When I describe what peace means to me, two descriptions come immediately to mind. The first is riding with my family in our boat at the lake, and how beautiful the views are around us – the colors of the sky, the clear water, and the endless mountains. The second would be sitting on the beach, feet in the sand, late afternoon, with the sound of the waves and good music in the background.
Yet this is such a different description of peace than what Paul or John describe when they talk about Biblical peace.
“If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Romans 12:18
In my morning devotion, Lysa TerKeurst, Proverbs 31 Ministries, explains Paul’s a very different description of peace. She said “Paul didn’t write what became the book of Romans while on a peaceful vacation with peaceful people and peaceful circumstances. He wrote this instruction in the midst of people opposing him and situations filled with hardship…one of the reasons he wrote this letter to the Romans is that peace would not have been easy for them. It would have felt as unnatural to them as it does for us in the midst of constant hardships, never-ending opposition and relational differences…The Greeks thought of peace as the absence of hostility. But Paul taught that peace is the atmosphere we can bring into hostility. This peace is a wholeness we have because of our relationship with God.”
The peace we bring. That I should bring – that I am called to bring – because I have it inside of me. God fills us up and provides us with peace that is always there if we look for it. And we are called to share it and let it grow.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “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.”
Lysa explains, “Peace is a gift that God gives believers, and that gift is evidence to the world that we are different because of our union with Christ. Our union with Christ makes this peace possible…To live peaceably with all seems like such a ridiculous impossibility. And yet, when the impossible is made possible because of Jesus in us, there’s no greater testimony that can be shared.”
For several years, I was manager of a complex that held large events and meetings, and the staff I worked with included inmate labor and prisoners. It was truly a highlight of my life. One of the guys I hired was a really hard worker, super intense and focused. When he wasn’t working he was always reading his Bible. The problem was that in spite of that, he had a terrible attitude and had a hard time getting along with just about everybody. One day I called him into my office and shut the door. We talked a while but I finally pointed out that the other guys saw him walk around with a Bible in his hand constantly and never miss an opportunity to read it. They expected more from him because of that. Yet he was allowing himself to be less. I reminded him that the Bible gives us strength, love, courage, and peace that we should all try to embrace and share. While reading the Bible certainly won’t make any of us perfect, if we are truly taking the words and lessons to heart, then we should change for the better. We should be someone that others want to be more like. He thought about it for a long time and we had several more conversations, but I saw a change in him almost overnight.
Lysa points out that Paul doesn’t say, “As far as it depends on other people bringing peace.” Nor does he say, “As long as the conflicts end in a peaceful way.” No – he says “So far as it depends on you.”
And on me.
“…Peace in my life isn’t being prevented by other people’s choices. It’s made possible by my choices.”
Paul reminds us that if we have experienced the undeserved grace of Christ, we should share it and extend it lovingly to others, so that we can “live peaceably with all.” This doesn’t mean we excuse the behavior of others or agree with their choices or reactions, it means we see them as our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. We recognize them, forgive them, love them, just as Christ has done for us.
Dear Lord Jesus, show me how to be a peacemaker. Help me to hear your voice and to mirror your calming spirit so that I can be the person you would have me be in every relationship and with every person I come into contact with today. Help me to see others with your eyes, and help me to share your strength, love, and peace so that I can be the peaceful presence you call us to be.
In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
LeAnne White, Foothills Presbytery Communications Coordinator/Assistant Office Administrator