“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
We live in a world that is searching for peace.
We want there to be peace on the earth – for wars and striving to cease between nations, and races, and peoples.
We want there to be peace at home – we all know homes that are less than peaceful, with partners who fight, with families that can’t be together around the table without full-blown fights, or perhaps worse, a slow-burning conflict that eats away over the years.
If you’re like me, you might just be looking for some peace and quiet; looking forward to those rare moments when you can unplug without having the next thing rattling around in your head.
For many whom you know, their search is to make peace with their situation: to get to a point of accepting all the things that are outside of their control – whether it’s sickness or an uncertain future, or the pains of the past – and get to the point of knowing peace rather than a struggle.
Some devote their lives to finding peace in a broken world, a world where things are rarely ever black and white, where, anytime people are involved, there’s bound to be good and bad mixed up together, as even the best of human intentions are still wrapped up in our brokenness.
And in those moments when we think about what happens next, the world we live in is obsessed but confused about finding peace with God. Some bend over backwards trying to convince themselves that God doesn’t exist so they can put their minds at peace, while others resort to all sorts of bizarre practices in an effort to “find peace” with the Almighty.
Our world, at this point in history, is more obsessed with finding peace than we even realize.
But what if we’ve got it wrong?
Jesus said “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.
And we say “yes! Give us some of that peace! Bring it on, that’d be great”.
But this is where the world has it wrong.
Peace isn’t a thing.
Peace isn’t a thing to be given and received. Peace isn’t a thing to have or to hold onto.
People spend their lives searching for peace, but peace isn’t a thing to be found.
(Now stick with me, because this is so mind-blowing, but it’s also so obvious once we come to see it).
Let’s take the war in Ukraine as an example. We all want peace in Ukraine. We all want Russia to stop, to turn from it’s plans, and for there to be peace once more.
But how does that happen? How does Ukraine get peace? How does Russia give Ukraine peace?
Can Russia load some peace into a truck, drive it over the border, and say here you go, this is what you wanted, have a truckload of peace? No, how silly, of course not.
But when we talk about God’s peace, we slip into that sort of “truckload” thinking. Like God has a warehouse of peace out there, I wish he’d give me some. When it comes to making peace with an illness, or a past hurt, or a strained relationship with a parent or your in-laws, we slip into thinking of peace as a thing. Something to have, to be given by one party – maybe as part of a long-awaited for apology – to then be received and stored up by another.
But peace isn’t a thing. It doesn’t come in truckloads.
No, and this is where the world goes wrong: peace is a state of being; peace is a status that exists between two people or things; or as my wife put it so wisely last weekend, peace isn’t a thing – it’s a lifestyle, it’s a way of living.
It’s not given or received; it’s achieved when the tension is set aside, when the two sides accept that they cannot control the other, when they choose to live at peace.
…and this is where we’d do well to remember that we’re all searching for peace, on every level of our lives, from our homes, to our families, to our situations, to our place in the brokenness of the world around us, to that ultimate peace at the last when we all meet the Lord face to face.
We need to stop asking God to “give us peace”, at least if we’re thinking of peace as a thing, something that He can drop off at our doorstep.
Instead, we need to pray that God will teach us His peace.
Teach us, show us what it means to be at peace. To live a lifestyle of peace, to move towards peace as a state of being; to look at a situation and say, “yes it’s broken… but I don’t want to be at war over this, I’m at peace”; to look at things outside of our control and say “I’m not going to be at war within myself over this, I’m going to be at peace with the things I cannot change.”
Peace is a lifestyle. Peace is a state of being, a state to be achieved, not a thing to be received.
You see, this is where a plain reading of the scriptures is so important.
Now you might be thinking, ‘hold on… Jesus said “my peace I give to you”’.
Right! But Jesus didn’t then hand the disciples a little box of peace, did he?
Peace is a status, peace is a way of life, peace is a lifestyle, as Kristina put it.
Jesus extends his status, his peaceful state of being to the disciples – and that includes you and me. Is Jesus uncertain about the future? No. Is Jesus upset about the past? No. Does Jesus feel powerless about a sad and broken world, waiting for that day when every tear and disease will be wiped away? No. Does Jesus feel like the temptations and evil in the world might get the better of him? Not one bit. Is Jesus worried about his place when he comes to stand before his Heavenly Father? Never, certainly not.
That’s the status, that’s the state of being, that’s the lifestyle Jesus wants to give to you.
“My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives”… it’s not coming on a truck! No, I bestow this peace upon you, now live into it. “Let not your hearts be troubled, and neither let them be afraid”.
And, my friends, it is a ridiculous peace – a peace that passes understanding.
Does it make any sense that I shouldn’t fear tomorrow? No… except Jesus invited me to live into his peace.
Does it make any sense that I can take a step to restore a relationship, that I can admit when I’ve done something wrong, really ask for forgiveness, and then carry on instead of sitting and wallowing in that failure? No… except Jesus invited me to live into his peace.
Does it make any sense that we can look at our bodies wearing out, we can look at the scars of sin and abuse and addiction in the world around us, and yet be at peace in spite of the world not being as we know it was meant to be? No, that makes no sense, it passes all understanding, except when we enter into the peace of the one who promised He will restore all things.
Does it make any sense that I can live my life without any fear of the grave? No, except I’ve been invited into that lifestyle of peace with God my Father; He looks at me as his child in need of healing and mercy, and like the prodigal son, I will live my life running toward Him to fall at his feet.
When God’s peace, like a river, rushes over us, we need to remember that the point isn’t to grab buckets and try to store up as much of that peace as we can. Peace doesn’t work like that.
When peace, like a river, washes over us, the point is for us to get caught up in that current, to be washed away in that stream, as peace with God and with our neighbours becomes a way of life, carrying us along, not something to be dipped into when we need it. Not because we’re happy with the way the world is, with the way things are, but because we’ve made God’s peace our lifestyle, we’ve entered into that status of being at peace, and because of that – whatever happens – my heart doesn’t need to be troubled, and I do not need to be afraid: I have that ridiculous, incomprehensible peace that comes from knowing ‘I am a child of God’.
The whole world is searching for peace. But we need to remind ourselves, and often, that peace isn’t a thing to grasp at or cling to, it’s a way of life. It’s a way of life we find when we pray for God to give us his grace, and the strength, and the mercy, and the understanding, to look at the world around us – broken as it is – and see it, and ourselves, through His eyes; to have the grace to say “it is well”… “I don’t like it, it’s not as it should be, but I am at peace with God, I will be at peace with my neighbor, so my heart won’t be troubled, I will not fear – not even the power of the grave – because it is well with my soul… now, and forevermore. Amen.