The world is always seeking for peace. We are told to visualize world peace. People are in great pursuit to find inner peace and personal tranquility. There has been an explosion in the use of new age techniques, yoga, and other mental and physical exercises to try to help find that peace. Yet no one seems satisfied with these techniques because they are temporary fixes that do not carry over into daily living. New books and new methods continue to come out trying to resolve the problem, yet the void remains. In Galatians 5:22 we read the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit. One characteristic is peace. This is a characteristic we simply do not talk about, yet is important for us to understand especially when so many in society are seeking after it. There are three facets of peace that God gives. In this lesson, we will consider these three facets and how we can do our part to practice peace.
God Brought Peace
God is the giver of peace. There is no other place that peace will be found except through God. We must first see that God brought peace to the world. Before we think about this concept, we need to realize that to the Roman world, peace was brought through conquering. I believe we see this idea in a number of Paul’s statements. One such place is at the end of the letter to the Romans, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20). Peace did not come through diplomacy or compromise. God brought peace by conquering Satan. I think we see this concept in Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians also.
“But now in Christ Jesus, you who were far away have been brought near by the blood of the Messiah. For He is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility. In His flesh, He did away with the law of the commandments in regulations, so that He might create in Himself one new man from the two, resulting in peace. He did this so that He might reconcile both to God in one body through the cross and put the hostility to death by it. When Christ came, He proclaimed the good news of peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near” (Ephesians 2:13-17). Our sins made us separated from God and in hostility toward God. Jesus conquered death which tore down the dividing wall of hostility, the law of the commandments, and reconciling us to God. Peace was brought to the world through Jesus conquest of sin and death. How do we find peace with God?
“Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). Peace can begin only once we have been declared righteous by God. By implication, until we have been declared righteous by God, we remain at war with God. Colossians 1:21 says, “And you were once alienated and hostile in mind because of your evil actions.” We are not going to find peace in our lives and peace in this world as long as people remain at war with God. Our evil actions alienate us from God and set us at war against Him. We probably do not think our lives in such terms: either we have peace with God or we are at war with God. There is no neutral ground. Isaiah quite bluntly said, “There is no peace for the wicked” (Isaiah 57:21). When we continue to lead lives that stand in opposition to the commands of God, we cannot expect to be leading peaceful lives. We should not wonder why we are unable to find tranquility in life. All of us experience temporary times of peace and relief. But permanent peace and tranquility regardless of life’s circumstances only can come from an obedient life to God.
Peter also gave a similar reminder in 1 Peter 3:10-12, “For the one who wants to love life and to see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit, and he must turn away from evil and do good. He must seek peace and pursue it, because the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and His ears are open to their request. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” Peter says that we must seek after peace and pursue peace. How do we pursue peace? Peace is not found through exercises or listening to certain music. Notice all that is said about those who are seeking peace: keeps tongue from evil, keeps lips from deceit, turns away from evil and does good. Peace and righteous living are tied together. Peace comes in our submission to God. Peace with God is the critical foundation to build before we can find peace for ourselves and have peace with others.
Peace Within Ourselves
There are many things in life that can affect us so much that it disturbs the peace we ought to find and be experiencing in Christ. Trials and trauma, suffering and pain many times take the peace we ought to have and bring us to the point of worry, anxiety, distress, and misery.
Before Jesus was betrayed, He spent some time with His disciples teaching them about things which would take place. Jesus told His disciples how their sorrow would be turned to joy because He was going to the Father. In John 16 Jesus told the disciples that an hour was coming when each of them would be scattered and leave Him alone. “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have trouble in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world” (John 16:33).
The statement by Jesus is humorous to me in a way. Jesus tells the disciples terrible news that they will each forsake Him and go to their own homes. But Jesus said these things so that the disciples would have peace. How was this information imparting peace to them? I think there are two ways peace was being given.
First, we must recognize that there are troubles in this world. Jesus never taught that life would be easy or simple. Jesus never said that life was a box a chocolates or a piece of cake. We will have troubles. We will have suffering. We will have persecution. We should not be surprised by such things.
Second, even though this world will bring us trouble, Jesus has conquered the world. It does not matter what the world may throw at us, it does not matter what suffering the world may lay on us, Christ is greater than the world. What the world does has no effect on our salvation nor on our relationship with God. Jesus says to be courageous when these things come, knowing that Christ is greater. Paul similarly tried to express this point about the peace we ought to have with ourselves. “Do not worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Paul tells us the peace of God will guard our hearts. We should have a peace that keeps us free from worry and anxiety. Paul says that there is nothing for us to worry about because we have the peace of God which pass comprehension guarding us. How do we tap into the peace of God? Paul says that through prayers and petitions we have access to the peace of God. God can take our burdens and anxieties away through prayer.
So why do we not experience this peace? The likely answer is that we do not believe God will take care of our circumstances! Paul said to take everything to God in prayer. There is nothing too big for God to handle and nothing too small that God will not pay attention to it. But it is not only that we come to God in prayer, but how we come to God in our prayers. Our prayers are to be made with thanksgiving. We are to be thankful to God when we ask, and not act like spoiled children in our requests. At the very least, let us see that there is a peace with God that can guard our hearts and our minds. If we are not experiencing this, then we are doing something wrong and need to seek to put greater trust in the Lord.
Peace With Others
The scriptures strongly command us to have peace with other people. Consider the following commands: “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19). “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (Romans 12:18). “Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14). We are called to live peaceable lives, to promote peace, and be at peace with others. God is telling us to make every effort for peace, strive for peace, and do all we can our parts to bring about peace. As far as we can see contextually, this is not speaking about having peace only among other believers. This is a practical admonition to find peace with the saved and the lost. Nor do I think finding this peace is as simple as the commonly heard “cop out” that there will be peace when they do what God says. Perhaps we should point the finger at ourselves for the moment that we are preventing peace and the spreading of the gospel of peace. To live peaceably with others means that we also must live godly, proper lives.
Acknowledge that we also cause a lack of peace. It is so easy to simply blame the other person for the strife and the conflicts that arise. We would like to think peace would come easily as long as everyone did what we told them to do. It is a common attitude that is foolish. Our desire for everyone to do things our way cause for great amounts of strife. We are too often unwilling to listen to the other person’s point of view. We think we are right, things ought to be done our way, and that is simply the end of the story. We cause strife and discord when we deal with someone in this way. Teaching the lost is not about getting people told that they are wrong. We have to be people who looking for common ground and be willing to change our minds about things if we are going to find peace. We are asking for others to have an open mind and to be willing to change their thoughts. Why are we exemption from such an admonition ourselves? Why do we think everyone else ought to be open-minded but us? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, because they will be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). We must think about what we say that will promote harmony and peace in our relationships. We have to do things in our various relationships that will build the bridges of communication and trust so that there is unity with one another. Strife is not other people’s fault. We also contribute to the problem.
Take responsibility to restore peace. We are to be the peacemakers. That means we are to the ones who take the first steps toward reconciliation. We are not to be the ones who await an apology. We are not to be the ones who will not forgive until the other person acts first. Remember the words of Jesus, “If your brother sins against you, go…” (Matthew 18:15). Jesus did not say that since we are the victims and the ones violated that we can await for others to come to us. If a person does something against us, we are to go to them. This means we have to swallow pride and practice humility. Nor do we restore peace by trying to force apologies out of others. As old as it may get, we need to overlook faults and seek out harmony in our relationships. Further, when we do something wrong, we are going to have to say that dreaded word “sorry.” We are going to have to make apologizes and try to make right the wrongs we have committed against others. All of us get upset. All of us have bad days. All of us get frustrated and get out of sorts. But we still must work to keep harmony as best as we can and say we are wrong when we are wrong.
Teach the way of peace. “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace!” (Romans 10:15). Of course, each of us has a responsibility to be teachers of the peace that is available in Jesus Christ to all who believe and obey Him. Consider that it is the feet which are beautiful and not the mind or the hands. The statement implies that we are getting up off our couches and go out to other people and telling them about the way of Jesus. Let us be teaching this world that seeks for peace in their lives that it only can be found when we stop fighting God.