August 20, 2020
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace . . ." So begins the famous prayer attributed to St. Francis of Assisi, a prayer which speaks to the needs of our community, our nation, and our world in this season. Because it's so appropriate for our time, I want to spend the next several weeks of these devotionals unpacking the biblical meaning of this classic prayer. This week, we'll start with the opening line: "Lord, make me an instrument of your peace."
First, let's ask, what is God's peace? The first verse that might come to your mind is Philippians 4:7, which says that after you have offered your worries to God in prayer, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." There is a peace that comes from God, settling the unsettled heart, giving rest to the anxious mind, and this comes to us as a gift of grace. Because we experience this peace individually, we might then think that "the peace of God" is something that applies only on a personal level. But the full biblical picture of the peace of God is also expansive, bringing healing to entire communities. In Jeremiah 29:7, God tells the exiles in Babylon to "seek the peace of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its peace, you will find your peace." The Hebrew word shalom, can be translated as peace, but also as well-being, wholeness, and prosperity. In this case, the peace God desires is one for a whole community, experienced corporately, even among the perceived enemies of God's people.
With that in mind, let's ask, what does it mean to be made instruments of God's peace? Whether conceived of as a tool in God's hands or as a musical instrument that God plays, the implication is the same: Instruments are passive. They operate under neither their own will nor their own power. The guitar only makes sound when the musician strums or picks the strings. The pencil only writes when the writer moves it along the paper. To be instruments of God's peace, we must yield entirely to God's control. Paul captured this in Romans 6:13: "No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness." To be an instrument of God's peace, then, is to yield control of our lives, our resources, our desires and submit all we have to the higher end of God's peace. To do this, we have to get out of the way and let God take the first place in our lives. When we become less and God becomes greater, then we experience the healing transformations named throughout the rest of this prayer. Then the peace of God comes, bringing both calm to individual relief to anxious minds and corporate healing to broken societies.
Let us pray:
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;
where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not seek so much
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,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Grace and Peace,