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Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

I sat scrolling through my Instagram feed and felt my very body react with each passing post.  Doom!  Gloom! Watch out!  The World is falling apart!  I had originally created an Instagram account years ago to follow my teenage daughters’ posts.  Their accounts were full of fun events and beautiful scenery.  Photos taken from atop the highest peaks in our city and from endless beach days.  Soon, however, I started following political-related accounts and outspoken people who warned of problems in society.  In other words, I was constantly feeding my mind and soul with the opposite of what I really needed, peace.  

My head’ll explode if I continue with this escapism.

Jess C Scott, EyeLeash: A Blog Novel

I finally had the same “ah ha” moment as Ms. Scott.  Although I agree on the need for good citizens to stay informed, I didn’t need to be this well-informed throughout my day.  Hence, I started unfollowing accounts and searched for ways to add beauty to my life.  I recently told a woman from Australia, whom I follow, that I could watch her sourdough shaping videos all day.  Watching her strong hands roll, pat, and lovingly form something beautiful out of God’s simple gifts of water, flour and salt.

While I brought some measure of peacefulness to my social media, I also realized this isn’t really the peace Jesus meant when He told the disciples:

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives." John 14:27

That peace, Shalom, is a gift of mercy and grace from God.  It’s peace with God.  It’s the kind of peace that can, if we place our trust in God, lead to a state of peacefulness.  This Shalom is a relationship that only the one true God can give us.  Fallen, sinful humanity works daily, hourly at being at war with God.  We turn our backs on Him, we spit on His name, we refuse to show Him even a cursory love at times. Yet He, in His magnificent, lovingness still says, “Come to me and I will forgive.  Not just forgive but cleanse.”  

Before ever we can enjoy peace within our hearts there must be a state of peace established between us and God. We must submit ourselves to the Lord, and he must forgive the past, and make with us a covenant of peace, or else there is no peace for us; for “there is no peace, saith my God, unto the wicked.

Charles Spurgeon, Peace: A Fact & a Feeling

We stand before God like a criminal on the stand.  We are guilty although so many of us refuse to admit this guilt.  We call ourselves righteous because of our good deeds or warm feelings or even because we see ourselves as victims.  But friend, we are all so, so guilty.  And yet He provides a substitute for our punishment, a peace-treaty of sorts.  One that sees Him carry the larger portion of the burden.  Our portion?  It’s to just say, “I’m guilty.  I accept your terms.”  And the dove is released.  Peace with God is done and we are made righteous, we are cleansed thanks to Jesus.  We are made into allies rather than enemies.

If this seems a bit far-fetched, too difficult to grasp you may be right.  Imagine, if you will, standing in your local court docket.  The sergeant of arms reads your crimes from a large ream of paper.  The list includes small misdemeanors such as rolling through a stop sign (x100) or not turning on your blinker when changing lanes (x1000).  The severity of the crimes increases to stealing (the fruit from your neighbor’s tree, the pen from the office, the item not charged but made it into your grocery bag, another person’s parking place or spot in line) to defamation of your supposed friend’s character or even of someone you have never met.  The list includes all the lies, small and large, the times you were downright mean or rude, all the instances you turned a blind eye to a person in need.  It may include adultery, debauchery, times of greed and idolatry.  At the final page sits the judge’s punishment for all your crimes, for your crimes against humanity he says.  100 years in a harsh workcamp where you will be broken and live out your days in despair.  

However, as at a wedding whereby the pastor asks if anyone has anything to speak against the impending union, the judge asks if anyone would like to intervene for the accused; anyone who would be punished in your place.  You look out into the crowded benches.  Into the faces of your children, your spouse, brothers, sisters, aunts, parents, friends.  What are you thinking?  Are you hoping someone would step forward and take your place in what will be your hell on earth?  Your sweet daughter, perhaps?  Your favorite sibling?  Your ailing father?  No, you are probably pleading with your eyes for not one of them to take your place.  You love them too much.  And yet your son, the strong, intelligent, gentle one stands.  He declares you free of guilt and will take your place.  He approaches you and looks into your eyes and says, “I am strong and you are weak  I love you too much to see you suffer.”  And you fall at his feet not just from the weight of his overwhelming love but also in the sorrow of your sin.  You look up to him and he says, “I will see you again one day and we will both be restored in fullness.”

This is what the Lord has done for us.  He takes our sentence on and erases our sin and guiltiness.  He signs on the dotted line for peace and justice.  He does so to allow us to blossom in God’s loving arms.

Our hearts can be free of the fears of this world because we know when our day comes we will be welcomed into God’s tent, not left outside waiting for a terrible judgement.  And when we understand this Shalom type of peace it will lead us to a state of peacefulness.  The peace Jesus mentioned at the end of John 14:27: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

Coming up: A State of Peacefulness