Summary: We hear of people talking about wanting peace on earth and they even pray for world peace, and yet the world keeps becoming less and less peaceful. Besides there being two world wars in the twentieth century, in nearly all societies today we see division, bitterness, and hatred between people and we find that civil discourse has deteriorated to where people speak with harness, rudeness, and vulgarity towards one another. This article explains how we can still have peace in the world despite these feelings of animosity toward one another.
We hear people say we should pray for world peace, and there have been movements that have attracted large groups of followers who’ve held candlelight vigils where they have prayed for peace, and yet, the world keeps becoming less and less peaceful.
It’s been said that the twentieth century was the bloodiest in human history, which has included the entire world becoming engulfed in war, not once but twice, and the likelihood of that happening again seems quite possible. In addition to this, there have been numerous smaller wars, almost on a constant basis.
But besides armed conflict between nations, there is division, bitterness, and hatred being exhibited in almost all societies, where people are behaving aggressively and violently towards those they disagree with. Civil discourse has even deteriorated to where people speak with harshness, rudeness, and vulgarity towards one another. We are also experiencing an increase in all sorts of crime, from fraud, to robbery, vandalism, mass shootings, rape, and murder.
And yet, the writer of Hebrews counseled us to, “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14), and the apostle Peter has said that we should, “eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it” (1 Peter 3:11). But how do we do that when the world is becoming less peaceful and more violent?
There was once a popular song that said, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me. And let me walk with my brother in perfect harmony.” That may sound like a nice idea, yet it’s one that seems more like a fantasy to most people than a real possibility. However, it contains a profound truth because there truly can be peace on earth, but that doesn’t mean it can happen throughout the entire world. There can be real peace in at least some places, even if it’s only on the small piece of earth that we ourselves occupy.
To illustrate this, in our modern society, when we want food, we go to our nearest grocery store and purchase the items we want. However, the food we take off the shelf comes from large farms, but what if the farms can’t get the food to the grocery stores? In that case, a lot of people won’t be able to get any food.
However, if a family had a little garden on a small plot of land, then at least that one family will still be able to feed themselves while everyone else is going hungry. In the same way, we can cultivate and grow peace in our own little part of the world, even if everyone else around us is depending on getting their peace from what someone else provides them.
We can live in harmony with those in our family even when other families are being torn apart by bickering and fighting with one another. We can live in peace with our own neighbors, and those we work with, as well as those we come in contact with, even when some of them may not want to live in peace with us. Even if the whole earth is in commotion and is at war with one another, there can still be peace in our little corner of the world.
Most people are reactors rather than actors, meaning that most people react to how they’re treated rather than acting the way they should, regardless of what is going on around them. When we yell at someone, in most cases, they’re going to react by yelling back at us, and in the same way, when we treat others with kindness, in many cases, they will react by responding with kindness to us.
Therefore, when we treat everyone we come in contact with in a peaceful manner, most generally it will cause that person to respond peacefully with us, and when that happens then we will have helped create a peaceful environment in at least one small part of the world. And the more people we can spread peace to in this way, the larger that small part of the world becomes more peaceful.
Instead of worrying about making everyone in the entire world get along with everyone else, if we just concentrate on spreading peace wherever we are – at home, at work, at the grocery store, or driving on the road – there will be a little more peace on earth than there otherwise would be.
But, for that to happen, the peace of God must first “rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15). What that means is that before peace can begin with us, we first have to have the desire to be at peace with others. We have to act the way we know we should instead of reacting to what others say or do. However, to do that takes loving others the way God loves us.
Although God loved the world so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die to save even the worst sinner, yet each person must decide for themselves whether they want to accept his gracious offer of salvation or reject it. Even so, that doesn’t change the fact that Jesus still died for the sins of even those who don’t believe in him and scorn his saving grace. That’s pure love, or what is known as Christ-like love.
It’s when we want to love others the way God loves us that we will find it easy to be at peace with those we come in contact with. Jesus taught, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). It’s when we strive to be at peace with all men that we truly become children of God.
But loving all men all the time is a lot easier said than done. However, the apostle Paul counseled, “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” (Romans 12:18). If we can’t be peaceful with all men 100% of the time, then we should at least strive to live peaceably with all men as much as we can and then seek to improve our ability to live peaceably with more people more often and under more adverse conditions.
The key to doing that is having the desire to want to be at peace with all men. Without that desire, we will always react to the way people treat us instead of acting in a Christ-like manner. But what does living peaceably with others look like, and how do we do that, especially when someone is treating us in an unkind or offensive manner?
The apostle Paul explained, “Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another” (Romans 14:19). If we want peace, then we have to be peacemakers or stated differently, we have to make peace happen, rather than expecting it to happen on its own.
That means we have to do those things that will bring about peace, and the way we do that is to say and do those things that will edify. uplift, inspire, and motivate people to do what is right and good. Arguing with others almost never does that. In fact, it almost always does just the opposite.
Jesus taught, “Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him” (Matthew 5:25). Rather than focusing on the things we disagree with, peacemakers focus on what they can find in common with others, especially with those they disagree with. Rather than being quick to find fault, peacemakers first seek to understand how the other person feels before speaking.
Paul taught, “If anything be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace” (1 Corinthians 14:30). Rather than being quick to give an answer, peacemakers hold their peace, meaning they’re slow to speak but quick to listen. The scriptures tell us, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him” (Proverbs 18:13).
When a peacemaker does speak, they do so with patience, kindness, and empathy, while showing tolerance and mercy. The scriptures tell us that “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). It’s been said, “May all your words be sweet because someday you may have to eat them.”
King Benjamin taught his people, “And ye will not have a mind to injure one another, but to live peaceably, and to render to every man according to that which is his due” (Mosiah 4:13). We can injure people more by what we say than what we do to them. Physical wounds can heal in a relatively short time, but emotional wounds heal very slowly, if at all, and they can remain open and sore for a very long time. To “not have a mind to injure one another” more specifically refers to hurting someone with the things we say to them.
Words can cut deeper than any knife when they are given to harshly criticize, belittle, demean, ridicule, insult or vilify someone. To not injure someone requires using words that are laced with kindness, compassion, tenderness, understanding, and tolerance. No one likes being criticized, but everyone appreciates being understood, and everyone likes being complimented. Therefore, when talking with people, especially those who disagree with us, peacemakers use words that promote feelings of goodwill rather than those that offend.
In his book entitled “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” one of the things author Dale Carnegie says that will help us get along with others is to never complain, condemn, or criticize. Jesus taught, “Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). This has come to be known as “The Golden Rule” which is to treat others the way we would want them to treat us.
If we don’t like it when someone yells at us, talks down to us, insults us or finds undue fault with us, then we shouldn’t yell at, talk down to, insult, or find fault with others. We call this being courteous, and if we were to treat everyone we meet and talk to with politeness and respect, it would go a long way to lessening contention and fostering peace.
Another way we can help spread peace in the world is to follow the advice that “above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace” (D&C 88:125). The word charity means “the voluntary giving of help.” Synonyms are: aid, relief, console, welfare, gifts, benevolence, generosity, and self-sacrifice. In short, charity is caring about the needs or welfare of others. This is the meaning of the Greek word agape that we translate as charity in the New Testament. Thus, to “clothe yourselves with the bond of charity” means to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31).
It’s when we truly care for the needs of our neighbor in the same way we care for our own needs, that we will “not have a mind to injure one another,” but rather we will care about them and their feelings, that we are willing to give them aid and help in their struggles, that we are generous with sincere compliments and words of praise, that we “are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9), and that we are willing to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees (D&C 81:5).
To love our neighbor as ourselves means that if we make excuses for the things we do wrong, then we should be willing to give others the benefit of the doubt when they’ve done something wrong, such as treating us unfairly. If we like it when people apologize to us when they’ve said or done something that has offended us, we should be quick to apologize to others when we’ve said or done something that has offended or hurt them, rather than refusing to admit we’ve done anything wrong.
Jesus taught us to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you? (Matthew 5:44), and the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone… do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17,21, NIV).
However, even though following this advice will help promote peace, it is not always easy to do. In fact, it can sometimes be extremely difficult to love people who are intent on doing us harm. Then how can we become a better peacemaker?
The answer is found in what the Lord revealed to Abraham about the plan of salvation when he taught that the reason we are here on earth is to “prove [us] herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them” (Abraham 3:25).
Throughout the scriptures we are repeatedly told that we will be judged and rewarded according to our works, and Alma taught that, “this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32).
Our time here on earth is meant to prepare us to receive greater glory and the way we do that is by being tested to see if we will be faithful in doing “all things whatsoever the Lord God” commands us. But the greater the reward, of necessity, the harder the test must be, because to receive a greater reward requires being willing to put forth a greater effort. Therefore, to prepare us to receive the greatest gift God has to offer requires the enduring the greatest of tests.
The resurrected Christ taught, “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also have overcome and have sat down in my Father’s throne” (Revelation 3:21). If we let the world overcome us, and give into the temptation to behave like them, then we will receive the same reward they do, which reward is easy to obtain. However, if we call ourselves a follower of Jesus, then we will seek to overcome our natural tendency to give evil for evil and instead adopt the attitude that, “by this shall all men know that I am one of Christ’s disciples, because I have love one to another” (John 13:35),
Therefore, what will help us to love those who hate us, and to do good to those who persecute us, is to always remember that we will be judged for what we do and not on what others have done to us. On the day of judgment, our ultimate reward will not be determined by how others treated us, but by how we treated others.
Nephi understood this when he wrote, “And why should I yield to sin, because of my flesh? Yea, why should I give way to temptations, that the evil one have place in my heart to destroy my peace and afflict my soul? Why am I angry because of mine enemy?” (2 Nephi 2:27).
If we keep our focus on being a faithful follower of Jesus by how well we “love one another,” we will receive glory added upon glory, for acting as an ambassador for the Prince of Peace in doing our part to help bring about peace on earth.
Related articles can be found at The Nature of Spiritual Growth