Peace, not like the world gives us
“Peace be with you”, this is what Jesus says in John 20:19, when He appears to His disciples in a locked room. Paul’s greetings, in most of his letters said “Grace and Peace to you in the Lord Jesus Christ.” We see here and in several other Scripture portions that peace is an important part of every believer’s life. As believers, we also grew up knowing that peace is a fruit of the Spirit. Many of us treasure peace and seek to attain it. However, we often define peace as what it is not.
The world’s definition of peace is contingent on circumstances. A peaceful life would mean everything in life is going smoothly with a strong income, plenty of savings in the bank, a prestigious job, a happy marriage, a healthy doctor’s report, supportive family, many friends, etc. However, we do not see this to be the case based on Scripture. Jesus says in John 14:27 that “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” The main difference is that the peace we have in Christ is eternal while the peace we get from the world is temporal. The peace that the world offers only lasts until the next crisis but the peace that Christ offers remains through any crisis we will face. In John 16:33 Christ tells his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” Jesus guarantees that this life will not be easy but regardless of circumstance, we have a hope of eternity and we know we can overcome any situation because Christ has overcome the world.
All of this is true, however, there is a more corporate, interpersonal, peace that Scripture also talks about. When we describe peace, we often say that it is the absence of conflict. For example, a person is at peace if they are not in disagreement with anyone or a nation is at peace when they are not at war with another nation. However I see that the biblical notion of peace goes further than just the absence of conflict. In Ephesians 2:14-15 Paul says that Christ “himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in His flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in Himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace.” To give you some context, the two groups that Paul is referring to are the Jews and Gentiles. Christ came to not only end the conflict between the two groups but to create harmony between them. He did this by dying on the cross and becoming the way to salvation, not just for the Jews but for the Gentiles, as well. Not only was this reconciliation portrayed in Christ’s death but also in the way He took action in His ministry. In other words, biblical peace is not just a truce or a cease fire, but it is becoming a community.
In our society, and even in my own life, we stay content with categorizing people in our lives. These categories include friends and family that we love, and would be willing to sacrifice for; then there are just acquaintances or even people we don’t like, people that we simply tolerate. Biblical peace is seen when we love all people and decide to be intentional about cultivating relationships in our lives. This includes setting aside prejudices or biases and seeing people around us for who they truly are, sinners who Christ died for, just like us.
Often times, we get so caught up in creating “peace” for ourselves that we end up creating tension with others. We either isolate ourselves from people we come in conflict with or never speak up if we disagree about something. By isolating ourselves we act like the problem does not exist or is irrelevant to us. However conflict avoidance is not peace. The biblical notion of peace can be applied to our lives by facing conflict head-on, in pursuit of reconciliation. But be careful, it is far too easy to fall down a slippery slope when facing disagreements “head-on”. Often times, being vocal during moments of strife lead to more arguments and leaves us in a worse position than when we initially started. What God is calling us to do is intentionally speak to someone, fully planning on resolution. It is also important to be aware of emotions and not to be led by anger, jealousy, or any other malicious intent. Rather to be led by the Holy Spirit through time in prayer and intentions of love and peace. This in practice is difficult. It leads us to have awkward conversations and have uncomfortable moments. It requires us to go out of our way and do more than just get by. However, striving for reconciliation and community is worth it. This also emphasizes the need for the Holy Spirit in our lives. The Holy Spirit enables us to do what may seem impossible in human strength alone.
Reconciliation leads to community and living in love for one another which is pointing us towards biblical peace. It is important to note that agreeing on all matters with all people is simply not possible. Sometimes, it is better to agree to disagree, after having the hard conversations with the intention of love and reconciliation. Sometimes these instances even point to character flaws within ourselves, which take time to heal. That being said, we should not fully disassociate ourselves from those we come in disagreement with. We should stand for the truth with scripture as our source of justification, while also being mature enough to reflect on our own character flaws and give ourselves time for personal development. I do believe that it is very important that we discuss matters of truth, but at the end of the day, that is supposed to be undergirded by love and peace. An example of this would be when Paul and Silas had sharp disagreements and decided to part ways. They later came back together and reconciled the relationship between them. The highlight in this instance is that reconciliation was in their foresight. This shift from simply tolerating others to truly loving others and seeking reconciliation makes all the difference for us as Christians and allows us to experience peace defined in scripture.
As believers, we are called to take on the fruit of the Spirit, to the point where these characteristics mark our lives. If we are not seeking biblical peace then we are not conforming to the image of Christ, and we are not maximizing our lives for the kingdom.