When Christ was born to this world, angels proclaimed, “On earth peace, good will toward men” (see Luke 2:14). Yet in the two thousand years since that proclamation there has been little peace in the world. Even with the cessation of major hostilities in the Persian Gulf, there still remains an uneasy peace between some nations and great unrest within other nations. Just as Christ’s atonement has saved us from both physical and spiritual death, the peace of which the Savior of mankind spoke is also both physical and spiritual.
I’d like to discuss this spiritual peace offered by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount, when he gave us the beautiful beatitude about peace and peacemakers. His entire sermon is a blueprint for us to use in our personal path towards perfection, as well as a pattern of the many attributes and qualities we must develop in our eternal quest to approach the perfection and peace Jesus personifies.
I like to think of when the sermon was first taught. In my mind’s eye, I see a scene of peaceful beauty: I envision an afternoon in early April. The sky is softening toward dusk, with not even a breeze. White, wispy cirrus clouds stand almost motionless in the clear blue sky. And below, on the coast of the Sea of Galilee, soft waves lap against moored fishing boats. A group of people assembles on the side of the hill. Eager listeners sit on the grass or stand amidst the rocks and early spring flowers. All are hushed and thoughtful as every face is lifted up, every eye looking towards the Lord, and every ear listening as the Savior tells them what they need to do in order to have peace in their lives.
Tenderly Christ speaks: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matt. 5:9). Another Bible translator quotes the Savior, saying, “Happy are those who make peace” (The New Testament in Modern English, trans. J. B. Phillips, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1958, p. 9; italics added). Either way, we focus on the strong verb make as in “make peace” or “peacemakers.” To follow Christ and bring forth the blessings of heaven, we must actively make peace in the world, in the community, in the neighborhood, and above all, in the home we live in.
In the meridian of time, many expected Christ to take a political stand against Roman rule and offer peace to the oppressed people. Christ did indeed offer peace, but it was not external or political; rather, the peace Christ taught was internal and personal.
I would like to share an incident which took place during the Vietnam War. There were some who were convinced that the United States was engaged in a noble and justifiable war. However, public opinion was changing, and there was opposition which argued that the U.S. should pull out of Vietnam.
President Harold B. Lee was the President of the Church at the time. While at an area conference in another country he was interviewed by reporters from the international news services. One reporter asked President Lee, “What is your church’s position on the Vietnam War?” Some recognized the question as a trap—one which could not be answered without a very real risk of being misunderstood or misinterpreted. If the prophet answered, “We are against the war,” the international media could state, “How strange—a religious leader who is against the position of the country he is obliged to sustain in his own church’s Articles of Faith.” On the other hand, if President Lee answered, “We are in favor of the war,” the media could question, “How strange—a religious leader in favor of war?” Either way, the answer could result in serious problems regarding public opinion both inside and outside the Church.
President Lee, with great inspiration and wisdom, answered as would a man who knows the Savior: “We, together with the whole Christian world, abhor war. But the Savior said, ‘In me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation’” (John 16:33). President Lee then explained, “The Savior was not talking about the peace that can be achieved between nations, by military force or by negotiation in the halls of parliaments. Rather, he was speaking of the peace we can each have in our own lives when we live the commandments and come unto Christ with broken hearts and contrite spirits” (see Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 70).
One of the world-famous prayers of St. Francis of Assisi suggests that we can be instruments in the hands of the Savior for bringing personal peace to others. This is the essence of the true “maker of peace.”
The prayer reads:
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
And where there is sadness, joy.
To be a maker of peace, it helps if we understand what brings peace. Paul says that it is the Spirit: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Gal. 5:22). Our closeness to the Lord will, in great measure, determine the peace and comfort and renewed strength that we feel as we invite the Spirit into our lives. In spite of all the problems in the world today, peace can come to the hearts of each of us as we follow the Savior.