Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Afternoon Thoughts - What Is Peace Part 01

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 ESV)

WARNING: I could have edited this entry, cos I appreciate it’s not a short one. But on careful consideration I just couldn’t bring myself to cut it too drastically. Stick with it, bear with it and I believe as a charismatic preacher would exclaim – you shall receive a blessing.

Herein begins a little series on the biblical definition of peace. This little series is motivated by my job at the YMCA. I don’t think I’m divulging state secrets to state that the post of Christian Spiritual Development Worker is to assist the Stoke and North Staffordshire branch in expressing the concept of Shalom.
The Chief Executive – Mr. Daniel Flynn, top bloke – has the vision of the whole organisation being based on helping people on their journey experience this shalom – wholeness. Hence there’s the services offered to support the educational and vocational development of the customers (the term of the residents), as well as support for the housing needs development of the customers. Noting the holistic nature of man there’s the pursuit of not just developing their mental capabilities and physical capabilities but also their – much neglected – spiritual capabilities. Hence my post and the importance of the gospel of Jesus Christ in allowing people to realise and fully develop those spiritual capabilities, which in turn fully enrich all the physical and mental capabilities. So because of that kind of jazz, the peace thing is a big deal and it got me thinking … what is peace? So we turn to ‘exhibit a’ for insight into what it is.

It’s fair to say that if you were one of the 11 disciples listening to Jesus during this discourse you’d be a bit concerned. First of all Jesus has repeated for our hearing that He’s going to die, and die soon. Plus by His intimations the manner of His departure will not be … fitting for the Jewish Messiah (John 13:21). Now He’s talking about going back to the Father which is a bit baffling as we don’t even know the way to this Father. So in His reassuring way, He’s telling us that it’s alright, although He’s going away He’ll send another Counsellor to remind us of what He’s taught us. Still through all of that we’re still hung up on the death business, which is where this verse comes in as so important.
First of all there is the reassurance of one thing we need in a time of bad news – peace. On hearing of a loved one dying or about to die there is a natural state of turmoil – emotionally we go to pieces, mentally things do not compute in every way it appears as if our lives have become an internal war zone. So peace, well that’s good thing to have. Not only that but Jesus gives a particular kind of peace on offer – a distinctive peace in contrast to another brand of peace on offer.

Allow me to suggest what we could consider the world’s peace – no one fighting, no harsh words said to each other, a level of understanding and harmony between parties. That sounds alright doesn’t it? Sure. Problem – it doesn’t actually solve anything. More accurately it doesn’t hit the heart of the issue to produce these nice sentiments. The world’s kind of peace is something that they hope will be brought about intellectually, politically, rationally, socially through programs, policies, discussions, summits, etc. All missing out on the key to real peace. Which is why the Prince of Peace comes into offer a distinct kind of peace not based on any of the world’s values, but essentially based on who He is. His peace.

His peace is based on a unified relationship with the Father that allows Him to be obedient to Him in everything because He has access to the One who knows the beginning from the end. His peace is based on a relationship of wholeness with a whole God and a Holy God who created us in His image to be whole. Something that’s possible when we have His Spirit living inside of us.

The crucial missing element to world peace is the link to the God of peace – Yahweh Shalom. And it’s this peace that is guaranteed by Jesus in his last chat with the disciples before the cross. Without the God of peace every other effort remains shallow, futile and hollow. Ceasefires mask the war of words beneath. Policies of racial harmony mask the deeply engrained years of hatred, ignorance and misunderstanding motivating individuals, families and communities. Indeed world peace cannot reach the heart of man, and yet until it does so real peace can never begin. That is why the peace that Christ gives us is so distinct and amazing.

Acknowledging Christ’s sacrifice – believing in Him – gives us access to a sense of wholeness and rightness that this world just cannot comprehend – hence the peace of God that passes understanding! It strikes the very core of our being that was separated from God but through that sacrifice reunites us – reconciles us. He is our peace who has broken down the walls of division to make us one with God and then one with each other.

Such knowledge as a result should affect our approach to life – as Jesus goes onto encourage. We don’t have to be anxious and we don’t have to be afraid. Literally everything is all-right – peace with God makes everything all-right, even if it doesn’t seem all-right. Even if external circumstances suggest chaos, upset and anarchy, God’s reality, assuring us of a real relationship with Him through Jesus Christ, suggests otherwise. God’s reality states that we are now in contact with the Sovereign Being who is far greater than any external circumstance and by grace, through faith now resides in us to allow us to live in this reality.

That wonderful peace, that glorious peace is so fulfilling that it motivates us to share this with others and live in it constantly in the hope that more will share in it not just now but with the promise of it to be there eternally.

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