Third in the list of the Fruit of the Spirit is Peace. [Galatians 5:22-23]
This topic was more challenging than love and joy to pin down to a starting point.
Should focus be on “peace with God”—the result of a right relationship with Him?
Romans 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Or the “peace of God”—the result of prayer?
Philippians 4:6-7. Be careful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Resorting to the dictionary for a jumping off place, I discovered its descriptions of “peace” were painted with a hefty brush, classifying peace as a “normal” condition between large groups.
“Normal, non-warring condition of a nation, group of nations, or the world; normal freedom from civil commotion and violence.
I found the use of the adjective “normal” as intriguing—an optimistic appraisal at the very least.
At the moment [as of this writing July 2020], “peace” of all sorts seems anything but “normal.”
However, in the broad scope of history—even recent history—to deem peace as “normal” is a realistic assessment. Conflicts, riots, protests, battles, wars occur and may occur frequently, but eventually some form of peace is restored, otherwise the world would not have gone on turning.
Ecclesiastes 3:8. …a time of war, and a time of peace.
Not listed in these definitions is an analysis of the peace we need on an individual level…peace among ourselves…with each other.
Consider how often the apostle Paul urged believers to be at peace among themselves.
Ephesians 4:3. Endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace.
Philippians 2:2 Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
I Thessalonians 5:13. And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.
And how often I have thought of Euodias and Syntyche to whom Paul referred in Philippians 4:2. that they be of the “same mind in the Lord.” I do not know who these two were nor what their quarrel was, but they were clearly not at peace with each other and Paul thought solving the problem crucial enough for the church at Philippi that he mentioned it in this public way.
How would you like to have your name mentioned in the Book which is eternal and the only comment made about you was, in effect, “Stop fighting with each other and be at peace”?
We do not achieve peace among ourselves because we all have the same outlook and opinions, philosophies, and methods.
We have peace among ourselves because we work at it.
If we wait to be in agreement with everyone—misunderstandings explained and forgiven; mistakes acknowledged and fixed; sins confessed and pardoned—not one of us could ever say we have peace.
And we need peace in the midst of these personal storms.
Therefore, today’s discussion will focus on peace between you and the person next to you—at home, at work, at school, at church; in other words, all the places you inhabit.
Peace Comes by Mending Fences
Think right now who you are at odds with. Or maybe you’ve been thinking of that person throughout your entire reading of this page.
What toll is it taking on you to be estranged? Do you sometimes lie awake at night, irritated, or grieving, agitated, reliving an offense, or honestly baffled as to what you did to offend him?
And sometimes this happens. The person who is at odds with you may be put out with you over something you said or did that you have no idea was hurtful.
Maybe you do know what went wrong. Maybe it was your fault. Maybe it wasn’t.
Here’s what you can do to be at peace:
He drew a circle that shut me out,
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win.
We drew a circle that took him in.
Maybe you can win back that friend or family member by performing a simple act of showing love to her.
Put an actual card in the mail.
Send a surprise gift with a note that says, “I thought you might like this.”
Send a text: “Hope you have a good day.”
They may or may not respond, but the effort will do you good, keep your heart soft, ease that pain you feel. Where your actions go, your emotions will follow. Not overnight, no. But eventually. You’ve got nothing to lose by exercising your will to love.
We’re never more like Jesus than when we are loving someone who doesn’t love us (or at least doesn’t act much like it.)
Hudson Taylor said: “It is possible to move men through God by prayer alone.”
Every time you feel the urge to relive the offense, stop and pray instead, “God bless ___________ today and have your will in his/her life.”
“It wasn’t my fault. I didn’t do anything.”
“He didn’t ask to be forgiven.”
If you release him, you will let yourself out of prison.
Peace Comes by Building Bridges
And then there is always the option of finding peace by turning your pain inside out.
Find someone to help.
I was at the grocery store and passed by a lovely African-American lady. I said, “Good Morning,” and she responded. We met again a couple of aisles over. She said, “Looks like we’re following each other.” I said I hoped she would lead me the right way because I often got lost.
I walked past her and then stopped and turned back. I said, “You’re a believer, aren’t you?”
She smiled. “Yes.” And then tears came to her eyes.
I pushed the cart back. “Do you have a prayer request?” I asked.
She proceeded to tell me her heartaches—her own and her daughter’s. I prayed with her right there by the greeting cards. Her countenance changed. She went on her way with a lighter heart.
I didn’t fix a thing about her life, but I took time and the moment gave her peace.
And helping peace along is as good as having it yourself.
Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing. Peace begins with a smile.”