“Expect the unexpected” may be trite advice, but it’s a good idea.
But, who really practices such wariness? Our lives are ruled by inertia; once in motion, we tend to stay in motion―locked in one direction, one speed, one mode. Even those who desperately try to live unconventionally do so according to their own conventionality.
Our attitudes and expectations toward such ethereal qualities as love and peace largely depend on our experiences with them. Those fortunate enough to have been reared in safe, affirming, supportive homes with unconditional love, typically gravitate toward similar circumstances and relationships throughout their lives. Trouble is, few seem to enjoy such positive inertia. The rest of us had parents who were human beings; flawed people with baggage of their own, who despite their parental love, messed up regularly, perhaps flying into a rage for no good reason, punishing their kids unfairly, breaking promises they fully intended to keep.
Such parents, fully aware of their shortcomings, suffer wracking guilt pangs for warping their kids’ temperaments and personalities for life. “Will Johnnie become a serial killer because I failed to make it to Science Fair Parents’ Night as promised?” “I’m not the warmest of people. Will Mary become a cold and detached wife?” But they fail to realize their failures are imperfectly normal.
Those of us who care more about our kids than ourselves naturally have these passionate misgivings about our parenting abilities. We wonder how those people manage to raise such wonderful little geniuses, not realizing they entertain the same misgivings about their parenting. With all this failed parenting in the world, how can humanity hope to ever rise above its historical hatred, violence and indifference?
We humans have shown little potential for demonstrating the kind of love and enjoying the kind of peace that we long for. Only an incurable optimist would argue that such sterling qualities lie within our human reach. But that is not to say we humans weren’t created specifically to enjoy perfect love and peace. And that is exactly why we are never satisfied with anything less.
From the outset, we human-type beings have bent every effort to obtain bits of divinity. We believed a usurper’s lies and tried to take a shortcut to the exclusive qualities we thought God owned outright. Then, when we were busted, we lied about it to God’s face, tried to cover it up, tried to blame each other, tried to insist, “Da devil made me do it!” While we call that whole fiasco “Original Sin,” there’s nothing “original” about it. Whenever we decide to live our own way instead of God’s way, we repeat Adam and Eve’s little mistake, bearing our own eternal guilt.
Love and Peace
Two little words that infatuate us like none other. Our pea-brains confuse sex for love—or at least the prospect of getting some—and confuse lack of war, for true and lasting peace. We’ve built elaborate cultural institutions around those lofty misunderstandings, often involving various altered states of mind. When we can’t find the authentic items, we’re quite content to delude ourselves into feeling as though we have. Too often, however, the world’s version of love quickly turns to exploitation and addiction, while the world’s peace leaves us bickering among ourselves if not actually shooting at our neighbors.
God’s love and peace, however, doesn’t involve hangovers, smoking stuff, or unwanted pregnancies. It doesn’t include smacking folks with placards while screaming, “Make Love, Not War!”
To those of us saturated by popular culture and indoctrinated by academia, God’s way to authentic love and peace, quite frankly, seems rather weird. For one thing, God’s way isn’t a method or an institution. It’s a person. When Jesus addressed his followers, preparing them for his departure to his Father, Doubting Thomas seemed confused. So, Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.(John 14:6 KJV)
How does God define Love? He defines it by identifying it with himself: So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.(1 John 4:16 ESV) In fact, the Lord’s apostle John wrote more about love than any of the other anointed Bible writers. His gospel and his letters to the churches are filled with a unique depth of understanding for God’s love. Yet, the majority of folks still don’t get it—can’t get it. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:14 ESV) Is there any wonder that the world consistently warps this vital teaching?
And how does God define peace? He shed some light on the subject when he addressed his followers for the last time: Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. (John 14:27 ESV)
But wouldn’t it be nice if that was all he had to say about it? In another place he gave his followers some idea of his complexity: “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34 ESV) Yet, he said: “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.”(Luke 19:42 ESV)
He may as well have said, “It’s … complicated,” for truly it is. The one thing we know for sure about both love and peace is whatever popular culture is buying, God isn’t selling. Will we buy the lie, just as Man and Woman did in Eden? Or will we hold out for God’s truth—the Truth he left for us in his word, the Bible? Yes, it can be complicated, but why would we expect anything else?