How Lasting Peace Will Come

One of humanity’s deepest longings has always been to bring about lasting world peace. We’ve tried various forms of government throughout the ages, always hoping that peace will follow, and have achieved some temporary success. However, each government has failed the test of time. Peace simply doesn’t last.

Orthodox Christianity tells us how it believes lasting world peace will come. It teaches that the resurrected Jesus will one day return to establish the Kingdom of God on earth. Only then will the world enjoy lasting peace. When is Jesus going to do this? He was once asked this question, and replied as follows:

 “The Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’ or ‘There it is,’ because the Kingdom of God is within you.” [Luke 17:20-21]

What did Jesus mean? Simply that the establishment of the Kingdom of God is not an external phenomenon. It is revealed internally. 

Hmmm… Could that mean that the world peace that we all long for must be brought forth from within us? Is that why all external governments have failed to produce lasting peace? Can peace actually be externally enforced on others? Or must peace be an individual choice that we extend to others?

Peace cannot be imposed externally. It is fundamentally an internal phenomenon. To be at peace means to be free of internal conflict. External conflict, which the world seems to possess in abundance, is merely the outward projection of our collective internal conflict. What Jesus is really saying is that the Kingdom of God is established in each one of us when we achieve inner peace. Then, in place of conflict, reigns peace and joy. 

When this happens, the words of an ancient proverb are fulfilled:

“When there is joy in the soul, there is beauty in the person. When there is beauty in the person, there is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home, there is stability in the nation. When there is stability in the nation, there is peace on earth.”

Is this even possible? Yes. How is it possible? By applying what is perhaps the most misunderstood principle in human experience: forgiveness. We’ll discuss this more in the next post. 


The Mystery of New Life 1

One of the most remarkable events I have ever witnessed was the birth of my first child. As she emerged, what struck me most vividly was her face. I was overcome with a sense of wonder. It was as if I had known her my whole life, and saw her as part of my very self.

How does that happen? How is it that we can see ourselves in our children from the moment of birth? Certainly, there is a direct biological link, so that we can share physical attributes. That’s the visible connection. However, there is also an invisible connection that reflects the relationship. While parent and child are physically separate, they are unified through an invisible, yet very real, bond of love. The relationship between parent and child, like all of life, functions in two distinct dimensions: one physical and of the body, the other spiritual and of the mind. 

In the physical dimension, we experience birth only once. However, in the spiritual dimension, we will all experience a second form of birth at some point in our lives. Jesus once explained this concept to the teacher Nicodemus. Jesus said,

“Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” [John 3:3]

Nicodemus was confused:

“How can someone be born when they are old?”… “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!” [John 3:4]

Nicodemus realized that this second birth cannot be physical, but he didn’t know what else it could be. Jesus clarified: 

“Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” [John 3:5-6]

Like Nicodemus, most of us are familiar with the amazing process of childbirth, but we find the idea of being born of the Spirit to be a mystery. Yet the two processes are remarkably similar. In this post, the first in a two part series, we will examine how this spiritual rebirth begins. Part two of the series will focus on the spiritual growth that follows a spiritual conception. From here on, we will refer to the second birth or being born of the Spirit simply as rebirth.

Like pregnancy, the process of rebirth begins with spiritual conception. Just as the sperm and egg from two separate bodies join to form an entirely new entity at conception, rebirth begins when two separate minds join together as one. Although all of us will eventually experience this rebirth, we can experience its conception in several different ways. For example, marriage is one common form of spiritual conception.  

Jesus explained spiritual conception in the context of marriage as follows::

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the creator ‘made them male and female’, and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh.” [Matthew 19:4-6a]

Here Jesus is talking about a spiritual principle, but he uses the physical analogy  to facilitate his listeners’ understanding. As sperm and egg join together to create new life, so the union of two people in mind (marriage) forms a new spiritual creation.  Since bodies are by nature separate, the joining described here must be spiritual and of the mind. 

Since we do not all get or stay married, how else can we experience  rebirth? Again the teachings of Jesus provide us with an answer.

“Again truly I tell you if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” [Matthew 18:19-20]

When Jesus says, ”where two or three gather in my name,” he is describing the gathering together of like-minded people. The key point is their agreement or unity of spirit, which Jesus described as gathering ‘in my name’. When you gather in the name of Christ, you are his literal presence. You have become a new entity. All present are a unified whole. Therefore, this process of rebirth ultimately represents the reunification of the mind of God with the minds of humans.

Although Jesus places no restrictions on marital status, it sounds on the surface like he is limiting the joining to a physical gathering. But once again, he is using a physical analogy to help his listeners understand a spiritual principle. Jesus is describing a connectedness among us that extends far beyond the physical. It doesn’t matter if one person is located in New York and another in New Delhi. If they possess unity of mind, they are spiritually connected and are experiencing rebirth. This is a unique feature of spiritual rebirth; it has the power to unite all of us. 

Of course, practicing unity of spirit can become more complex and difficult as numbers increase. Even Jesus himself sometimes had difficulty maintaining unity among the original 12 apostles. The New Testament epistles provide still more examples of groups of people struggling to get along with each other. That’s why Jesus mentions ‘where two or three are gathered in my name’. By focusing first on a few relationships, we better learn the skills necessary to walk together in a spirit of love, devotion, and freely-chosen unity. 

So like birth, rebirth starts small. Both are initiated by joining, and these small beginnings transform our thinking. For example, when a woman becomes pregnant, she becomes aware of her body’s inward changes long before they become outwardly apparent. She feels intimately connected to and responsible for the new life within her, and her life will never be the same.  Likewise, spiritual conception brings about dramatic inward change. When we join together, our well being becomes inextricably linked  in a bond of mutual love. Like in motherhood, a spiritual union is an expanded expression of love that initiates powerful personal change and sets the stage for further growth and transformation.

Of course, the story of pregnancy and childbirth does not end with conception. As the fertilized egg grows, it is dramatically transformed. The new entity formed at spiritual conception also experiences a similar dramatic transformation as it grows. How does this happen? Are there various stages of spiritual growth that correspond to physical growth? What do these stages of spiritual growth look like? Who is the spiritual child that is eventually reborn? We’ll examine these questions and more in the next post: “The Mystery of New Life: Part 2”.

The Mystery of New Life 2

Part 1 of this series began our look at the parallels between childbirth and spiritual rebirth, focusing on the initial joining (conception) that starts the process. Now it’s time to examine the spiritual growth that follows a spiritual conception. Does it, too, parallel the physical processes leading up to childbirth?

In pregnancy, the single-celled zygote divides into multiple cells in order to form an embryo. The cells recognize each other as parts of a whole because they share the same DNA. Having the same DNA doesn’t mean that the cells are all the same, of course. Once there are about sixteen cells, they begin to differentiate and perform more specialized functions as the number of cells multiplies. 

In spiritual rebirth, which we will simply call rebirth, something similar takes place. Recall Jesus’s words in Matthew 18:20:

 “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” 

What Jesus means is that his “spiritual DNA” unifies the group of individuals. Speaking to his Father, he said,

 “I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one – I in them and you in me – so that they may be brought to complete unity.” [John 17:22-23] 

So the gathering of individuals is a cohesive spiritual unit because each member recognizes they share their spiritual DNA with Jesus. Just as the cells of an embryo multiply and differentiate, a gathering of two or three also multiplies, exhibiting more diversity while remaining a cohesive spiritual unit. 

To understand the next stage in spiritual development, we need to consider the continuing process of physical growth. As the number and types of differentiated cells increase in the human embryo, a new challenge arises: how can they all keep working together as a unit? The solution is communication. A vast network of connections develops among the cells, enabling the formation of many of the more complex structures – the heart, the circulatory system, and so on. After eight weeks, the new body begins to resemble its final state, even though it is still only about an inch long.

Communication is also the key that keeps the new spiritual body working as a whole, even as it becomes a more sophisticated organism. One such spiritual embryo is described in Acts 4:32-35:

 “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had…. God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy persons among them. From time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales,… and it was distributed to anyone who had need.”

The developing spiritual embryo appears as a utopian community characterized by wholeness, equality, contentment, strength, generosity, sensitivity, and diversity. Those qualities all stem from its spiritual DNA. By being ‘one in heart and mind,’ a real utopia is produced. But utopia is not the end product. This type of community is no more the final form of the spiritual child than the human embryo is after eight weeks of pregnancy. So what is left to do? Let’s look again at the example of human development. 

After eight weeks, the embryo becomes a fetus. The fetal stage of development is the longest of all the stages and is a period of remarkable growth and change. It is during this time that the brain and reproductive organs form, the remaining bodily systems develop fully, and the child begins to make movements. Finally the child is born.

Likewise, the final developmental stage of spiritual rebirth is characterized by dramatic growth and transformation, culminating in the rebirth of a spiritual child. Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, describes this stage of development. 

 “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit…. one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” [Ephesians 4:3-4, 6]

Paul is reminding his listeners that all share the same spiritual DNA and are cells or members of a single spiritual body. And, like a human fetus, this body will continue to grow and experience transformation, culminating in the birth of a child. Who is this reborn child? Paul tells us.

 “This will continue until we are united by our faith and by our understanding of the Son of God. Then we will be mature, just as Christ is, and we will be completely like him.” [Ephesians 4:13] (CEV)

As a full-term fetus becomes a fully-developed human being, so humanity with its common spiritual DNA grows to become Christ, the Son of God reborn. 

It seems incredible, doesn’t it? Can being of one heart and mind really be humanity’s destiny? Is it our destiny to become the Christ, the Son of God? Before you totally dismiss this idea, consider this. Is it really any more mind boggling than the union of a sperm and egg becoming a child in which the parent can see themselves? 

As the noted artist and technologist Alexander Tsiaras observed in his TED Talk

 “The magic of the mechanisms inside each genetic structure saying exactly where that nerve cell should go, the complexity of these, the mathematical models on how these things are indeed done, are beyond human comprehension. Even though I am a mathematician, I look at this with the marvel of ‘How do these instruction sets not make these mistakes as they build what is us?’ It’s a mystery, it’s magic, it’s divinity.”

The seemingly impossible happens every day when a child is born. It can happen again, as the spiritual unity of two individuals grows to become Christ, the child in whom the Father sees Himself. 

We indeed have much to learn, not only about how we came to be, but more importantly, about who we are.