Jesus promises to leave us peace – but not as the world understands peace. We need not be troubled and afraid. Instead, we can claim and inhabit the peace provided by Jesus.
Does this sound too pious and wishful? Should we stop working for peace in the world and just focus on private bliss? Not at all! We just need to be clear what Jesus promises – and doesn’t promise.
Jesus promises peace within a specific context – our relationship with him. Outside that context, the world shows no sign of embracing peace. Millions continue to believe killing people is the best way to resolve conflicts. If by happy accident we live far from these conflicts, we nevertheless don’t have the choice to build our discipleship around this relative safety. Our beliefs must be true even if we live near the target zone of a drone bomber or suicide terrorist. In fact, it must be true even if we are killed by one of those drones, and after two or three days of newspaper coverage, our own names are forgotten.
Jesus’ promise of peace is more powerful than bombs, but he never asks us to pretend that bombs don’t exist. Working without illusion for peace means acknowledging risk. It means bracing to be shocked by what human beings seem ready to do to each other ... and even so to continue to preach the gospel and organize for peace. We want to do whatever it takes for others to hear Jesus’ promise of peace. To do so with integrity means already knowing and trusting the peace that Jesus gives us.