But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
“Peace for our time,” is what Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared after ceding territory that Nazi Germany conquered in the run-up to WWII. It was a presumptuous statement (and a bad diplomatic precedent, as we all know now). So how is St Paul’s promise that the Holy Spirit might bring us peace any less presumptuous? When civil strife and foreign meddling via electronic media and hacking is on the increase, how can we legitimately promise the peace of God?
We need to keep some things in the forefront of our minds when we’re tempted to dismiss peace as an elusive pipe dream. It is important to remember two things about the peace that’s promised. First it’s multi-layered. Second, it is a peace that doesn’t originate in human effort.
The peace of God is multi-fold. There’s peace with him who dwells in our hearts. Then internal peace, serenity if you will. After that there’s external peace, the quelling of conflict. And those conflicts the Lord seeks to rectify can be among family and friends, in the community, the nation, or even global in scope.
But our Lord has a tendency to work from the inside out, from the smallest pebble outward into the ripples of influence in our closest relationships first before successive waves into other spheres. So the Spirit offers us the “peace that passes understanding”–a new relationship with the Triune God, no longer as enemies of heaven but adopted into the family of God. From there he works in our hearts and minds to bring us into that sense of peace and contentment that is not swayed by the ups and downs of this life. Then the Spirit begins renewing our relationships–in our homes, on our jobs, in our spheres of influence, and out into the broader world.
So when we see conflict, we must remember that not everyone is at the same place in their process of being brought into God’s peace. Plus, many people resist God’s peace. They reject his amnesty that frees us from sin and death through Jesus Christ. They create chaos to distract from their inner pains, thus rejecting any real peace within. They hold grudges with others, or others don’t do their part to move beyond forgiveness into real reconciliation. That’s simply the reality of living in a world where the compress of God’s redemption is offered, but not uniformly embrace or experienced.
That’s where the second reminder is handy. It is the Lord’s work, not ours. Were it a mere human endeavor, peace would never happen. As it is, we do see breakthrough moments where worries within and conflicts without pause, or even dissipate altogether. These serendipitous moments serve as a n encouragement to us when we might otherwise despair for ever seeing peace in our time. So be encouraged, the peace of heaven is a process and God’s in control of the process. There will be a day when all things a brought fully in the peace of Christ. Until then, let us cooperate with God’s grace to relish the fruit of peace wherever we find it.
Lord, make us instruments of your peace. Where there is hatred, let us sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is discord, union; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy. Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.