...but Lennon and me? We're not the only ones. See, there's this guy named Paul. Sometime around 57 A.D., he wrote a letter to the Romans, which we now term the 'Book of Romans' in the bible. Some of the greatest descriptions of what it means to be a true Christian are hidden in this book; some people only skim the surface and see what they want to see, but an in-depth reading will reveal some important gems: live in harmony with each other, share both the joys and the griefs of others as though they were your own, give precedence and honor to the other person, not yourself. Be patient during suffering times, constant in prayer. Be hospitable, be honest, proper, noble, zealous in doing the right thing and, above all...
"If possible, as far as it depends on YOU, live at peace with everyone." -Romans 12:18 [emphasis mine]
"Imagine all the people living life in peace..." -John Lennon
What we must realize is that a life of peace does not rely solely upon us, but it certainly begins there. It's in the choices we make, in the actions we take, and in the reactions we have. It's pretty easy to live in 'peace' if you're alone -- there's no one there to disagree or argue with, to look down upon, or to prove wrong. But whenever a second person enters the picture -- be it a friend, enemy, spouse, colleague, relative, or stranger -- there is always a chance for strife of some sort. As with all things, the trick is to stop trying to put ourselves first. It's the re-training of a lifetime, but well worth it.
When we're born, everything centers around us. Our world is a festival of 'me'. I want, I need, give me. The problem is that not everyone grows out of that phase; it just becomes deeper and more invested than it was originally. Soon, 'I need a diaper change' becomes 'I need a PS4', then 'I need a brand new car', then 'I need a mansion in the Hills'. 'I need a warm bottle' becomes 'I need a $6 latte and I really don't care if you were here first, so I'll step ahead of you and not tip my barista'.
It's when we step outside of ourselves and see the world through the eyes of the Creator that things really become apparent. The realization that our earthly status means precisely CRAP is a bit rattling at first. God does not care how much money you make, what you drive, where you live, or how you dress. He doesn't care if you have a $50 manicure or you bite your nails until they bleed. What He cares about is how you're showing His love to everyone around you.
This peace we can have is not just internal (though that's certainly a large part of it.) If we are filled with a humble spirit, a generous nature -- if we look at everyone we meet as equal to ourselves regardless of whether or not we like them -- it becomes easier and easier to practice this peace. If someone offends you, your first reaction is often to rail on them, go into an angry tirade to their face, then talk about them behind their back. If someone says something hurtful to (or about) you personally, your first reaction is usually one of emotional recoil, mistrust, then anger and bitterness. Our lives and our reactions are very emotional and in-the-moment, regardless of how logical we deem ourselves to be.
What if we stopped living off of pure emotion and began training our responses to be... well, better? Just as Paul writes in Romans 12 to be constant in prayer, what if our FIRST reaction were to pray? Right there, right when it happens? Maybe not out loud, maybe not on our knees, but a quick whisper inside our head for God to lead us down the right path. For our reactions to show His love and not our emotion? For the way we handle the situation to honor Him and not be something we might be ashamed of in fifteen minutes? What if, instead of trying to handle everything ourselves at every juncture, in every circumstance of our lives, we asked Him what to do first?
Growing up, I had a very good relationship with my parents and I was, for the most part, a pretty 'good' kid. But anytime I was counseled by my mom or dad to do something, my gut instinct was to do the opposite. "I'll do what I want" and "You can't tell me how to live my life" seem to be the reigning mantras of every teenager I've ever encountered, including myself at that age. The thing is, though, looking back? 99% of the time my parents were right. That's a pretty big percentage for human beings. And I often wonder, had I followed their advice all of the times I DIDN'T follow their advice, how would my life have been different? Better? More peaceful? Happier? As I grew older, I began calling my parents almost every single day. I'd ask advice and then take it. Their wisdom and experience has never failed me in my adulthood. And, as I grew even older, my first 'call' became to God -- the parent who is 100% right all the time. I retrained my thought process. I am happier and more at peace now than I ever have been in my lifetime. His advice is never inaccurate, and when I seek Him first in every circumstance, I find myself with the patience, the endurance, the peace to get through any situation I'm dealing with.
If our first response is to go to God, His first advice will be the peaceful solution. As far as it depends on us, we are to do everything on our end to be peaceful with others. If their actions and reactions are not peaceful, there's nothing we can do about that but pray. And pray we must! Just as you grow closer to another human being through more frequent contact, the same is true of our relationships with God. Talk to Him more. Listen to Him more. Call on Him more.
The peace that results will be worth more than any car or mansion you could dream of.