Fourth in my midwinter spiritual formation series -- "7 Gifts That Keep On Giving"
THREE DIMENSIONS OF PEACE. Peace is a gift that keeps on giving. Once we experience its personal dimension, we want to cultivate it internally. Once we have experienced peace in a relationship, we know it as a precious, life-giving reality. When, occasionally, we observe peace breaking out among long-time enemies, we realize it is possible to replicate such peace as healing in other violent conflicts both intimate and global. So peace becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
A BETTER WAY. Peace, once realized, surpasses all other commonly-used ways of addressing conflict. Peace eclipses numbing apathy, nurtured hatred, discord, violence, and a thousand manipulations and power plays. Even a fledgling and fragile peace trumps—hands down—the degenerative disease of a Cold War-style détente in relationship to perceived adversaries.
A GIFT WE RECEIVE. Peace is not something we achieve but a gift we receive. We can’t accomplish peace. Peace can be cultivated. It can be nurtured. We can prepare and make room for it. We can intend and pray for peace. But its realization is spiritual, its presence breaks in from beyond us, its evident power is a grace. Peace is less an instrument to be used or a goal to be gained as it is a promise whose conditions wait to be embraced. Its conditions are less about territories, demands or predetermined expectations. Its conditions are more about heart-readiness, genuine meeting, and courage.
NOT AS THE WORLD GIVES. I recently explored the New Testament regarding peace. I came back to Jesus' powerful words in what is known as his farewell discourse in John's Gospel . Jesus said, “My peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He also said: “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” (John 16:33). The following principles and applications emerge from my contemplation of Jesus' life, words, and work regarding peace:
1. Peace is a distinctive LEGACY Jesus leaves with all who TRUST in him. John 14:27 Jesus showed how a peace-filled life is to be lived. He then made a life of peace possible via his death on the cross (Ephesians 2:14-18). Now he offers peace to us via the Holy Spirit. Do you believe Christ’s peace can shape the way you see and respond to every conflict? This is the trust factor.
2. Peace is a gift particularly for the STORMY seasons of life. John 14:27-30, 16:33 Jesus said: “In this world you will have trouble.” No surprise there! But Christ’s peace is intended to be the gift that determines how we respond to trouble and conflict, whether it is occasional or perpetual. His peace makes overcoming possible.
3. To know and bear Christ’s peace, we must CONFRONT our fears, pride, and presumptions. John 14:27-30 I'm convinced that peace is not possible in a heart filled with pride, presumption, fear, violence, and defensiveness. That is the way of the world. Those ways have been repeatedly followed and they don’t bring peace—not to us or to anyone else. Peace comes only as we confront and challenge our fears, pride and presumptions. Take the “5 Steps Into Peace-Centered Life” below.
4. Christ’s peace shapes both our inward PERSPECTIVE and our outward PURSUIT of it in the world. John 14:27; Phil. 4:6-7; Eph. 6:15; Col. 3:15 When we experience Christ’s peace it changes how we see and deal with conflicts at every other level—from relationships to international conflicts. We are to “seek peace and pursue it.” Not violently, but with alternative "weapons" that seek the redemption of adversaries. "The peace of God" determines the very manner of our pursuit of peace in our world.
5. Peace, lived personally and pursued relationally, is the heart of WITNESS to the power of Jesus Christ. John 14:27; 16:33; Hebrews 12:14 Our witness is primarily to the peace that Jesus gives personally and relationally. It’s not just for a few. All Christians are to be peacemakers. What are your opportunities to seek and pursue peace right now?
5 STEPS INTO A PEACE-CENTERED LIFE
(1) Focus on the promise and power of Christ’ peace.
(2) Expose and examine the conflicts in your own heart and relationships.
(3) Confront your resistances to Christ’s peace as the answer in your life, relationships and the world.
(4) Lay down your arms, confess your dependence, release your fears, and trust in Christ’s promise.
(5) Let the peace of Christ rule in your heart—choosing to trust, listening for His voice and wisdom, and training in righteousness.
5 WAYS TO BE A PEACEMAKER
(1) Look for the sources behind conflicts, drain them of their power, and dry them up.
(2) Turn away wrath by recognizing and acknowledging unmet needs of angry people.
(3) Embrace the way of the cross, living in the tension of conflicts in witness to nonviolent redemption.
(4) Make every possible attempt to bring truth-based reconciliation to injustice and wrongdoing.
(5) Look for and cultivate alternatives to violent words and ways of resolving conflicts at every possible level.
In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility. Shalom!
Photo credit: "Darkness reigns at the foot of the lighthouse" by Dreamzzz..... on Flickr The setting is in Kovallam, Karala, India