If I have peace with God, then I can have peace with myself. If I have peace with myself, then I can have peace with others. If I have peace with others, then I only have to worry about keeping the peace.
So the simple self-diagnostic is one simple question: Where am I not at peace?
If I am not at peace with others, it is because I am not at peace with myself, so that is the place to look. Temptation says to look at others when I am not at peace with them, but if I have a problem with them, it is because I have a problem with me, and whatever that thing in me is, is being triggered by others. So the only way to fix the problem I have with others is to look at what is going on with me.
If I am not at peace with myself, it is because I am not at peace with God. Chances are I am trying to get through my life and deal with my problems by will-power alone. I am trying to control events and things and people that are beyond my control. I am trying to get people, life, the universe, and everything to conform to my expectations — often without ever letting those people or things what my expectations are, but still holding their failure to live up to these unspoken expectations against them. My problem with me stems from a fear that I am in some way unworthy and never will be worthy, so I have to take it upon myself to prove my worth to everyone and everything else, which is difficult or even impossible since I cannot find the worth in myself.
If I have a problem with God, it is because I have a problem with trust. I may give lip-service to the idea that God is love and that God wants what is best for me, or that I have faith in God, but the truth is I have more faith in fear than I do in God. I have more faith in my unworthiness that I do in God. I have more faith in my failure, my mistakes, my sins, than I have faith in God, who is love.
Everything – my relationship with God, my relationship with myself, my relationship with others, even how I relate to creation – has to begin with finding ways to not just know in my mind, but experience in my life, that God is love. I must experience the love of God in a real, tangible way before I can trust this God and turn my will over to this God. And it is only by losing my will and trusting in God’s will that I begin to find peace with myself. And it is only when I find peace with myself that I can be at peace with others and the creation.
If I am not at peace with myself, then I begin to use creation and people in a vain attempt to cover my internal struggles. When I am in pain, I cause pain. I cause pain for myself, for others, and the creation, and all of this pain stems from a deep desire to hurt God but since I don’t know how, I’ll hurt what God loves.
Justice, from the Hebrew point of view, is a relationship. It is living in balanced relationships. I must seek balance with God, with myself, with others, and with creation. I must pursue justice with God, so I can find justice with myself. I must find justice for myself so I can find justice with others and with creation.
Justice is not punishment. It is balance. It is restoring a balance. And by the way, MERCY is Justice. I can restore the balance punitively, or I can restore the balance simply by cancelling the debt. I can take your eye for an eye, or I can simply forgive. No more debt, no more imbalance, no more conflict or strife.
But the only way I can choose mercy and forgiveness as an option is if I first am at peace with God. The thing that matters for how I live is not that God has shown me mercy and forgiveness, but that I can accept that mercy and forgiveness, and let that peace that flows from that divine justice pour into my life and my relationships. “And the peace of God, which passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7) such a surpassing peace, because God’s Justice of Mercy and Forgiveness is beyond human comprehension.
Maybe it is time to stop trying to figure out God’s grace, and just accept it and by accepting it, extend it to others — regardless of how we may feel about them because it was never about them anyway. It was only ever about me and God, and my relationship with God is made known to me by how I treat others and by what I want for them.