Sometimes unintentional mistakes lead to interesting lines of thought. A few weeks ago I misheard a speaker in an LDS meeting. The speaker was quoting John 14:27, and either because of the speaker’s mispronunciation or my imperfect hearing, I heard the word “live” instead of the word “leave.” This lead me to think about what it means to live in peace.
As I heard it at the time, John 14:27 began:
Peace I live with you, my peace I give unto you…
Christ makes this statement as part of the sermon he gives the Apostles at the last supper—so he says “leave” because he knows that he is about to leave them. When he comes to stay, surely he will say something that implies that he will live in peace with us instead.
For us, I think, the difference between “leave” and “live” is crucial. As good as it is to “leave” peace with others, how much more important is it to “live” peace with them? While “leave” implies a single act—something that happens just once, “live” implies an ongoing process. Where we can “leave” in peace by simply agreeing to disagree, “live” requires learning how to create peace through resolving and working through differences. Leaving with problems and disputes resolved is vital, but more important still is living with others in a way that doesn’t cause disputes in the first place and in a way that resolves differences when they are still discussions and not yet arguments. Perhaps when stated this way it seems obvious, yet still somehow this idea is lost among most people—even among faithful Latter-day Saints.
“His peace I live with you” isn’t just about the quality of “peace.” It is also about who it is we mean when we say “you” and what it means to “live” with others. It is relatively easy to live in peace if we limit who we live with. A hermit may easily live a life void of conflict, but he can never learn the true meaning of His peace. Working excessively may eliminate conflict with a spouse or friend, but it can never allow you to learn to live in peace. Living in a neighborhood where everyone is like we are may eliminate conflict or give a feeling of security, but this is clearly not true peace. Restricting immigration to protect your culture may make it easier to reach consensus in a country, but is that really His peace? Doesn’t His peace even require that we do everything we safely can to discover how to live in peace with those we now label as terrorists?
For too many of us, peace means hiding from conflict instead of resolving it. It means avoiding news we consider “negative” and books that are “troubling” because they don’t give us peace. Those who do so forget that Christ calmly and courteously confronted even those who were determined to take his life.
Others of us, when faced with conflict, are determined to win at all cost, entering into arguments that become vicious and vile. When the debate becomes more about winning than persuading, we forget that we should disagree without being disagreeable.
In all of this real peace, His peace, comes not from avoiding others or excluding those who are different than we are, or who disagree with us, but from welcoming others and learning the hard lessons about how to live, really live, in peace with them.