I'm a big fan of IndyCar racing. I have been since I was a young kid listening to the broadcast of the Indianapolis 500 on the radio. Since gaining Internet access back in the 90s, I've been able to root and commiserate with other Indycar junkies. I spent enough time doing it, they put me in charge of a discussion board. And for my fellow fans and I, yesterday was a holiday -- the first race of the season. But we had a problem in the house. Yesterday was also my son's birthday party with the family. And yes, both the race and the party started at the same time. So I taped the race to watch later, but still kept an eye on things so I knew what was happening. I even got to watch the last few exciting laps. But I missed a lot of things that I'll have to watch the tape to catch. We IndyCar junkies hate to miss anything.
In any case, I was explaining to a fellow fan why I wasn't sure what happened during the race. I pointed out that it's tough to pay close attention with a house full of relatives, but I'd watch the tape later. He told me, "I hope you enjoy watching the race in peace."
I told him that I would have my 3 year-old around all day and that "peace is a relative term when there's a 3 year-old in the house!" Not that my daughter isn't wonderful, it's just that she craves constant activity and attention. One man's peace is quiet and undisturbed. This man's peace is, "Honey, could you move the My Little Pony playset out of the way of the TV?" But the whole conversation got me thinking about peace. In a manner of speaking, peace really is a relative term.
Of course there is the major meaning of peace -- an absence of war or hostility. That is the cry of the anti-war protester. Peace symbols like the two-fingered "V" sign and the circular symbol are commonplace. The 60s and 70s shaped our minds with the stereotypical hippie calling for peace. But peace isn't just for hippies. I don't think anybody really wants war. Maybe the occasional Patton, but aside from those types war is not popular in its own right. We love peace. It's always much easier to go through life without worry of another country attacking or of any hostilities which would lead to fighting. Even on the individual level there are a few people who go around looking for a fight, but usually we seek to live in peace with our fellow man. The argument over war or peace is usually what justifies us leaving the way of peace. And that's a separate issue.
Aside from the "absence of war" definition, peace is also thought of in terms of inner peace. Being at peace with yourself is seen as essential. Cut down on stress, keep the heart healthy; it's good for you! There are various ways to accomplish it. Some use relaxation techniques like visualization or meditation. Emptying the mind is looked on favorably. Yoga is a way to peace, to the mind of many of its practicioners.
I think you get a sense of peace in sleep. I remember in my younger days when I found out just how peaceful my sleep really was. My roommate and I would play racquetball just before noon every weekday -- him after work, me right after sleep and before work. Usually that meant I awoke around ten, put on whatever clothes I found and made the short trip to the YMCA, signed in and had my pulse and blood pressure taken. The attendant would always double-check my pulse because it was usually way below the normal 72-76 -- often in the low 40s. I sometimes wondered if I was still alive and healthy enough for 90 minutes of hard exercise. But I realized just how much my body needed the peace of a restful sleep.
But Jesus talked about a different kind of peace. You see, peace with other people and inner peace are all well and good, but that's the peace available from the world. As He was preparing His disciples for His death, Jesus told them, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." So what exactly is the peace that Jesus called "my" peace? Quite simply, peace with God.
If you've been in a friendship where one of you has done something which hurts the other, you know that something gets in the way of that relationship. It's like having an elephant in the room that neither of you will acknowledge -- that is until one side finally asks for forgiveness. Then and only then will the elephant be sent packing. And then the conflict between the two people is gone. The same thing is true in our relationship with God. If you have never asked for true forgiveness from God, then there is a pachyderm problem. With that large trunked animal in the way, you cannot have peace with God. The world says you can have inner peace and outer peace and that should be good enough. But it's not. You don't have the peace which Jesus gives. And Jesus is the only One who gives it.
True peace is not relative. True peace is not achieved through relaxation or non-violence oaths. True peace is peace with God, available only through accepting God's forgiveness through Jesus Christ.
I still have problems keeping the peace with other people. I don't always have inner peace. But I am ever so thankful for real peace and the True peacegiver.