Peace in a World of Violence and Death

Last week, I attended a friend’s memorial service; tomorrow I will attend a similar service for another friend. This morning I read a Washington Post article titled, “Guns vs. Autos: How Americans Die” and learned that for the first time in over sixty years, more people are dying from gunshot wounds than from automobile accidents. The saddest fact is that in two out of three incidents, the cause of death is suicide.

A few weeks ago, I began the following poem.

Lord, I want to cry;
Why must people die—at Christmas time?

Violence takes a stranger:
Illness takes a friend—when will it end?

You came to bring peace.
But bloodshed has increased.

Where will I find answers?
Not in the Post; not in the Times.

As I was writing, I recalled the words of the following Christmas carol that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote during the time of the American civil war.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on earth,” I said,
“For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.”[i]

In the world peace is in short supply, yet I do not despair—as Longfellow did. I feel sad about the death of friends who have died due to illnesses—at the same time, I’m glad that their pain and suffering has ended and they are with the Jesus they loved. I feel grieved about the deaths of so many due to terrorism and other forms of violence. But I am not in despair. In the following words from the Gospel of Luke, I read these words of encouragement:

“Through the heartfelt mercies of our God,
God’s Sunrise will break in upon us,
Shining on those in the darkness,
those sitting in the shadow of death,
Then showing us the way, one foot at a time,
down the path of peace.” Luke 1:78-80 (The Message)

I love the above paraphrase of the prophecy of Jesus’ birth and purpose. What a contrast to the Washington Post headline! Over 2000 years ago, as predicted in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus arrived.  Though the world around us may be in turmoil, inner peace is still available to those of us who will place our hand in the hand of Jesus and walk with him “one foot at a time down the path of peace.”

[i] http://nethymnal.org/htm/i/h/iheardtb.htm

 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.