Monday, February 3, 2014

Living In Peace When There Is No Peace

The Bible urges its believers to do everything possible to be at peace with each other (Romans 14: 19). Christ is peace and accentuates peace. Christ is the ‘Prince of Peace’ (Isaiah 9: 6). Christ accentuates peace, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5: 9, NIV).

The Bible Recognizes Peacelessness
Isn’t it a fact that peace gains its meaning only during chaos and conflict (peacelessness)?

Consider a world without conflict or chaos. This world then is without evil, for evil causes conflict and chaos. If evil and conflict are nonexistent in a world, then by sheer consequence, peace ensues.

If peace fills that world, and if that world is without a prospect of conflict, any teaching urging people to be at peace would be meaningless. One need not promote peace when all is peaceful and when there is absolutely no threat to peace.

When the Bible urges its believers to remain at peace, evil and its consequential deeds are not only implicit but acknowledged as rampant.

Therefore, we need not be fascinated to observe Christ’s teaching on persecution immediately following HIS teaching on peace. “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven,” was Christ’s statement immediately after his teaching on peace (Matthew 5: 10, NIV).

Do Not Expect Total Peace

Peace, in a worldly sense, is nonexistent during persecution. Persecution is all about conflict between good and evil. When opposing forces of good and evil collide, there is always a conflict. There cannot be absolute peace when evil is rampant.

God is sovereign. HE is Almighty. HE can do anything without contradicting HIMSELF. If God permits evil to exist for a certain period of time, it is reasonable to conclude that there will not be absolute / total peace until evil is totally eradicated.

Jesus’ first coming was not to eliminate evil, for HE did not come to eliminate Satan – the source of all evil and conflict. Conflict will remain as long as Satan is in existence.

Satan and evil will be eliminated once and for all when the Lord returns again. But we do not know the date or time of that much awaited glorious return of the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, until the Lord Jesus returns to eliminate evil, there will be a state of peacelessness in this world.

If it’s God’s will that there cannot be absolute peace in this world, then one cannot or should not expect absolute peace in this world. 

Evil and conflict is the context of Matthew 10. Conflict is intrinsic in: driving out impure spirits / demons (1, 8), judgment – an outcome of conflict (14-15, 32-33), the analogy of sheep and wolves and snakes and doves (16), persecution (17-23), and fear (26-30).

It’s within the interesting setting of conflict between good and evil that Christ uttered these stunning words, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law — a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household’” (Matthew 10: 34-36, NIV).

Implicit in the words of Christ in Matthew 10: 34-36 is the truth that all those who profess absolute or supreme loyalty to Jesus and to the Bible will be persecuted by the evil one.

In fact, anyone who is loyal to what he believes to be as truth will face persecution in one form or another. When an individual aligns with truth, then by sheer consequence, he will overtly or covertly oppose that which he presumes to be a lie.

Then those believing the lie to be truth (even his own family and friends), will oppose this individual, even to the extreme extent of inflicting physical harm upon this person. 

Are We For God Or Against God?
Can a radical Christian withdraw from conflict? No! Please allow me to elaborate.

Before we go any further, let us establish the framework for the term “conflict.” I personally prefer “The Message” version of the Bible for this verse and for this context. “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom…” says Matthew 5: 10 (Emphasis mine).

Any mention of ‘conflict’ in this essay refers to a conflict that tempts a Christian to reduce his commitment to God. This conflict could be in any sphere of his private or public life – career, friendship, hobby, marriage, ministry, parenting…

For instance, when a Christian’s faith comes under attack, some Christians, even those with adequate faith and knowledge, would prefer not to address the matter so to be politically correct and / or because of fear.

In other words, some would not stand up for his faith so not to offend the person attacking his faith. Alternatively, some would withdraw on account of fear; fear of physical harm or fear of losing a certain benefit (job or reputation).

It is in this very context I believe that many Christians who subscribe to universalism, relativism, postmodernism, and selective agnosticism (especially regarding salvation) do so because of fear and / or to be politically correct or because of other compulsions.

Pray For Inner Peace 

From another vantage point, when a Christian encounters conflict, he / she ought to primarily pray or desire for inner peace. As long as God allows Satan to exist, he will bring disasters upon God’s people.

God, for the sake of HIS loving, just and pleasing purpose, will situationally allow this to happen in a believer’s life. When disaster strikes a believer, inner peace is the first casualty.

Instead of primarily praying for deliverance from disaster, Christians should pray for the peace of Christ to hold them in Christ and with sanity during these moments of disaster, however painful it may be.

Christ came to save people – to make the spiritually dead man to live eternally. Christ also came to equip HIS people to live in peace and at peace with each other even in an environment of conflict.

These are the Lord’s words, “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, NIV).

A radical Christian lives in peace even when he is deeply stressed and troubled, for he loves Jesus and Jesus loves and lives in him.

Contrasting Christ’s Peace And World’s Peace

When a Christian runs away from truth, he gets only the peace of the world. He does not receive the peace of the Lord.

Oh wait, do we have two categories of peace? Yes!

Let us read Christ words again but in a different translation of the Bible. “I leave behind with you—peace; I give you my own peace and my gift is nothing like the peace of this world. You must not be distressed and you must not be daunted,” says John 14: 27 (PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

There is a peace that is from Christ and there is a peace that is of the world. The peace that is from Christ is mentioned in the fruit of the Spirit.

But what is that which sets apart the ‘peace of the world’ and the ‘peace from Christ?’

Very simply, the ‘peace of the world’ is a temporary / vulnerable / superficial / incomplete / limited peace that offers partial or superficial contentment in life’s situations. The material benefits of this world offer this peace.

In utter contrast, the peace that is from Christ is permanent and protects the Christian in every situation of life – the good, the bad and the ugly.

For instance, if a Christian’s home (the source of peace) is destroyed by fire, the Christian who is filled with the peace of this world will be anxious, disturbed, agitated, frustrated, angry, hopeless, depressed, and doubtful because it was his home that offered him peace. When his home was taken away from him, this Christian loses his peace.

In stark contrast, the Christian filled with the peace from Christ will be stable, totally faithful and dependant on his God even during terrible disasters (cf. Job 2: 10). The Christian filled with Christ’s peace will display negative emotions fractionally or will not display the emotions displayed by a Christian filled with the peace of this world.

In fact, people consoling the Christian who is filled with the peace from Christ, would be re-energized in his / her spirit. Such is his influence on others during apparently endless moments of extreme disaster and persecution.

Receiving Peace From Christ

How then do we receive this peace from Christ? This verse says it all, “I am the vine itself, you are the branches. It is the man who shares my life and whose life I share who proves fruitful. For the plain fact is that apart from me you can do nothing at all” (John 15: 5, PHILLIPS, Emphasis Mine).

A radical Christian will not run away from conflict, although his family members may be the channels of conflict. During moments of conflicts and disasters, he will not fear; his faith in Christ will not decrease. He will be at peace with himself, his neighbors, and with God always.

Yes, Christ came to offer HIS peace. HIS peace will keep us sane and in Christ always. Christ’s peace is ours when we remain in Christ and Christ in us.

A Christian who thinks that he / she is yet to be filled with the peace of Christ should ask Jesus in prayer. We will not be perfect in this world. We are all growing in Christ. Ask HIM without giving up (Luke 18: 1). This is living radical Christian life.

If you are not a Christian, and if you are not at peace, then you need Jesus in your life. Give your life to Jesus and HE will carry you through.

In conclusion, our world will not experience total peace as long as God allows Satan’s existence in this world. When a Christian lives for Christ, he will stand for the truth always. So a Christian will live amidst peacelessness (conflict and chaos). But he need not remain in a state of peacelessness. He can receive peace from Christ in an ever increasing measure, all through his life, and even through moments of pain, and thus live in peace.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV). Amen. 

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