This series of reflections dips into the well of Scripture as regards the Quaker testimonies of: Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, Equality, and Stewardship/Sustainability.
The Psalmist says: "Depart from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it" (Psalms 34:14). This passage reminds us that the precursor to achieving peace is to refrain from evil deeds and do good. The way of Friends, as seen since George Fox and the beginnings of Quakerism, is based on a devotion to integrity, equality, and justice. Throughout Quaker history, these strong roots have blossomed into the testimonies. Early Friends, in opposition to the societal status quo, held these values to be the foundation of their lives. The way Quakers strove to exact business and personal matters with integrity, to treat all beings as equal, and to work for justice for the oppressed, served to pave the way for peace. This included, but was not limited to, the practice of not engaging in military affairs, but instead, of resolving conflict by peaceful means. A Scriptural basis for this was to "let the peace of Christ rule in [their] hearts, to which [they] were called in one body" (Colossians 3:15). Thus, their ability to "live peaceably with all" (Romans 12:18) grew out of an internal tranquility that spilled over into their daily lives. If we Friends today are truly rooted in the peace of Christ, then our responses to conflict around us will more likely be able to build the Peaceable Kin-dom rather than add to the chaos encountered in our world.
The Gospel of John includes as some of Jesus's parting remarks to his followers: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid" (14:27). The heart of our world is definitely 'troubled' today. Most of this unrest is based in fear. Jesus, the Shepherd, left us the roadmap to peace that counters this fear and leads us to the "still waters" (Psalms 23:2) by which we can be refreshed and renewed. Common responses to fear are to lash out in anger (retaliation), to react in a defensive mode in order to protect ourselves (pre-emptive strikes), or to run and hide in an attempt to avoid the threat (denial). These are methods of peace the world gives. The peace Jesus gives is a deep, abiding Presence that gives us the strength to stand amidst the storms, buffeted and torn, yet able to witness to nonviolence, forgiveness, and love in every situation.
When we are faced with adversity of whatever form, we must step back and take time to ask ourselves:
- Of what am I most afraid in this situation?
- Of what do I need to let go in order to face this adversity?
- How can I be more fully immersed in the peace of Christ?
- How can I bring the "peace of God" to this situation?
As Friends, we must work to embed in our souls, "the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding"…and that "guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7). It is this peace that will give us what we need to face the trials and tribulations of our personal lives as well as the current climate of chaos that assails our society and our world.