Monday, January 26, 2009

Cultivating Peace

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give 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

Trouble in Mind

Peace comes in two varieties: ease and fidelity. Ease is an internal state—quietude built on confidence and courage. Fidelity is a mutual understanding—harmony built on accord, including agreements to disagree. One type of peace won’t survive without the other, however; when one goes untended, its complement soon shrivels away. Trouble in mind bears trouble in life, and vice versa. Unease about a situation puts us on the defensive, inevitably leading to conflicts and ensuing chaos. Conflicts destabilize situations, engendering discomfort and anxiety.

Consequently, peace—the third of Paul’s fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5.22)—must be cultivated with delicacy and determination. An unusual amount of thought is required to sustain its growth, protecting both varieties from undue stress and unwarranted fear. Peace of either variety, whether ease or fidelity, can’t thrive without generous supplements of faith. This demands we place total trust in what we believe despite what we see. If we look for peace, we have to see its potential long before we expect to see first signs of growth.

The Legacy of Christ

Peace is the legacy of Christ. In John 14, as He explains His imminent departure to the disciples, He wills His peace to those who follow Him. “This peace isn’t like any you’ll ever find in the world,” He tells us. And then He says that His peace encompasses both varieties. “Don’t be troubled,” He says. Be at ease. “Don’t be afraid.” Absence of fear is the basis of fidelity. The moment worry of harm or betrayal enters a relationship discord takes root. I start to distrust your loyalty, question your motives, and read between the lines. My guard goes up and my faith fails. Peace on both fronts—internal and with others—shrivels and dies.

Cultivating peace, then, begins with claiming our inheritance of peace with complete assurance it’s ours. Peace is in us and our job is to weed out doubt and wariness that destroy it. This makes no sense much of the time, because behaviors and attitudes we encounter blatantly threaten our peace. And, frankly, they have every potential of doing so. But the peace we’re called to produce is not our own. It’s the peace of God, which means it’s impervious to any attack or insult. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus,” Philippians 4.6-7 assures us. Making peace grow into ripe, nourishing fruit comes from removing anxiety—unease and doubt—and releasing our problems to the care and providence of our Father. We may not understand why or how His peace overpowers personal doubt and interpersonal conflict, but we know it does and will. It keeps our hearts and minds.

It Can Be Done
Like love and joy, peace is a summer fruit. It blossoms in season and ripens steadily until its benefits are ready for harvest. Cultivating peace is a tedious, often backbreaking process. Yet it can be done. Paul writes in Romans 12.18, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Those who sow discord, jealousy, fear, and anger are outside our control. But as far as it depends on us, we can live at peace with everyone. The attitudes and actions that would rattle and rile the self-serving individual can’t threaten our peace. These include assaults on our pride or identity or even our right to be. No one beyond our Father has any authority on such matters, so those who weigh in aren’t worth serious consideration. Whether or not they live at peace with us, we shall live at peace with them. Christ’s peace protects our hearts from doubts and fears. It’s an unworldly peace, an incomprehensible peace, a peace that only God’s Spirit can nurture and produce.

If we look for peace, we have to see its potential long before it starts to grow.

(Tomorrow: Surviving on Patience)


Mariah and Byron Edgington said...

I'm interested in reading more of your blog entries. I found you by accident -- or maybe not. We believe everyone should be married to their best friend, so I read the blog you wrote after your parents emailed you. Lots of food for thought there. Mariah/Byron

Tim said...

Mariah/Byron, welcome to Straight-Friendly! I'm glad you found us--and firmly believe there are no accidents.

I've just scanned through your blog--Caffection!--and reflect your comment... I want to spend more time reading your entries. I look forward to hearing from you as you spend time here and I look just as forward to spending time at your place.

We're just a happy group of Christians here--no pretenses or presumptions. God loved us, one by one, gay, straight, every gender, every color, every age, and we couldn't be more excited about sharing His love with everyone else!

God bless you both. I'm so glad you're here!


Missy said...

Tim, I'm speechless. This is brilliant. So intuitively true and well written.
Thank you.

Tim said...

Missy, now you've left me speechless. (An unusual state for either of us, eh?) Thank you for making my day!


Missy said...

Just so you know, I borrowed HEAVILY from this for my weekend lesson on John--love the Peace "theme." It's a perfect segue for talking about relatability and getting along. And it fits in nicely with these activities I found at teaching tolerance.

You're a gem.

Tim said...

Missy, you honor me (and S-F) beyond all due by "borrowing" anything here as you teach young people. Just knowing this makes the world so much bigger and brighter. I owe you big time for this!

The activities, BTW, are cooler than cool--and as I glanced over them, I found myself feeling slight twinges of jealousy that I never had a Bible teacher as hip, cool, and smart as you!

What great work you are doing in these young lives. God bless and strengthen you in every way. (And if I'm a gem, you're the Hope Diamond, my dear!)