Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don't be troubled or afraid.
Christ shared this gift shortly before he was crucified. He left the gift of peace, not love or joy, but peace. He knew they would need it moving forward, just as we all need it in our lives. This is the virtue I want to look at this week, peace, or peacefulness.
Peace is pretty straight forward; it is being calm and tranquil no matter what is happening around us. It is the foundation of a happy life. Peace reaches beyond conflict and chaos, to a state of completeness and wholeness. It is a fruit of the Spirit and is expressed through us as we focus our attention on Spirit.
The Hebrew word translated as peace is shalom, which means completeness, soundness, and welfare. The root word, shalam, means to make amends or make complete. In Jewish culture, people use shalom in greeting expressions such as shalom Aleichem which means “well-being be upon you,” or “may you be well.” Jesus and New Testament writers often greeted one another and said farewell with “peace.”
The Greek word for peace is eiréné [ay-ray’-nay], which means one, peace, quietness, and rest. The word means unity; bringing multiple parts together to form a whole or set it as one again. For example, two friends who reconcile after a fight make eiréné; they come back together, and their relationship is whole.
The Bible looks at peace in three ways: Spiritual peace, which is the peace that exists between God and us as an individual and collectively. Psychological peace is the peace that “transcends all understanding.” It is inner peace, the harmony and calmness of body, mind, and spirit that rises above earthly circumstances and beyond the clutches of the world. Then there is relationship peace, which is the peace between each other and all of humankind.
In Isaiah 26:3 we are told, “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!” This is the way to develop peace, to stay our minds on God. Christ came into this world to provide the power to eliminate and overcome the enslavement of our negative thinking. We call this negative thinking “sin.” Sin is a transgression against the Law of God, either of the written Word of God or the indwelling intuitive knowledge and our conscience.
In Romans 2:13-15 we read: For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight. Even Gentiles, who do not have God’s written law, show that they know his law when they instinctively obey it, even without having heard it. They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.
In other words, we know when we are sinning, transgressing against God because we feel the results of that dark behavior. We are told that “the wages of sin is death.” In the Bible, “death” means separation, not extinction. Physical death is the separation of a person from their body. Spiritual death is the separation of our spirit from relationship with God, a self-induced disconnect with Spirit due to the blockage of God’s Light created by our thought, word, or action. It is this blockage that creates our ‘dis-ease,’ resulting in a lack of peace. God freely gives us peace, but through our mishandling of choices we separate ourselves from its flow.
In Matthew 3:2 John the Baptist declares, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.” The word ‘repent’ literally means to ‘change our mind.’ He was telling us to change the way we are thinking and stop transgressing against the Law of God. We know when we are wrong, so stop it. Make another choice; select a different thought, action, word, attitude, or response. Choose again.
Our new choices are to be powered from our focus on God. Christ came to save us from an eternal separation with God’s Presence because of our decisions. But we cannot escape the chaos and pain from the choices we make in our lives. We must continually repent our destructive selections. Christ knows our tendencies and that is why he told us in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We will not find lasting peace in the world. We will find moments of tranquility between storms, but lasting peace comes from God alone. We read in Act 3:19, “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord…”
Like all virtues, peace requires our attention and effort. It is a gift given by God, but the small worldly self will do everything it can to keep us dead to God, separated from the Light and Love of Christ. We must continue the path of peace, making the choices that lead to peace, that lead to Spirit. Peace is a conscious choice.
But sometimes the world throws things at us that slow us down. We must be humble enough to allow God to work through us. We cannot force our decisions, demands, and desires onto God’s plans. Mom, like so many in her position, is having a tough time. She cannot care for herself entirely and has enough mental capacity to know that. She just wants to leave her body behind and reunite with Dad in heaven. She states that frequently and wonders why God doesn’t take her. Can’t He see that she is suffering. Is He punishing her? These are the thoughts that go through her mind.
What she cannot see is that her own thoughts and demands on God are holding her back. She isn’t getting her way, so she is feeling frustrated and resentful. She lacks peace, and what we resist will persist. It is through peace that she will find the release she wants. With peace, whether she is here or not is of no concern. With peace, she can quietly wait for the time when her soul is ready to leave her body. In peace, without demanding, expecting, or commanding that it be so, she will leave her body at the right time.
This is a lesson we all must learn. Yes, we are instructed to ask for what we want, and then we shall receive. But it is through the virtue of humility that we allow God to work through us in His time, when the conditions are optimal for us. Meanwhile, we must be teachable, guidable, and receptive to God’s plans, knowing that He has our best interest always in His heart. As we live the life planned for us, it is God’s desire that we do so in peace, trusting that we are surrounded by Divine Love every step of our way.
This is how Christ overcame the world. Through his trust in God, faith in God, and the peace of God, He spiritually and mentally rose above the turmoil, pain, and chaos until the world had no influence over him. That is what he offers us, so take heart. We too, can be in this world, but not of this world, and find peace.
Psalm 34:14 tells us, “Turn away from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” This Scripture is echoed in 1 Peter 3:10-11.
For “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it.” It is the message of John the Baptist. Repent, make another choice, and seek the kingdom of Heaven.
The peace that we have is based upon its source. If we seek peace from the world, we will have an unstable, temporary peace. St. Augustine was correct when he wrote, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in Thee.” Where is the source from which we draw inspiration and truth? In John 4:13-14 we read, “Jesus replied, “Anyone who drinks this water will soon become thirsty again. But those who drink the water I give will never be thirsty again. It becomes a fresh, bubbling spring within them, giving them eternal life.”
If our source is Spirit, we will be filled with the Fruit of Spirit, which include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. If our source for our desires is the world, we may fall pray to the acts of the flesh, which include sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
John 7:37-39 says: On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Anyone who believes in me may come and drink! For the Scriptures declare, ‘Rivers of living water will flow from his heart.’
To quench our thirst for peace we come to Christ and keep on coming. We drink from the living waters and keep on drinking. It is not a one-time event; it is a way of life. Before we lash out in anger or wallow in guilt and shame, we bring our anger, guilt, and shame to God and share all the reasons for those feelings. Soon, as Spirit awakens us to our transgressions against God’s law, our emotions dissipate, and we are left with God’s only alternative: peace. This is the method for any challenge or difficult situation.
So, it is my prayer that we seek peace by releasing into Spirit all the reasons for any feeling other than peace. Anything that is disturbing the calm peace of our soul we speak into the presence of God that surrounds us. I pray that we release whatever feelings are disrupting the gift of peace that God provides. Whatever is troubling our hearts, whatever fears we have, are no match for the power of peace given by God. It is my prayer that we will rest in the stillness of God’s love and find peace.