Our world is not always a nice place. We see evidence of violence, sorrow, and hatred everywhere we look. Much of our common history is driven through conflict motivated by religious intolerance, ideological differences, oppression, or wonton cruelty. We are told by many political and even religious leaders to fear the world around us, to distrust those who are different from us, and to suspect anything we don’t understand. We are taught and reinforced to dwell on pain, hatred, and misery.
We live in a world that marginalizes the notion of peace, that chides a loving attitude as naïvety, and that demands conformity rather than embraces understanding. Too often, we laugh at those who would reflect these attitudes. So I want us to consider: what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love and understanding?
Inspiration from a Song
In 1974, singer-songwriter Nick Lowe released a song called “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding” on the album The New Favourites of Brinsley Schwarz. In 1979, Elvis Costello & The Attractions released a cover of the song on the American version of their album Armed Forces, and his version is probably the most famous.
The lyrics of the song are simple, asking where is the hope in this wicked world? Who can be trusted? Is there only pain, hatred, and misery? Where is our harmony, and what’s so funny ‘bout peace, love, and understanding? We might say the answers to these question are easy. We would say our hope is in God, like David in Psalm 39:7. We might be like Solomon in Proverbs 3:5 who says he trusts in God with all his heart. What do our lives say, however? Do we live like we trust God, or do we pay Him lip-service while we allow secular concerns to stir up conflict, animosity, and distrust in our lives?
The Bible on Peace, Love, and Understanding
Jesus and the New Testament writers have a few things to say regarding peace, love, and understanding.
- On Peace. We often make a big deal of Jesus saying in Matthew 10:34 that He does not bring peace but a sword. We use that passage to occasionally defend ugly behavior, and we overlook the fact that the image of a sword is consistently applied to His message in the New Testament – not His people. His word is divisive, but we are to be peaceful. James 3:17 tells us that wisdom from above is peaceable and full of mercy. Jesus, in Matthew 5:9, calls peacemakers sons of God. Peace is listed as a fruit of the spirit in Galatians 5:22 along with gentleness in verse 23, and Romans 12:18 calls on us to live peaceably with all men. We are a peaceful people.
- On Love. In Mark 12:28-31, a scribe asks Jesus what the greatest command is, and Jesus answers with two – love God and love our fellow man. I Corinthians 13 goes into a long description of what Christian love mean – being humble, hoping for the best, being gentle, patient, etc. – and verse 8 concludes that Christian love is unfailing. Jesus, in John 13:35, calls our love our identifying trait, and I John 4:7 calls those who demonstrate love born of God. Our lives should be defined by the love we show others.
- On Understanding. This understanding is more than academic knowledge. It implies empathy, caring, and concern. Galatians 6:2 simply calls on us to bear each other’s burdens. To do this, we must be understanding toward each other. In Matthew 6:14, Jesus calls on us to be as forgiving toward others as we expect God to be of us. Ephesians 4:2 calls us to be gentle and long-suffering in our walk of unity, and Philippians 4:5 says our gentleness should be evident before all. We must be understanding if we are going to be a patient and forgiving people.
What’s So Funny Then?
What, then, is so funny about peace, love, and understanding? The answer is nothing, and when we criticize or mock these qualities in others, we make a mockery of the name we wear. In Matthew 23, Jesus decries the Pharisses’ habits of making mountains of molehills while neglecting the weightier matters. I fear we too often let personal agendas, political affiliations, and societal biases inform or be reflected in our lives more than the qualities demonstrated by our Savior. We cannot be more concerned with being good fiscal conservatives than good Christians; more concerned with following in the footsteps of the GOP that the footsteps of Christ; nor should we make more of our citizenship in this nation than we do our citizenship in Heaven. Jesus was peaceful. He was loving. He was understanding. We should be also.
We have a God who understands our troubles and cares for us according to I Peter 5:6-7. John 3:16 tells us that God’s love for us is so complete He sent His Son to die, and Philippianns 4:7 tells us that we find peace that surpasses understanding in Him. Our God is one of peace, love, and understanding. There is nothing funny about these qualities, and He asks us to live likewise in His image. Our daily lives should demonstrate that we see value in peace, love, and understanding.