June 8, 2008
"Living In The Spirit Of Peace"
(Galatians 5:22-25, Colossians 3:14-15)
Rev. Billy D. Strayhorn
At a church dinner, a mother took her three young children through the food line. As she juggled everyone's plates and drinks, she told the kids to be on their best behavior. When they were finally seated, she let out a sigh of relief and told the kids they were doing great. She was proud of them because that hadn't had any catastrophes yet. When her 3-year-old daughter heard that, she popped up, looked around and said, "Where are they, Mommy? I'll go get some." (1)
We all know what catastrophes are don't we? We all know what Chaos and Disorder are. Actually those are the nicknames Mary and I have given our two oldest grandsons when they start all that sibling rivalry stuff. What we don't know a lot about is Peace. Especially the Peace Paul is talking about here in Galatians and Colossians.
Let's look at those two passages. Galatians 5:22-25 (NRSV)
 By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness,
 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.
 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
 If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.
Colossians 3:14-15 (NRSV)
 Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
 And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful.
Let me also read the quote which concerning the Fruit of the Spirit.
"Love is the key. Joy is love singing. Peace is love resting. Patience is love enduring. Kindness is love's touch. Generosity is love's character. Faithfulness is love's habit. Gentleness is love's self-forgetfulness. Self-control is love holding the reins." (2)
I don't disagree with the idea that "Peace is love resting." But I might add that "Peace is not just love resting but also, Peace is resting in Love." The love I'm talking about is God's love and the joy which comes from knowing God's unconditional love and the joy of living and loving unconditionally.
But what is this Peace Paul was talking about?
A. I'm pretty sure Paul wasn't talking about the same kind of Peace which the Miss America or Miss USA contestants always seem to tack on as a codicil to their desires for the world. "I'd like to become filthy rich, marry a famous actor, rock star or politician. I'd like to teach the world to play Rachmaninov on Jews harp and oh, yeah and I'd like World Peace."
The peace described there and the peace which the world generally thinks of when they think of Peace is dependent upon us. And history has proven that we're not always that dependable.
One zoo keeper I heard about apparently had ushered in the new age. He kept a lion and a lamb in the same cage. People would comes from miles around to see the incredible site of the lion and lamb together. Finally, someone asked him how he did it. "Oh, I just put in a fresh lamb every morning."
When peace is dependent upon us, it usually doesn't last. Think of all the treaties that have been signed throughout history. Then think about all the treaties that have been broken.
B. The Greek word used here in Paul's letter had two usages. First of all, it dealt with the whole idea of the serenity or physical and mental peace of a village or country or community and the individual who was in charge of keeping the peace. The keeper of the public peace, was sort of like the western idea of a sheriff and today's understanding of the police officer whose primary duty is to help us 'keep the peace' when we get unruly.
A lot of people are only seeking this kind of peace. They want financial or social peace. But what they are really looking for is not peace but safety. Not peace but security. Not peace but popularity. Not peace but superiority. Not peace but plenty. Not peace but a place in society.
A lot of people are only seeking outward signs of peace. They are only interested in an outward appearance. They're not really seeking the Biblical model or Biblical Ideal of Peace.
A. This second understanding of Peace, this second usage is the one I really want to look at because it's related to the Hebrew word, Shalom. Shalom is more than physical peace. Shalom is wholeness, oneness, it is peace of body, mind, soul and spirit. It is wholeness on every level. (3)
In John 14:27 Jesus told the Disciples, "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 let them be afraid."
This is the Peace Paul was talking about in Philippians 4:6-7 (NRSV) when he wrote: "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
This is the Peace which fill our hearts with the Grace of God in Christ so we can affirm what Jesus told the Disciples 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."
B. I heard Charles Stanley say one time that "Grace and peace are twin sisters, grace being the firstborn. Where grace abounds, peace thrives. Where grace is stunted, peace shrivels." (4)
Peace comes from "the Holy Spirit bearing witness to our Spirit that we are the children of God," children who are forgiven and loved. Children who are heirs with Christ, brothers and sisters with Jesus, the Son of God, which makes us Sons and Daughters of God, joint heirs with Christ.
Yet, we don't claim this haughtily but we humbly accept what Christ has proclaimed about us and claimed for us. Wesley called this the Grace of Assurance. The deep knowledge that your sins ARE Forgiven, without a doubt, without a worry, without strings attached. You are forgiven and your sins have been buried as far as the east is from the west.
We are "justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ." We claim that because Jesus told us to claim. We say it because Jesus said it about us first. The Grace of Assurance, is part and parcel of "the peace that passes all understanding [that] keeps our hearts and minds in Christ."
This Peace, this Shalom can only be born in us through the Love and Joy of God's Holy Spirit which lives and reigns in us. This Peace, this Shalom is one of the fruit of the Spirit. And yet when it is present, it makes all the difference in the world.
B. There once was a very devout young man who had a ring that was given him by his mother before she died. It was one of his most treasured possessions. But suddenly and unhappily he lost the ring. He searched for days but never found it. It so broke his heart that he was almost inconsolable. He told his sister and they both cried bitterly.
After a few days of grief, this devout young man suddenly stopped crying and stepped aside to pray. His sister, who didn't have the same depth of faith, laughingly said to him, "What's the good of praying about a ring? Will praying bring back your ring?"
The Young Man said, "No, sister, probably not, but praying has done this for me: it has made me quite willing to do without the ring, if that's God's will. And isn't that almost as good as having it?" (5)
Peace born of faith quiets us. Faith fills us with a Peace that makes us willing to do without what we once prized, if that's God's Will. This Peace, this Shalom makes the heart content. This Peace, this Shalom, this wholeness of heart, mind, soul and spirit isn't dependent on financial security, friends, position or wealth. This Peace, this Shalom is what made John Wesley able to write and pray the Covenant Prayer which can be found on page 607 of the UM Hymnal.
I am no longer my own, but Yours.
Put me to what You will, rank me with whom You will.
Put me to doing, put me to suffering.
Let me be employed by You or laid aside for You, exalted for You or brought low for You.
Let me be full, let me be empty. Let me have all things, let me have nothing.
I freely and heartily yield all things to Your pleasure and disposal.
And now, O glorious and blessed God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, You are mine, and I am Yours.
So be it. And the covenant which I have made on earth, let it be ratified in heaven. Amen.
This Peace, this Shalom born through the Love and Joy of God's Holy Spirit, makes all the difference in the world. It makes all the difference in our lives.
Once there was a small jazz club in New Orleans. In a corner of that club sat an old dilapidated piano. All of the jazz artists complained about this antiquated instrument. The piano players dreaded playing on it. The vocalists dreaded singing with it. And all of the combos that played the club wished that they could bring in their own piano-- just like they could a saxophone or a trumpet.
Finally, after years of listening to these jazz musicians complain about his piano, the owner of the club decided to do something about it. He had the piano painted.
There are so many people in the world who are seeking Peace, Inner Peace in their lives and don't even really know it. They've worked hard for all that they have and yet now it doesn't bring the Joy or Happiness they once thought it would. They worked to reach a certain level of position in the company t hey work for but now that they've achieved it, it's not as rewarding as they thought. Stuff and more stuff, position and power have all left them empty and maybe even emptier than when they started.
Their lives have become like that piano. All they have is a new coat of paint. Their lives are still battered, out of tune and in need of repair.
The answer, the only thing which can bring Peace to the troubled soul. The only thing which can fill that emptiness is Christ Jesus. Jesus gave His very life on the Cross so we could know with certainty that our Sins have been Forgiven. And when we invite Jesus into our lives as Lord and Savior, it's no simple paint job.
The Son of God rebuilds the entire piano of our lives. He tunes and re-tunes every string of our hearts and souls until their perfect. Sometimes that means we are stretched beyond where we are comfortable but in the end, we will avoid the catastrophe of being separated from God and become new creations filled with Peace.
1. Valerie Kulhavy, Casper, WY. Today's Christian Woman, "Heart to Heart." - adapted
3. Willaim Barclay, The Daily Study Bible, The Wesminster Press, Philadelphia, 1976. Electronic Version.
4. Charles F. Stanley in A Touch of His Peace. Christianity Today, Vol. 39, no. 2.
5. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, The Quotable Spurgeon, (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, Inc, 1990) - adapted
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