THIS LAST CHRISTMAS, as in past Christmases, Christians all over the world sang “O little town of Bethlehem, how still we see thee lie …” But how ironical it is that Bethlehem and its surrounding regions in the Middle East are not as still and peaceful as they seem to be. Good news is scarce in that part of the world. Bad news is normal staple for journalists and TV crews – violent street demonstrations, cross-border shootings and artillery bombardments, assassinations, suicide bombers blowing themselves up in the midst of crowded places … Once I was visiting a small, peaceful town deep in the south of Israel, far from Beirut and its surrounding suburbs in Lebanon to the north, where war was raging. e peaceful, silent night that I had cherished when I went to bed did not last long. It was rudely shattered by the deafening sounds of fighter plane bombings and anti-aircraft firings in the early hours of dawn. I was not sure whether they were directed at Beirut or Israeli towns, but I woke up thanking God for the peace we have in Singapore which we have taken for granted.

The word “peace” appears many times over in the Bible. And among the seven things God finds detestable is this: “One who sows discord among brethren” (Prob. 6:19). Peace is one of God’s ultimate goals and this can be seen in Isaiah’s depiction of the Messiah as “Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). When God created the world,

there was peace. When Adam and Eve inhabited the Garden of Eden, there was peace … until the Evil One came and exploded the tranquility. Since then, peace has always been elusive. Sadly, even among Christians and within families.

Keeping peace does not necessarily mean withholding gun power. It begins with withholding our tongues. Disputes and quarrels begin with wagging tongues. ey lead to fights, court battles and, worst of all, wars. Beware of those who carelessly or wilfully allow their words to break up family and friendship, bring chaos to a nation and hatred between countries. Laying a foundation for peaceful relationships in any given situation can take years, but all it needs is a careless word or poisonous gossip to destroy that foundation and wreck relationships. Truly, blessed are the peacemakers.

There’s another kind of peace we Christians experience, to a smaller or larger degree. We need to treasure it and pass it on to others. It’s the Peace of God which passes all understanding (Ph. 4:7). I experienced it greatly when I underwent a major operation recently. Relatives, colleagues and friends had been praying for me and I felt the warm Presence and Peace of God as I was wheeled into the operating theatre. All fears vanished from me. Indeed, this Peace of God transcends all human understanding. I like the way colleagues from the Chinese Annual Conference greet one another: ping an  .

Peace to all.