PEACE – A simple five-lettered word that has stymied people essentially since time began. I dare suggest that people have searched to the ends of the earth and looked into remote galaxies in a quest to find it.
What country can you think of that hasn’t had war as part of its history? Yes, even though Switzerland escaped being an active participant in World War I & II, it has had its share of conflict. The idioms “make peace with” and “keep the peace” are easier said than done. Diplomats can attest to the fact that even when peace accords/treaties have been instituted, there is a big chance that the hatred and violence will continue and even escalate (take Angola and Rwanda for examples).
The Hippie generation used a peace sign as their symbol. The victory designation with two fingers up was a way to state “peace” without even having to say it. Both Arabic and Hebrew use “peace” as a form of greeting.
I think the real question is, can peace really be something manufactured? Can we bestow peace by a decree or a greeting? When we go to a funeral and someone consoles the mourners with “At least they are at peace now”, do they really know that? Even in life, we can go around with a plastered on smile and fool others into believing that we have “peace of mind”, when in reality we may be plagued by inner turmoil.
Easter comes as a reminder to Christians that our lives should be marked by a true and deep-seated peace. In fact, peace should have both immediate and eternal implications for every child of God.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” Galatians 5:22
Eternal peace comes first. Before we became believers, we were separated from God by our sin. In fact, the Bible says that we weren’t indifferent to God, but were actually enemies of His. If you find this hard to swallow, see Colossians 1:21. Our behavior and even our thoughts made us completely opposite of His perfect holiness. Even when we tried to do the right thing, we were unable to free ourselves from our sinful nature. Every attempt fell short and we had no hope for remedying the situation. Instead of peace, our relationship with God brought frustration and failure. If the story ended here, “peace” would have been just a word without meaning – an empty gesture that taunted us.
But thank God for the now empty cross and the empty tomb! God’s Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, chose to stand in the gap between God and us. He voluntarily came to earth and was born as a human. He lived a short life that was filled with ridicule. Then, at the precise moment in time, He gave Himself over to wicked men and allowed Himself to be hung on a cross. Mankind gloated that they finally had Him where they wanted Him, but they never suspected that this was part of God’s eternal plan. Although the Jewish leaders, the Roman soldiers, and even the common everyday man (including the two criminals hanging next to Him) hurled insult and injury at Jesus, these alone didn’t secure any peace for Christians. However, during three hours when the sun was darkened, God poured out intense punishment on His Son for the crimes of human sin. “That’s not fair!” you might say. You would be absolutely right. It wasn’t fair that Jesus had to take the suffering for sin when He was the only perfect man to have ever lived. However, He bowed under it because He loves us and knew it was the only way to bring together a Just God and guilty sinners. Three days after Jesus died, God the Father raised Him from the tomb as proof that the punishment was accepted as paid in full. Today we can celebrate an empty tomb and a Savior Who stands before God with nail prints in His hands and feet as proof that our peace was secured.
“But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” Isaiah 53:5
By trusting that Jesus did all that was needed and giving up my feeble attempts to make myself “good enough” for Heaven, I have discovered eternal peace. The peace comes from not having to wonder “Have I done enough?” but having faith in Jesus – that He did all that was needed to satisfy God.
“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7
Since the day I put my soul in Jesus’ hands, I have never wavered in having peace about my eternal destiny. After all, it has nothing to do with me and I can depend on Him without ever doubting His capability. As far as immediate peace – I have to admit that sometimes I struggle with this. I see terrible things on the news. I have friends that have cancer. I’ve been in auto accidents. There is violence – not just on the other side of the world, but within my own town. Some days I succumb to the fears. I confess to having lain awake many nights and worried about all sorts of things, even some very irrational things.
“You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.” Isaiah 26:3
In this post, I am reminding myself as well as my Christian readers, God didn’t send His Son to die for us and then just leave us alone to face a hostile world. What kind of love would that show? He knows what our tomorrow holds and He has promised to remain with us whatever it brings. He is sovereign and nothing can slip through the cracks unaware to Him. Being His child doesn’t keep us from harm. If the Lord tarries, we will all have to face some sort of death. Our day to day peace doesn’t come from the mistaken perception that we are in a sphere where nothing can happen. Instead, our peace comes from knowing that God will only allow what He has planned to take place. We don’t have to worry about the future, but only trust that God will guide us through whatever is down the road. And if something ahead leads to death, I have peace in knowing that when I close my eyes on earth, I will immediately open them in Heaven. Like Peter, I just need to keep my eyes off the storm and the waves and on Him!
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:27
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33