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June 13th, 2008 at 3:24 pm

The Fruit of Peace

Dear Friends,

Peace, ah, peace. Who doesn’t want peace, well aside from arms merchants and a few pathological bullies? But peace is illusive, hard as we strive for it. Sometimes even the striving after it dissipates it. It’s like trying to hold on to mist.

For the Apostle Paul to describe peace as a “fruit of the Holy Spirit” is to admit that it isn’t our natural state. Indeed, in the list of the “works of the flesh” that are opposed to the Spirit he names enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of rage, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, and envy – any one of which is an enemy of peace.

There are many kinds of peace. Peace refers to a subjective inner state of being – kind of like what the Eagles sang about in “Paeceful Easy Feeling,” or what Jackson Browne referenced in “Your Bright Baby Blues,” when he wrote:

It’s so hard to come by
That feeling of peace
This friend of mine said
“Close your eyes, and try a few of these”
I thought I flying like a bird
So far above my sorrow
But when I looked down
I was standing on my knees
Now I need someone to help me
Someone to help me please

Almost all human beings desire inner peace. It is a universal need, and a universal longing. But subjective inner peace is not the only kind of peace. There is also that mutual well being and friendship that exists amongst neighbors that we refer to as “peace.” We know it’s opposite – or opposites – many are listed out above. Wars, battles, hatreds, divisions, and all the fear, death, danger, and hurt that result. We long for peace, for a world where swords will indeed be turned into plowshares. These “swords” may be the very real weapons of war. They may be the simmering hatreds and unkind words between workmates or neighbors or teamates or even spouses. They may be divisions inside of churches and families. There are many kinds of swords to be beaten into plowshares.

True peace has a larger overarching meaning, inwardly and outwardly, and brings with it a greater sense of well being, wholeness, and “things as they ought to be.”

The peace which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit encompasses all of this, and thankfully we’ll have several passes at it over the course of the summer. But, Biblically speaking, the peace of God begins and ends with peace with God.

It strikes many people the wrong way these days to suggest that we may not have peace with God automatically. Yet the very essence of the good news of Jesus Christ is that whereas before we were at enmity with God, now we are at peace with Him.

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God throgh our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, how much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by His life” (Romans 5:10).

So this is the most important peace of all, and the peace from which all other kinds of peace radiate and extend. Before, alienated from the One who made us and who created us to have life in Him, we were restless souls, yearning and looking for peace and rest however we could find it (“go ahead, try a few of these…”). Now, reconciled to God, and at peace with Him (God having made peace with us through Jesus Christ), we are the starting gate of finding real and significant personal and inner peace (even amidst the storms of life), and able to be instruments of peace in a world (and too often in homes and churches and offices) in conflict in about every way that it can be.

In either case, peace does not come naturally, nor easily, no matter how we dress it up with nice words. This why it is a sign of the Holy Spirit at work when we find ourselves fighting against the tendency towards enmity, strife, divisions and such, or when we find ourselves refusing to be overcome by anxiety as we make our way through this tenuous and troubled world.

“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”

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