Bread – Peace

January 18, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, January 18, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 9:18-29; Heb. 6:1-12; John 3:22-36; Psalms 38, 119:25-48


Have you ever noticed how un-parallel some language is? For example, what is the opposite of war? The answer would be “peace.” At first blush, these would appear to be parallel. Both are nouns. War is the opposite of peace and peace is the opposite of war. However, there is a difference. “I war against you” is a proper sentence, containing a noun (“I”) and a verb (“war”). However, the sentence “I peace against you” is not a proper sentence, because there is no verb.

Why is it that “war” is a verb but “peace” is not? We have the state of peace but not the doing of peace? Maybe because “peace” is the absence of striving, of doing, of warring, so there is no such thing as “doing” peace. Maybe it is because we don’t know how to “do” peace, so it does not appear in active, verb form.

But why shouldn’t we have a verb “peace?”

In John’s gospel today, both Jesus and John the Baptist are baptizing. John’s disciples complain, saying “Rabbi, that man [Jesus] who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – well, he is baptizing and everyone is going to him.” John 3:26

John’s response is to “peace” the situation. He says “A man can receive only what is given to him from heaven … He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:27, 30

Wrapped up in this are all of the elements of what it means to “peace” a situation. First, John recognizes a great truth, which is that whatever it is we have, it is a gift from heaven. Our talent, our treasure, our time on earth, our relationships, our position, our power, our abilities, our productivity, our love, our life – all of it is a gift. Second, John recognizes that he is capable of receiving (handling, dealing with, using, appropriating, investing) only so much, and that the limit is not his ability but what is given him. If He receives little, he has control over little. If he receives much, he has control over much. Whatever it is he has, whether great or small, is a gift, so he can be thankful and gracious in good times and in bad. Third, John recognizes that, as a result of God’s sovereign act, there will be some people who increase while you decrease. We tend to think of these people in terms of jobs and power. But what about our spouses? What about our children? As we place our spouse ahead of us, as we love him or her, our spouse increases while we decrease. As our children grow up, they may very well increase while we decrease.

What John does with this knowledge – the knowledge of gifts, the knowledge of himself, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of his proper purpose and rank in the world – is to deliberately withdraw from conflict, to let the other person increase while he decreases.

John “peaced” the situation.

Maybe there is a situation today you can “peace” by going through the same mental process, by taking the same action as John did to let someone else be first, to let someone else be in the spotlight, to let someone else be the leader.

Are you cringing a little, thinking that this is not in my nature? You are right, it is not in our nature. Maybe to help make it our nature we need to develop a new verb called “peace.” Maybe to help make it our nature, we need to remember that God Himself went to the back of the line when He died on the cross – and in so doing He “peaced” the world. How can we do less?


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All Bible citations are to the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.


This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog:


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