Last month, the week before Christmas, I was at a breakfast with a Catholic priest as the guest speaker. He spoke on a topic that is mentioned often around Christmas time: peace on earth. It’s something we sing about, dream about and hope for. But the idea of peace on earth, actual peace on earth, is quite unfathomable to me. Think about it… what would peace on earth look like? Sound like? Feel like? How would it change our economy? Jobs? Relationships? Newspapers? I can try to imagine peace on earth, but my mind can’t wrap itself around such an idea that is so unknown and seems so far out of reach.
The priest pointed out that time and time again in the Bible, Jesus reaches out to the poor and those in need, people who are treated unjustly and those who are outcasts. And time and time again he encourages us, actually commands us, to do the same. It’s easy for us to read some of these accounts and take them as metaphors for our spiritual lives; focusing on our spiritual poverty, hunger and thirst. There are many stories and parables in the Bible that Jesus tells to make such parallels to our spiritual lives. But I don’t believe that these accounts of injustice, poverty, and helplessness are merely stories given to us to analyze and mold into our means for personal growth. I believe that Jesus is pointing out the very real, very present hurt in our world. The story of the gospel is how God became a human like us to be an example of how we should live and who we should love (note: everyone). It’s very clear to me: being involved in being the hands of feet of God in this world is not an option. It is required.
War, inhumanity, violence, greed and conflict are very real. We are surrounded by it. It is overwhelming. Completely overwhelming. The problems seem too big. The circumstances seem too out of control. How can any of us actually make an impact? Where do we even start?
The answer that the priest gave was right on target: start with yourself. That is your first priority. You’re not going to save the world on your own. You only have control of your own life. Take on the challenge of yourself first. That seems doable. I have to be the best “me” I can be. And you have to be the best “you” you can be. Start with yourself: make a positive impact on the world: contribute to peace on earth.
Where to Start
Some questions to ask yourself to become the best “you”:
- What are my bad habits? Am I actively working to stop them?
- How do I spend my free time?
- Are my spending habits a good reflection of what I consider to be important in life?
- What is my leadership style or work ethic? Am I fair, honest and encouraging?
- Do I keep myself in a bubble, or do I surround myself with people of different backgrounds, lifestyles and ideas who challenge me and help me grow?
- What do I read, listen to on the radio, or watch on TV? Does it make a positive impact on me, or am I filling my mind with junk?
- Who are a few people I enjoy being around? What are the qualities I like about them? Do I exhibit those same qualities?
- What would Jesus do? WWJD: actually a pretty good way to check yourself :)