Saturday, January 21, 2017

Know Jesus Know Peace

"You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!  Isaiah 26;3

My husband recently convinced me to see the new Star Wars movie, Rouge One. One of the scenes that resonated with me is when Chirrut, a blind warrior walks across battlefield with bullets racing all around him while saying, "I am one with the Force, the Force is with me." He chanted it over and over blindly walking to a destination he could not see. To me, he was the picture of peace, fulfilling his purpose, unfazed by the conflict and chaos that raged all around him. 

What is peace to you?  Is it the absence of conflict? Is it a feeling of transcending time and space? Is it the calm after the storm? What about in the midst of the storm? Is it worth dying for? Is it being comfortable and safe?  Is it even possible to achieve?  

I admit my desire for peace is often about being comfortable and safe. I try my best to not rock the boat, not to upset people and stick to my own business. My view of peace is pretty shallow compared to God's peace. The Hebrew word "shalom" is often translated "peace" but means so much more. "Shalom" contains the idea of abundant life, freedom, no conflict with other people and peace in our relationship with God.  Shalom would be the state of being if life was perfect in every way. No worry, no stress, no conflict. Isaiah 26:3 says, "You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

Perfect peace, first of all means peace with God.  Abundant life. Life with purpose. Life without fear of anything except God's power, might and holiness. Jesus said, "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

As much as I want peace, what happens when our desire for peace and comfort conflicts with another's desires? Jesus knew that conflict would be a part of the call to follow him. Jesus said in Matthew 10:34, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword." This verse seems to contradict John 14:27 that says Jesus would give us peace.  His peace is not as the world gives. It is peace that passes all understanding. It is peace that surrounds us in the midst of conflict.

Being with Christ results in peace even in the midst of scary and difficult situations. This reminds me of a story about a fishing boat caught in a bad storm. After a busy day, Jesus was napping in the stern of the boat when the storm came up.  The boat started taking on water. Jesus's terrified friends,some who were even professional fishermen, woke him up because they thought they were all going to die.  Mark 4:39 explains that Jesus "awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”"  Then the wind ceased and the water was calm.   Jesus then asked them these questions, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 

For Jesus, the Son of God this wasn't a difficult situation. He was there when the world began, when the galaxies were created, when the waters separated and dry land appeared.  Nothing is too hard for him. His friends quickly realized that the only thing on earth or in the heavens they should fear was Jesus because He was so powerful even the wind and waves obeyed him.  

I have to admit I settle for temporal peace that is comfortable and conflict-free rather than the perfect peace and abundant life that comes from being in God's will even in the midst of the storm. I am often a cozy chicken afraid of people's opinions rather than humbled by the magnificence of the God who made the universe and everyone in it. 

A couple of my friends had some tough conversations that took them out of their comfort zone this week. One friend's daughter, who is African American was called a hateful word.  Since she goes to a very small school, my friend, her husband and her daughter were called into the principal's office to explain to the other girl and her family why her name calling was hateful.  Honestly, my friend's daughter didn't want to go. She didn't want to make a big deal of it and she just wanted peace.  I don't blame her.  Sometimes it is easier to be insulted than to stand up and say that something was wrong and risk being insulted again.  It wasn't easy but my friend went to the meeting. She kindly explained why what the little girl said was so hurtful and then gave her a big hug told her she loved her and forgave her. Peace came with the hard work of truth and forgiveness. 

Another friend went to the principal's office at her kid's school last week because she was upset that the school had requested everyone wear colorful clothes in support of gay pride. She was very upset that something personal and private like one's sexual preferences was being made into a big deal at her kid's school. Many of her friends didn't want to cause conflict so they just planned on keeping their kids home.   I believe that my friend was very brave, she risked a great deal asking the politically incorrect question, "Why is this private matter appropriate for school?" Her meeting with the principal went well. The school hadn't intended to make everyone wear colorful clothes. It wasn't required or even expected. Once things were cleared up everyone involved felt heard and valued.

I respect people who stand up for what they believe in and am often challenged by the boldness some of my friends have to fight and stand up for things that are important to them. I have friends who are vigilant in fighting things like animal abuse, suicide, and abortion.  I have realized that my fear of speaking up is driven less by love of God and more by my fear of people.

There is a bumper sticker that caught my attention several years ago that said, "No Jesus, No peace; Know Jesus, Know Peace."   It was a cute play on words that is resonating with me as I ponder my friends' and my quest for peace.  Some of my friends don't know peace because they don't know Jesus.  As I observe their lives, their lack of peace drives their passions. A sense of injustice and a desire to right the wrongs in the world drives their protests, arguments and deep hurts.   

I also have friends who know Jesus and they know peace even in the midst of the storm.  Peace comes from being in the midst of God's will, fulfilling His purpose.  They are like Chirrut in Rouge One walking with inner peace even as bullets surround them. They are consumed by a conviction that gets them out of bed on Saturday mornings to provide a safe place for women contemplating abortion, they volunteer in areas run by drug cartels, they learned Arabic to minister to Muslims in America, and they sit beside women who are learning how to live after years of human trafficking. They have found perfect peace even as the challenges of this life crash over their lives.

How have you experienced perfect peace in the midst of the storm?

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