on travel etiquette. “Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you.” (emphasis mine) Voila – the person of peace. I looked up some commentaries and notes on the verses and basically, a person of peace in the text not only means peaceable, quiet person, but one also of good report for their uprightness and benevolence. Another says it’s a person who favors the doctrine of peace and embraces it. My favorite says that it is “one who is inwardly prepared to embrace your message of peace.” Those all sound like not only a person I’d like to know, but also a person I’d like to become.
As I’ve researched the use of this idea, I’ve come across a lot of writing for missionaries instructing them to look for a person of peace. The idea has turned from a peaceful, hospitable person with a good reputation in the community, to someone who has wealth and power is to be used for their connections as an in to an otherwise hostile climate. To me, it’s another example of the evangelical tendency to use people as a means to an end, the end being boosting their numbers. Why not be a person of peace first, and if you find them, enjoy them for who they are, rather than see what they can do for you and your parent company? I’m sure that’s happening – I’m using broad strokes here. My experience is with one particular denomination that is not interested in actually helping people but rather is focusing on what they have historically called the “10-40 Window” because they actually think they can make the rapture happen faster. They’re basically eating spicy foods to make the world go into labor.
When I’m trying to focus on an inner peacefulness, I always return to a quote from Thomas Kelly, a Quaker pastor and theologian from the first part of the last century. The final paragraph of his A Testament of Devotion reads thusly:
“Life from the Center is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.”
Peace to this house.