No God, No Peace – Know God, Know Peace

When a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.  –        Proverbs 16:7    

 

 

 

We last looked at The Fruits of the Spirit nearly one year ago and The Sermon on the Mount just short of two years ago. I have no valid excuses for these long stretches of writing easier, less provocative, more “casual” pieces while being so inattentive to two very important studies. However, today’s adventure in blogging will attempt, in some small way, to make up for lost time by combining The Sermon & The Fruits, as they intersect on a very important subject…peace.

 

Mahatma Gandhi once said that “peace is its own reward”, but what exactly is peace?? It is typically defined in a variety of closely related ways: freedom from war, harmony, agreement, calm, tranquility, serenity, quiet, undisturbed state of mind, absence of mental conflict, contentment, acceptance, and the absence of anxiety. However, to understand the Biblical meaning of peace we must first look at three other words.

 

The Greek word most often translated as peace is eirene, which means “joining what had previously been separated or disturbed.” It is frequently used to signify “setting at one, quietness, and rest.” It doesn’t just mean the absence of conflict but takes into account everything that makes for a man’s highest good. Thus, eirene also indicates inner satisfaction, contentment, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ & content with its earthly lot, and the serenity that derives from living a full life.

 

The Hebrew word charash means “to hold one’s peace”, quiet, silent, rest, and a few different nuances depending upon the context.

 

The final word we need to know about is shalom, one of the most significant theological terms in Scripture and therefore not at all unfamiliar to most Christians & Jews. Shalom has a wide semantic range stressing various shades of its basic meaning…totality or completeness…that include fulfillment, completion, maturity, soundness, community, harmony, tranquility, security, well-being, welfare, friendship, agreement, safety, rest, favor, fulfillment, and wholeness. Much like eirene, it implies that which makes for man’s highest good.

 

So we can see that, Biblically speaking, peace is much more than the absence of war. In its fullest sense, it expresses our hope of reconciliation and redemption that can only be found thru the blood of Jesus Christ. Peace cannot be achieved with drugs, sex, money, fame, power, food, possessions, or any of the other numerous ways in which we distract ourselves. None of those things work, and the evidence is abundant: divorce, substance abuse, ulcers & heart attacks, crime, and suicide. Romans 14:17 specifies that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Romans 8:6 warns that “to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.”

 

President Ronald Reagan long ago opined that “a people free to choose will always choose peace.”, but is that really true?? Of course Reagan was using the word peace in the limited context of “absence of war”, and in that regard he was probably right. But using the Biblical interpretation of peace I have my doubts as to whether most people would purposely and enthusiastically choose it. We live in a society that mindlessly runs “the rat race”, eagerly “climbs the corporate ladder”, anxiously anticipates the latest ultra-violent movie or TV show, bashes God at every opportunity, actively promotes conflict in all aspects of life, glorifies deviant lifestyles that go directly against the will of God, and profits off the misery that results from all of this worldly strife by mass producing drugs that claim to cure all that ails us. Philippians 4:6-7 instructs us to “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”, yet we all know people who are so mired in anxiety, misery, unhappiness, depression, and fear that they’ve forgotten how to be happy. Matthew 6:31-34 says  “Do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”  Ancient Greek storyteller Aesop once said that “a crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety”. Judging by the ample waistlines of the masses and the robust business for Xanax, Cymbalta, and Prozac I’d say we’re doing things all wrong.

 

The Biblical concept of peace is total and profound. Peace is much more than having a restful state of mind…it is our access point to the power of God. Without peace we are unable to implement our spiritual gifts and successfully do the work of God. It touches upon our relationship with God, with our inner self, with other believers, and with the world at large. We sustain peace with God by believing & trusting Him. We preserve peace with our fellow man by eliminating strife, discord, conflict, & dissension. We achieve peace with ourselves by refusing to live in guilt or condemnation and recognizing that God is greater than all of our sins. If a person is of a pure spirit, then peace tends to follow because a pure-hearted person is at peace within himself and is not self-centeredly seeking to impose their will on others. Self-righteousness leads to conflict. Conflict forces a fight-or-flight response. Peace is a dynamic experience of harmony that promotes total well-being. Peace is not passive, but rather is the product of God’s active involvement in our lives. Hebrews 12:14 tells us to “pursue peace with all people, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord”. 1 Peter 3:10-12 says “He who would love life and see good days let him refrain his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit. Let him turn away from evil and do good. Let him seek peace and pursue it, for the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their prayers. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Romans 14:19 advises us to “pursue the things which make for peace and the things by which one may edify another.” Peace is something to be sought after and pursued. Peace is NOT pacifism. Peacemakers confront issues thru the prism of God, while pacifists choose to bury their heads in the sand and pretend that evil does not exist. Peace is not the absence of conflict but the ability to handle it effectively.

 

Our first priority should be to find peace with God. C. S. Lewis definitively states that “God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” Those who delight in God’s law are blessed, but sinners experience misery & unhappiness, conflict & chaos, tragedy & heartache. The Bible connects peace with trust, meaning that when we trust God, His nature, and His plan we can attain true peace. It is when we try to figure things out on our own that we run into difficulties. 2 Corinthians 13:11 admonishes us to “Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” Perfect in this context means “perfection in knowledge, grace, and holiness”. Of good comfort means “to encourage, advise, and pray for others”. So in order to obtain peace, we have to seek after God, grow in our faith, do for others, and live in harmony with others.

 

The Beatitudes tell us that “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” You may recall that “blessed” simply means “happy”. Therefore peacemakers will be happy. Notice it does not say having peace will make us happy…we must be peacemakers. Again, peace is an active, dynamic byproduct of a relationship with God. My Dad used to tell me that “winners make it happen, losers let it happen”. Too many Christians sit back and wait for God to do all the heavy lifting. It isn’t that God can’t do…well…anything & everything. He can. But remember…Philippians 4:13 says “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me”. It doesn’t say God will do everything…it says I can do all things through Christ. In other words, we have to put in some effort…the proverbial blood, sweat, and tears…and Jesus will provide the strength necessary for the task. My mother used to become incredulous about parents who would do their children’s homework for them. How were the kids supposed to learn anything?? She always told my sister & I that she would gladly help us but she would not do it for us. I believe that God wants us to meet Him halfway. We all know that one sided relationships don’t usually last. It requires a partnership of two people. God won’t just hand us peace on a silver platter…we must put forth the effort and build a relationship with Him.

 

Of course the question we humans tend to ultimately ask is “What’s in it for me??” We want to know that if we actually have to get up off the couch we will get something out of the deal. And you know what…God delivers. Only He doesn’t give us material things. Instead He provides wisdom, comfort, love, and yes…peace. We are promised the peace that surpasses all understanding (which in our humanness we, of course, try to understand).  James 3:17-18 says that “the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy…the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.” In the 1996 classic film Jerry Maguire the titular sports agent tells his wife “You complete me”. That’s what God does for us thru our relationship with the Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 13:11 says to “become complete, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace”, promising that “the God of love and peace will be with you.”

 

Jesus reassured His disciples before his…departure…that  “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” Thank you Jesus for that awesome gift…if we would just take the time and make the effort to enjoy it.

 

 

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One thought on “No God, No Peace – Know God, Know Peace

  1. You said, “The Bible connects peace with trust, meaning that when we trust God, His nature, and His plan we can attain true peace. It is when we try to figure things out on our own that we run into difficulties.”

    I was just thinking the other day about this: “Unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of God.” It occurred to me that Jesus wasn’t referring to the ultimate, final manifestation of God’s kingdom, but to the present kingdom that is right here “among us” or “in our midst” (Luke 17:21 sometimes translated as within).

    To enter God’s kingdom right now requires us to trust God completely (like you said) with the faith and trust of a little child who is fully confident in the provision and protection of his parents. When we trust God that way we begin to live as Jesus described – no worry about food or clothing, no worry about tomorrow, no storing up earthly treasures, no fear of enemies, no unforgiveness, free to love others, etc. These things are only possible when we “become like little children” in our trust of God, and that’s where the peace of shalom is found – in God’s very real and present kingdom. Good post!

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