Some 700 years ago, a remarkable man was born. Although he was the son of an Italian cloth merchant and destined to be a knight, the young man decided not to take the path of wealth and fame.
Instead, he chose a life of poverty. For most of his adult life, he wore a ragged cloak with a rope borrowed from a scarecrow. He spent his days preaching and giving to others.
History records that he was a noble, kind, humble, Christlike man — one of the greatest Christians who ever lived. His given name was Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, but we know him today as St. Francis of Assisi.
Francis became known as a person of peace. He dedicated his life to Jesus Christ and worked for peace in everything he did. In this way, he embodied the teaching of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).
Commenting on Jesus’ words, Francis wrote, “Those people are truly peacemakers who, regardless of what they suffer in this world, preserve peace of spirit and body out of love of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Are you living in such a way that “preserves peace of spirit and body”? Everyone wants to have peace — peace of mind, peace in relationships, and peace regarding the future. But few people have actual peace.
The problem is that our “sin” (separation from God) prevents us from experiencing fellowship and harmony with God. While we are each created in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26-28) and therefore are capable of love and beauty and responding to the good, we also have all sinned and experienced separation from God.
But Jesus took on our sin on the cross and made a way to have peace with God again. “For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV). And Romans 5:1 (NIV) says, ”We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The way to discover peace with God again is to trust and receive Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. The Bible says: “To all who did receive [Jesus], to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12, NIV).
Romans 10:9 (NIV) also says, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Jesus not only died on the cross. He rose again from the grave. Therefore, Jesus demonstrated His dominion over despair, darkness, and death. Those who receive Him as Savior get to share in His resurrection life. That includes His peace.
He desires for everyone to have perfect peace. “For He Himself is our peace…and He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:14-17, NIV). If you want peace, then you can ask God today for that gift.
Peace Around You
Francis also said, “As you announce peace with your mouth, make sure that you have greater peace in your hearts, thus no one will be provoked to anger or scandal because of you. Let everyone be drawn to peace and kindness through your peace and gentleness.”
What happens within you almost always seeps out to impact others. So when Christ gives you true peace, how you relate to others will change for the good, too.
As a young, wealthy Italian at the beginning of the 13th century, Francis of Assisi believed that he heard God saying, “Francis, all the things you once loved in the flesh you must now despise, and from those things you formerly loathed you will drink great sweetness and immeasurable delight.”
Francis did more than reflect on these words; he applied them in a stunning and beautiful fashion. He rode his horse from town and encountered a person that he despised — a leper. At one time untreatable, this horrific disease involves bacteria infecting the nerves and then destroying them one by one, especially in the cooler parts of the body like toes, fingers and earlobes.
“Nothing disgusted me like seeing the victims of leprosy,” Francis wrote of his life before a dramatic conversion in the direction of compassion.
Remembering how he would come to love that which he loathed and filled with joy at his newfound faith, Francis leapt from his horse. He knelt before the leper, the story goes, and proceeded to kiss his diseased, pale hand. He kissed him.
He then gave the leper money, jumped back on his horse, and rode to a local leper colony. Francis “begged their pardon for having so often despised them” and refused to leave until he had joyfully embraced and kissed each of them.
Peacemakers actively pursue peace. They bless people in a variety of ways and think of the lives of others more than their own lives. They surprise people with their kindness and generosity. They forgive quickly and love deeply.
But peacemaking doesn’t happen by accident. A peacemaker is never passive. Peacemaking takes initiative. What is one proactive step you can take today to be a peacemaker with your co-worker, neighbor, or even someone you consider to be your enemy?
Instruments of Peace
You, too, can be a peacemaker. God can use you as a fitting instrument in God’s hand to bring about a better life for others.
Centuries after Francis’ death, someone translated one of his prayers into English.
“Lord, make me an instrument of Thy 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;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand;
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive.
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned.
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”