Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. “Peace, peace,” they say, when there is no peace- Jeremiah 10b-11 NIV
Humans are hardwired to pursue peace.
Deep down in our souls we know every good and valuable thing human civilization has to offer was developed, advanced and flourished during a time of peace. The best art, music, theology, medicine and literature are all the outcome of extended periods of peace.
Without peace marriages dissolve, mental health declines, churches splinter, governments breakdown and societies crumble.
Peace is an important element of Christian doctrine.
Jesus’ official title is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He got that title by coming to earth, dying on the cross and rising from the dead in order to pay the penalty for human sin and rebellion. His purpose in doing all that was to broker peace between a sinless God and sinful humanity. Because Jesus is the bringer of peace Jesus’ followers are instructed to make peace whenever possible (Matthew 5:9, Romans 12:18, Hebrews 12:14). The Bible teaches that the mere presence of a healthy Christian has the power to bring peace to a place or situation. (Matthew 10:13). One of the most profound benefits of knowing Jesus is the peace He brings to our hearts even in the midst of the worst kinds of trouble and chaos (John 14:27, John 16:33).
Because peace is so vital to human flourishing most folks will go to super human and sometimes even sinful lengths to get it and keep it. A craving for peace is why there are divorce lawyers. Peace is the reason our culture loves pharmaceuticals and there are so many bars. It’s why society collectively spends billions on police and it explains the existence of the military industrial complex. Peace is so critical to human health people will fight wars just to keep it.
This essentially means:
Peace has a dark side. Peace is not always all sunshine and gummy bears. There are situations in life when the presence of peace is neither good, beneficial or life-giving. Peace quickly becomes toxic anytime we:
Get it in the wrong way-
Interestingly enough, the most totalitarian and repressive countries on earth are also, at least on the surface, some of the most serene and peaceful places on earth. You don’t see a lot of dissent or griping or protesting in dystopian regimes. However, the people in those places are not behaving in a peaceful manner because they are thrilled with their circumstances and all is well their souls. Beneath the veneer of peace and tranquility, there is a tyrant who rules with an iron fist. No one is allowed to tell the truth or say what they believe unless the tyrant gives them the go ahead. The same thing can happen in our families, churches, businesses and friendships. A strong personality or leader keeps the peace, not by leading well, working through interpersonal problems or helping people to figure out how to figure out their issues. Rather, the leader keeps the peace through intimidation and coercion. Sometimes the coercion is stated verbally. Most of the time it’s implied. Sometimes the threat is physical, more often it’s social or relational. Typically, anyone brave enough or dumb enough to voice their concerns ends up on the “outside” of the church, family or friend group. The only way to deal with a leader who sows false peace is to leave the situation or confront the problem head-on.
Want it for the wrong reasons-
Some people make peace simply because they are so averse to any kind of conflict, even healthy conflict they will do anything or tolerate anything just to avoid the social discomfort that comes with rocking the relational boat. Psychologists call this kind of peacemaking: codependence. Codependence is bad. Really bad. The peace we broker through codependent capitulation never leads to anything healthy or life-giving. Instead, codependent peacemaking always leads to repressed anger, game playing, bitterness and passive-aggressive revenge seeking. None of which pleases God or brings health to a situation (Hebrews 12:15, Matthew 5:37). The only way to achieve real peace is by moving forward with hard conversations in spite of any personal embarrassment or discomfort we feel. Hard conversation is hard but it allows us to work through the issues in the relationship honestly and come to a place of real peace where people can flourish and grow.
Take shortcuts to get it-
There are all sorts of shortcuts we can take to achieve a pretense of peace in our marriages, churches, friendships and workplaces. We can gloss over real problems, limit hard conversations, crush dissent, hide the conflict, avoid people who make us uncomfortable or pretend everything is “fine” when it clearly is not. All of these shortcuts do give an illusion of peace, at least for a season. The problem with shortcuts is they also inhibit intimacy, limit growth, and straight-up kill healthy communication. There really is no shortcut or easy way to achieve real, authentic and lasting relationship health. We just have to be willing to be patient as we work through the conflict to get to the good stuff (cooperation, intimacy, friendship, trust).
The pursuit of peace is a good, upright and noble thing—if we go about it in the right way. If we go about the wrong way we might get a short-term payoff that feels good in the moment but is in reality a cheap counterfeit, that brings with it a lot of long-term pain.