COLUMN: The truth about peace

Published 9:58 am Thursday, October 27, 2022

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Linda Ellis has written a popular poem entitled, “The Dash.” I got to hear her this past weekend as a keynote speaker at the district Rotary conference I attended in Richmond.

I began to hear the now famous poem read at funerals a few years ago. She jokes that, sure enough, for some reason most people associate it with services after someone has died. It begins by speaking of just such a setting. It reminds us that on our headstones, there are two dates, our births and our deaths, separated with a dash. 

The piece ends by asking the question, “So, when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your dash?” Sure enough, the figurative dash is our lives. Her intent was to raise awareness about how we live. 

In Philippians 4:1-9, the apostle Paul speaks of a peace from God that surpasses all understanding. This is yet another compelling case that your faith matters on this side of heaven. Your faith can lend you quality of life and can help you find perspective for your days. 

What might be your deepest yearning? It’s fascinating to see how we change across a lifetime. I’m sure you’ve reflected on this yourself. As children, we can be full of ambition. Ambition about toys we want. Ambition about being accepted. 

As teenagers and young adults, maybe its achievement and credential goals so that we can be responsible and earn a living. Well, goals and entertainment. Maybe we aspire to a particular kind of life. 

The old American dream for so long was a house, a family, 2.5 children and a dog. But we yearn to achieve and to experience. Some of us even want to see the world. Travel and experiences become important. 

Sooner or later, though, our tastes change a bit. Maybe our ambitions modify. As Richard Rohr, an important prophetic voice of our age has said, “We will climb and climb, trying to get to the top. Only too late to discover that often, we had our ladder up against the wrong wall all along.”

Especially as we age, I think we get in touch with a deeper inner yearning. Maybe we can’t always put a finger on what to call it. Certainly things like meaning, purpose and legacy rise in importance to us. They all enter the picture. We reflect on them. We hope to have clarity and something to show for living. 

There’s something else. I haven’t surveyed the entire world’s population, but I can’t imagine a more universally desired quantity than peace. The older we get, peace very well may be the something else we seek after. Somewhere in our conscious or unconscious spiritual selves, in some ways it’s probably one of the most powerful drivers of our lives. Especially as we mature. 

The apostle Paul’s writings and message appear to have moderated a bit in style and urgency across his many years of ministry. That’s what several arrests and a pile of beatings- among other things- will do to you eventually.

From his zealous early days, his fire didn’t go out. Never. But it did flicker here and there. Fourteen letters are attributed to Paul. They’re not printed in chronological order. They are actually in order of longest to shortest as printed in our New Testament. 

Here in one of his five captivity letters, the apostle writes from prison or jail. Amazingly, for a person who has been arrested and may have even been nearing his own execution at the time, he talks about the peace our faith could bring us through God in Jesus Christ. We should probably listen to a perspective like this. 

Many Christians hope for, and pray for, an easier life. They expect God to somehow shelter them specially from the hardships life can bring. Instead despite dangers, toils and snares they may get a happy life. A peace that somehow visits them because of their faith and the presence of the Holy Spirit. 

The truth about peace is that God can give it to us without us having a perfect life. Part of a real faith, a tested faith, a true faith grounded in Jesus Christ is that we can find joy and peace even if we’ve lived hard. For some people, especially because they’ve lived hard. That’s Paul’s story. To our benefit, that’s the story the apostle stuck with all the way to the end!

Dr. Charles Qualls is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.