"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27 NKJV
Most of us understand that the world's definition of peace is the absence of conflict. Two parties can disagree on anything, for any reason, but as long as there is no open warfare what you then have is called living in a state of peace. As I said, however, this is what the world calls peace. As believers though, shouldn't we should be more interested in what God calls peace instead of the world? Most would say yes but I think if we take a good look around it becomes apparent that within the church today, most believers are relying more on the world's definition of peace rather than on what our Lord had to say. I think that if we take a closer look at what Jesus had to say about peace, we can see several things that might help us have a better understanding about how to live peacefully with one another within the body of Christ.
One of the first things I noticed when looking at passages dealing with this subject is that it would appear that the finger always points inward. Kind of humbling isn't it? You see, whenever there is conflict we tend to focus on the “what” and not the “who”. The problem is, we personalize the argument by blaming the conflict on the other party, and whatever position they may have taken which is in opposition to our own. Yet God makes it perfectly clear that true peace comes not from the absence of conflict, but in the form of a person, Jesus Himself, who lives inside each of us who have made the decision to invite Him to do so.
I believe the point here is that when we make the decision to accept the salvation offered to us by Christ, one of the things we receive by way of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is the ability to live in true peace with those around us. Notice however I said we have the ability to live in peace, not that it is automatic. Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit, yet as we all know, those fruits are the result of cultivation on our part by using His word as the food we need to grow in our faith. The second thing you find in this passage from John is the command “let not your heart be troubled”, yet as I'm sure you would agree, our first response to conflict is to let it trouble us and to get upset with whatever or whomever we perceive to be the cause.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful.
Colossians 3:15 NKJV
Notice the word rule. When I think about that I get the picture of a throne room and a ruler sitting on the throne. In the believers heart, God should be sitting on the throne ruling, but when something happens and we get offended and want to react in a worldly manner, did we just push God off the throne and sit in it ourselves? When we choose to get upset is it possible that what is really going on is a lack of faith on our part that God really is in charge and nothing can happen to us without His approval? God's will for our lives is for us to be submissive to His will, and to therefore allow Him to accomplish His purposes through us. That can't happen if we allow others to draw us into conflict by arguments and disagreements which in reality, serve no purpose other than to detract from the real purpose for which we are here. So how do we live the peaceful life God intends for us? It all starts with our focus.
You will keep [him] in perfect peace, [Whose] mind [is] stayed [on You], Because he trusts in You.
Isaiah 26:3 NKJV
Two points are made in this verse which help us understand how we might begin to experience peace in our lives as God intended. The first thing we are told is that our minds should be “stayed” on Him. The Hebrew word for stayed is camak, which means to lean or rest upon, the result being we are supported by whatever it is we are leaning on. Now that might sound simple but in truth exactly how do we do that in a practical sense? Personally I try to look at it this way; when I made the decision to accept Christ into my heart, He did in fact come in. Therefore, it is no longer “I” or “me”, but “us” and “we”.
Think of it this way; how often in the course of the day do you think of “I” and “me”? Most of us would have to say all the time. It's always about what I should do, or how does that affect me, what do I want to do, etc. Truth is, as believers it's now about the two of us. So if something should occur in our lives which could present circumstances that might produce a non-peaceful reaction, the question becomes which one of us is reacting in a negative way, God or me? So to my way of thinking, having my mind “stayed” upon Him is to always think of us rather than me, and to consider how Jesus would respond and then adjust my attitude to reflect that.
Secondly, this verse says that the result of having our minds stayed on Him is that we trust Him. The word translated to trust is batach which is actually a verb phrase which means to trust, have confidence in, and as a result be bold in our response. Now one might think of boldness as the courage to fight, but I ask you, what is harder to do? React in a hostile, defensive manner, or to simply smile and accept what comes knowing that God is in control and He will defend us?
I'm sure many of you probably have seen the movie The Passion, which came out some years ago. I also think it's safe to say that many of you, like me, were moved to tears during the scene where Jesus is beaten by the soldiers. The thought that kept going through my mind during that scene was Jesus could, at any time, simply have called on angels to deliver Him and kill all of those who were persecuting Him. Yet He did not. What do you think was going through His mind at that time? He certainly knew what He could have done, yet He chose to do nothing. I truly think what happened there was exactly what this verse is telling us. His mind was stayed on the Father, and He willingly submitted Himself to whatever came knowing that God was going to deliver Him rather than doing what might have come naturally by striking out.
If Jesus could endure being reviled, rejected, falsely accused, beaten, and killed for His faith, is it too much to ask for us to put up with a few insults or disagreements without striking out in anger? This same Jesus lives inside of each of us who have chosen to invite Him in. What it really comes down to is are we mature enough in our walk with God to allow Him to dictate our reaction to those who offend us, rather than doing what we might want to do? The next time someone offends you remember that it is both you and Jesus who are the recipients of the offense. Which one will you allow to respond?
Blessed [are] the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.
Matthew 5:9 NKJV