As we have mentioned, the enemy of peace is often not hatred but fear. Fear can bring out our worst and can cause us to abandon our better nature.
In the short story, “The Mask of the Red Death,” the ominous writer, Edgar Allan Poe, tells the story of a plague that besieges a city. A rich nobleman invites all of his friends to an estate where they are locked in, shutting out the disease, and keeping them from contracting the dreaded contagion. Life in the isolated manor is lavish with abundant food and wine and entertainment.
Then one night at an evening masquerade ball, a figure appears in a red mask, clothes daubed with what appears as blood. The figure is dressed as an embodiment of the plague, the Red Death. And by the end of the evening, yes, there are those who are dead and dying. But when the figure is finally brought down, the costume falls empty to the floor. There is no person or presence within them.
Here we are reminded that often what we are afraid of, and what drives our fearful behavior, is really just a creation of our minds, our imaginations. We let ourselves be deceived. We form conclusions without evidence and then act on those assumptions.
This kind of fear is an enemy of peace. It is fear that foments division and conflict between people and between nations. And, sadly, when the damage has been done, perhaps then we realize that our fears were unfounded.
We can easily imagine this happening in a friendship. You contact a friend and the friend does not return the call or email. We think the person wants nothing to do with us. We are not important to that person. The person does not value our friendship. So we neglect the relationship. It may turn out that the message didn’t go through. Or that the person was sick and got behind and things fell through the cracks. Such a benign misunderstanding can undermine a friendship.
And this kind of thing can happen between nations and peoples. Mistaken impressions are arrived at and things deteriorate.
To pursue peace, we must invest ourselves in understanding. We must be willing to find out what is really going on. We must look into the situation in a comprehensive way. Then unnecessary conflict can be avoided.
Perhaps there is a time that you have been misunderstood. What did that feel like? Maybe that experience can help you to be more committed to full understanding to avoid such problems in the future.
Prayer: We give thanks for Jesus and his insight. He was willing to take the time to understand people, to get to know them. In this way, he cultivated compassion and peace. May we, too, even in this busy season, make the effort to pursue understanding to that we increase the peace in the world. Amen.