Monday, July 26, 2010


On the 11th of June, 1963, Thic Quang Duc had himself set on fire to protest the abuse of Buddhists by the South Vietnamese government. He sat in the classic lotus posture meditating, apparently in complete peace as another monk poured five gallons of gasoline over him. The monk then led a trail away from him with the fuel, bowed, and lit the trail. Duc maintained his pose until his body gave way in the fire and he fell. The picture of his death has become an icon, not just of his protest against religious persecution, but of the whole peace movement that swirled around the War in Viet Nam.

Buddhist monks give away all they have, and they regularly burn themselves alive in protest because they are passifists. Though Duc looked at peace, I could not help but think about what Paul told the Corinthians, who were incredibly spiritual, but apparently lacking the love of Christ, "If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I am nothing." (1 Cor. 13:3)

Once I shared my struggle with the way things were. The person who listened, a follower of Alcoholics Anonymous, quoted this passage from the A.A. Big Book, "Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing, or situation - some fact of my life - unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing, or situation as being exactly as it is supposed to be at this moment." There is good counsel in accepting the things I cannot change, but there is no real peace. How can I accept that which God does not accept and find true peace?

The monk may have appeared to be at peace, but was he? True peace, that given by Christ, passes all of understanding. It is peace, but it is not passifism. It is peace but it refuses to watch an innocent person die without doing something. It is peace, but not at peace with sin or the effects of sin in this world.

The peace of God is not found in the acceptance of all things as they are. It is not found in the refusal to take action. It is not found in becoming a monk. It is found in faith in the sovereignty of God. That faith does not always result in immediate peace, but it does lead us to pray. We cannot meditate ourselves or passify ourselves into peace. We can turn to God and ask for His assistance in anything that causes us to be anxious, trusting that even if we do not feel at peace His peace is actively guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

"The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Phi.4:5b-7)