Show us Lord, good Lord,
The peace we should seek
The peace we must give
The peace we can keep,
The peace we must forgo
And the peace YOU have given us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Anonymous
The world we live in is a restless world, continually in a state of flux, especially in this digital age. Life is not merely a bustle, but a hustle. Most of us want peace at any cost. This peace in many cases is according to the western definition of peace which the Cambridge dictionary defines as “Freedom from war, violence especially when people live and work together happily without disagreements.” A peace that has been elusive for humans throughout their existence on this side of Eden. It is also the kind of peace that seems contrary to the one we are promised in the Holy Scriptures : “In this world you will have trouble, but take heart I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
To understand peace as Jesus Christ meant it, we must move away from the very western construct of it and inquire into what the word Shalom means. In his website, www.firm.org.il, Doug Hershey provides some valuable insights in his article “The true meaning of peace”. He writes, “Shalom is derived from the root word shalaam, which means “ to be safe in mind, body or estate. It speaks of completeness, fullness or a type of wholeness that encourages you to give back.” The richness of Shalom is obviously lost in translation. And we can justifiably conclude that the peace that Jesus calls His followers into is a different kind of peace. Therefore as Christians we need to know the peace we need to seek, the peace we must give, the peace we can keep,the peace we can forgo and the peace that Christ has given us.
So which peace are we to seek? In the world today, many dream of world peace. A day when all people of every tribe, tongue race will live together in harmony. There are today people seeking this peace by various means by working towards establishing a common currency, language,common religion, etc.Their assumption is that if we take away the barriers separating us, then we will be peaceful. However the gospel offers a different alternative, “ the peace of Christ.”Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” This is the peace that Christians are to seek, pursue and attain. This peace is not available to non-Christians and is a deposit in those who have invited Christ Jesus to be their Lord and saviour. For the rest of the world even peace seekers, outside the person of Christ, peace will always be elusive as St Augustine said, “We are restless till we find rest in Him.”
Once we have received this peace of Christ through our salvation by Grace through faith, we become new creations and become children of God. As grateful children of God it is our prerogative to then make peace. We make peace by sharing the gospel of peace by which men are saved – the gospel is power unto salvation. Once they have received the gospel only then can they begin to live in peace. And as the Holy Spirit does a transforming work in them, their peace becomes great. They then continue to do what Paul instructed the Romans to do, “to live at peace with all men” as much as it depends on them.
Unlike UN peacekeepers who keep peace through negotiations sanctions and sometimes by the edge of a gun, the peace of Christ cannot be kept in that manner, but by the use of Spiritual arsenal. Jesus Christ has given us the powerful arsenal of prayer as a good defence for our peace. He knew that we would have trouble and have moments where we want to throw in the trowel. In those moments of trouble He calls us to pray, “Do not be anxious about anything but in everything with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, make your needs known to God and the peace of God that transcends understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7) When we approach the throne of Grace, we always find it rich with mercy and Grace for our time of need, and as well beloved loved hymn exhorts, “approach my soul the mercy seat, where Jesus answers prayer, and humbly kneel before the throne, for non can perish there.” Surely prayer is a safeguard for our peace.
Consequently, there is a peace that children of God must forgo. This is the false peace that flees from suffering. This peace is espoused in some religions where the goal of man is to flee suffering as in buddhism, and through pursuit of pleasure, by the hedonist. The peace we receive from Christ does not guarantee our escape from suffering, but strength in our suffering. Just as Christ professed, “ In this world you will have trouble”, we indeed will find trouble. But our comfort is that Jesus has overcome the world so that even suffering works for our good. Paul is a good example of peace under fire. In one of His prison letters to the Philippians he wrote a letter full of rejoicing, a living proof that Christ’s peace transcends understanding.
“I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. (Phil 4:11-13)
Paul’s dire needs and imprisonment were not a source of worry and anxiety as would be to many people today. Instead of grumbling he found reason to rejoice, because He had the hope of Christ in His heart as an anchor, strong and secure.
Jesus Christ has not only availed His peace to us through His finished work on the cross , but also also filled us with His Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is peace.This peace is not as fleeting as the world promises, but a peace that transcends all understanding; undisturbed by war, violence and all manner of suffering. This peace is ours to seek, to make, keep, pursue and pass on to those who do not have it. It is a different kind of peace because it is found in the concrete person of Christ And not in happenings, like world peace is. Jesus Christ is Shalom, and those who come to Him are filled with His. It is this peace that makes believer peacemakers. It is also the peace that can never be available to non believers.
To be truly at peace we therefore need to pray daily, that God would guide us to the peace we should seek; challenge us about the peace we must give; reveal to us the peace we can keep and the one we must forgo, but above all else that He would enlighten our restless hearts and minds to the peace we have been given in Jesus Christ our Lord.