A group of 10 team members from ACTS11 (the English Ministry of South-West Chinese Christian Church) travelled together for 2 weeks to have a crash-course experience of what a missionary’s life on-the-ground looks like, and to help build relationships between various ministries through teaching in schools and holding language and music seminars.
To experience Thai culture, we were paired up with language buddies to learn to speak the language, and were brought around to visit a few key places in the area.
One peculiar place is the Theravada Buddhist Temple – Wat Phra That Doi Suthep.
Story goes that the temple was built by the king of Thailand who sent a White Elephant into the jungle with a sacred relic. Upon arriving at Doi Suthep (name of the mountain) the elephant trumpeted 3 times, knelt down, and died. This was thus taken as a sign that a temple was to be built on that spot.
Given it’s historical significance, we ventured to this temple where many travel to worship the various buddhas, and these travellers ranged from devout Thai buddhists to tourists with cameras.
And I don’t blame them.
The architecture of the temple is magnificent. The details and intricacies of the structure hints at the amount of time people must have spent in constructing this massive complex. However, what drew my attention was not the pretty buildings covered in gold or the statues of jade, but a simple wooden sign post with the words ‘May Peace Prevail on Earth’ inscribed on it. Written in 4 different languages, the wooden sign stood close to the entrance of the temple. However, my guess is that it is barely noticed by the thousands of passers-by.
It got me thinking about what the post was saying and suggesting. I think the desire to see ‘peace prevail on earth’ is a common desired shared by most (if not all) of humanity. The chaos we experience everyday (whether in a big or small scale) discomforts us. In our everyday hustle and bustle, we desire for a kind of ‘peace that surpasses all understanding’, a kind of peace where we don’t have to worry about the pass, present, and future. Thus, I think the wooden sign post is reflecting a good and shared desire. The question that needs to be rendered is therefore, ‘how do we attain this peace?’
The desire for peace is a common desired shared by most (if not all) of humanity.
As I look around and explore the surroundings, the post seems to suggest that peace is found right here at Wat Phra That Doi Suthep. The beautiful buildings harmonised by the serene atmosphere seem to be what the wooden post suggests is peace. At a surface level, I think we can all relate to that. I mean, the busyness of life we experience is a result of the go-go-go approach to life. The common complain we hear (and mutter ourselves) everyday is ‘I don’t have time’. In different stages of life, we are packed with things we need to do, people we need to see, and tasks we need to complete. Therefore, in the midst of stress and causes, being able to be in the presence of physical stillness, absence of sensory overload, and extraction from the realities of life may be the definition of peace for many.
The beautiful buildings harmonised by the serene atmosphere seem to be what the wooden post suggests is peace.
However, is that it? Is ‘peace’ just a mental or physical state that we experience momentarily, or is it something that we can enjoy everyday?
I believe it is. I believe that there is a source of peace where we can go to be filled and never hunger again. There is a source of peace to drink and never thirst again. This source of peace is the source that gives ‘peace that surpasses every thought’. That source is Jesus Christ.
There is a source of peace where we can go to be filled and never hunger again. There is a source of peace to drink and never thirst again.
When Paul (and the Bible in general) speaks about peace, he is speaking of reconciliation with God through Christ. True peace is given by God, is ‘attained’ when one has assurance of salvation, which enables believers such as Paul to know and experience peace even in the midst of immense suffering. Dietrich Bonhoeffer reflects this biblical truth as he writes, “Jesus Christ alone is our unity. He is our peace. Through Him alone do we have access to one another, joy in one another, and fellowship with one another.”
Therefore, unless we know and accept Christ as our Lord and Saviour, we will continue to wander to different sources of peace. The reality is we may find traces of peace in different places like Wat Phra That Doi Suthep or in other things we indulge in to escape the realities of life .However,like drinking salt water, our consumption from sources other than Christ will only lead to greater thirst.
If you’ve never taken time to think about this carefully, I invite you to check out a sermon I recently preached on this topic, which can be found here. I hope you enjoy it and can be blessed by it. If you have more thoughts or questions, I’d love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.