(Originally written 7/31/06)
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, against such there is no law.” (Gal. 5:22-23 KJV)
Okay, so it’s been a while since I last blogged about the fruit of the Spirit, but it seems every time I’m about to write on one, I get challenges in my life that test the fruit which I’m studying. It was no different with peace. The last week has been anything but peaceful. My mind has been a jumble of thoughts and emotions, and peace has been the furthest thing from my mind.
So, what is peace? In the verse above, the Greek word for peace is eirene, which is defined as harmony, tranquility, safety. Sounds beautiful, but how is it possible to achieve that in the world today? There are wars everywhere, unrest in all aspects of life, a breakneck pace to our day-to-day routine that doesn’t allow room for peace. How can you be tranquil when you have to shove 40 hours of stuff to do into a 24 hour day? How can there be safety when your hours at work are cut, and your bills increase? How can there be harmony when we live in a world where there’s a very real possibility of a terrorist attack anywhere, including the US? What is this eirene that the Bible talks about, and how is it possible to achieve that in this day and age? In John 14:27, Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” He makes it perfectly clear that there are two kinds of peace; the peace of the world, and the peace of God. It’s amazing how it seems that every one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit I’ve studied so far has an earthly counterpart, a shadow of the spiritual at best, and a cheap counterfeit at worst. Agape, self-sacrificing love, has its counterpart, which is self-serving love. At times, it can look like agape, as long as both parties stand to benefit, and at worst, it results in physically or emotionally abusive relationships. Joy also has its earthly shadow, better known as happiness. And the Peace of God is copied by the peace of the world. But there is one major difference between the original and the copies – the copies fade, they’re only temporary. The originals are eternal. Self-serving love, happiness, and world peace are on shifting sand. Agape, joy, and the peace of God are on the Rock.
The peace of the world consists of the moments in between crises where we get to catch our breaths and brace ourselves for the next one. We’re thankful for a moment’s peace, when the kids are in bed, when our workload is caught up, when the tests from the doctor come back negative, (which, in doctor-speak, is a good thing), or any time when it seems like life manages to stand still long enough for us to look around. The peace of the world is like a roller coaster ride, but not as fun. Lots of twists and turns, breathlessness and anticipation throughout the entire trip, and the rare moments when you reach the top of a climb and everything stands still, just before you’re rocketed back downward. That’s the peace of the world. Depending on your situation, you’re at peace or you’re not.
The peace of God is the complete opposite of that. The peace of God remains with you in spite of your situation. No matter how bad things get or how good things get, our peace is in God and with God. It’s the peace of knowing we’re forgiven, the peace of knowing that we belong to God and He will never forsake us. It’s the peace of knowing that we will live with our Creator eternally, worshipping Him forever, living in a relationship of pure love. That’s a peace that cannot be shaken by an unexpected expense, by a sudden accident or death in the family, by a loss of a job, or by anything the world can throw at us. We know that all the cares and troubles of the world are but a passing vapor, here today and gone tomorrow.
Paul knew a secret about peace. He knew we had to understand grace before we could understand or receive the peace of God. In all his letters, he always said, “Grace to you, and peace.” Grace always came before peace because Paul knew that it’s only once we understand how incredible God’s grace is, we understand the price Jesus paid on the cross of taking all our sins – not some sins, not only past ones, but every single sin we have committed or ever will commit – it’s only then that we will realize that we have nothing to stress out over, nothing to worry about. We have the peace, the inner calm, the anchor that keeps us from being battered by life’s storms.
As I mentioned, my peace had been tested recently. I had myself quite a roller coaster ride, as some of you are aware. I let those things shift my focus from the peace I had in God, and, just as a pilot who tries to fly while blindfolded, I had trouble figuring out which direction I was supposed to be heading in. I forgot to use my instruments – prayer and the Bible. I forgot to check with my flight crew – friends and family. And I forgot to rely on the One who sustains me and carries me – Jesus, my Lord and Savior. Thankfully, some people in my life who I dearly love – and you all know who you are – helped me, and now I’m flying straight…mostly.