“Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me” is the opening line of one of my favorite hymns. Peace. Real, ultimate, universal peace. Is there any greater dream shared by the multitude of humanity? It’s as if there is a peaceful imperative woven into the foundation of our species. Longing for peace is as fundamental to humanity as water is to all life itself.
When confronted by dominant realities of hatred and disharmony, we cry out for peace. Peace in Israel and Palestine. Peace to the persecuted in Syria. Peace to the oppressed laborers in China. Peace to the political process in Washington. Peace in the sporting arena. Peace to my neighbors’ family. Peace with my spouse. Peace with my past.
Yet our peaceful imperative is continually challenged by our memories and choices. “I cannot forget what I suffered by her actions; therefore, I will resolve to small, petty, personal ideas of justice including resentment prohibiting forgiveness, much less reconciliation.” “I’ve been hurt before, and that is why I choose to erect walls against intimacy – I will not be seen as vulnerable.” “I love winning and despise loosing; thereby, I hate opponents to my cause/tribe/team. I think they’re evil and should be eradicated.” Violence in media, enmity in politics, and envy in business – our modern society prays for peace but practices discord. There must be some kind of sickness within us all if gun and ammunition sales spike after every egregious school shooting. “Let me have peace. To hell with the rest of you,” is our more authentic confession.
Into the dominant reality of hatred and disharmony, the Prophet Isaiah gives voice to our deepest longings, our furthest imaginations of an alternative reality marked by love and tranquility. The righteous authority, Isaiah says, will rule with justice. Then eyes will be opened and ears will hear. The minds of the rash will have good judgment, and fools and villains will no longer be considered noble or honorable. The effect of the righteous will be peace, quietness, and trust forevermore.
Wholehearted listening and conscientiousness encourages peace. When we hear the cries for “Peace, Peace” we must ask, “Peace for whom?” Growing self-acceptance is a sign of emotional maturity, seeking peace for personal ease is something entirely different. The truth is, I know nothing of peace unless my neighbor knows peace. I must listen to cries of injustice, even if they are discomforting. I must pursue honesty, generosity, and goodwill lest my luxury exacerbates someone else’s suffering. Therefore, “let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”
 Isaiah 32. This paraphrase is my interpretation.