I have seen much that has troubled me in these many months. Not only me, but many of my friends, our community, even the whole world. The entire world has been racked by the coronavirus. Our country has been torn apart as we’ve counted deaths from Covid-19 and racial violence and rioting. Unemployment, economic recession, and socialism are threats to the American way of life. All and more have added fuel to a highly charged, hotly contested election season that at the time of this writing, seems to be far from over.
And yet, my concern as a pastor, has more to do with the Christian world than with the world who doesn’t have faith in Jesus. I’ve seen things between Christians that I never expected to see. I’ve seen Christians hole up in their homes for fear of getting sick, instead of going to church. I’ve seen a beloved church and pastor under fire and sued for refusing to stay closed and opening their doors to worshippers of our Great God. Amazingly, the most condemning criticism comes from other Christians. I’ve seen Christians heatedly split over why Jesus came into the world; to reconcile us with God (Gospel), with each other (social justice), or a varying mixture of both.
I’ve seen another beloved (and previously trusted) pastor ripped to shreds because he wrote an article emphasizing the eternal view and the Gospel as of higher importance than a worldview or political ideology (he was right, by the way). He confronted the idols of Christians (even good fights can be idols) and he was shredded, even “canceled” by them for it. As I contemplate all these things, I’m reminded of the famous line in the Lord of the Rings movie, “How did it come to this?”
As I’ve thought and prayed, I’ve questioned the Lord about where do we go from here? What do Christians need from each other to restore unity? And then, what does the world need to see from Christians that will bring them hope… even the everlasting hope of salvation? What I believe the Lord has shown me is that the biggest thing we can bring to each other and to the world is PEACE… an unusual, overwhelming, unexplainable peace that is visible to everyone. A fulfilling, satisfying, internal peace that is anchored in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and is outwardly expressed to all.
There is much evidence in the Bible of how powerful is the one who takes hold of the peace of God and allows it to rule in their hearts (Col 3:15). The peace of God is the countermeasure to the conflict and tension we experience internally in our hearts, and externally between others. It is a gift of God, given through the Holy Spirit, placed directly into our heart. Allow me to give some evidence of this.
Isaiah 26:3 – You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.
The prophet Isaiah testifies that those who keep their minds wholly focused on God will experience this perfect peace. It is perfect in its completeness. When we discipline our minds to focus on God, we deepen our trust in God alone, and we find perfect peace in the midst of whatever happens (Covid-19, racial tension, election results, etc).
Here’s more evidence. Jesus taught his disciples to receive and live in his peace. On the night before Jesus died, he told his disciples that the time had come. He was leaving them through his death on a cross the very next day. He’d been telling them all along what was eventually going to happen, but they didn’t understand and ignored him. In fact, they focused on their own plans for what they wanted Jesus to do, rather than die on the cross for their sins. They didn’t get it. But on the night before he died, they finally got it. Nothing was going to stop him from going to the cross. They were distraught and in great fear of the future (sound familiar?). And yet here’s what Jesus said to help them.
John 14:27 – Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.
Jesus promised to give them a supernatural, perfect peace, not like the world gives which isn’t peace at all.
Two days later, after some of the disciples witnessed the death of Jesus, and others fled, they were together in hiding. A resurrected Jesus appears to them and the first thing he says to them is “Peace be with you” (John 20:19). Some scholars have said that message was a common greeting in that day. That may very well be. However, Jesus said it again, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:21). I believe everything Jesus said was important and had meaning. The first time he said it, the message referred to the disciples being in fear of the near future (Jews). The second time it was about their long-term future (as church builders). The Lord’s intent was that we have nothing to fear and allow peace to rule in our hearts.
Let’s apply this to the Lord’s current disciples – Us. When we’re actively engaged in serving one another, and our neighbors, we shouldn’t live in fear of the virus. Our life is in the Lord’s hands, not our own. Always has been, always will. We don’t control living, we only control what we do with our living, for as long as God has numbered our breaths. So, “peace be with you!”
When we see our country decimated by rioting, hear calls to defund the police, consider the monumental tragedy of abortion, the prospect that some of our rights will be taken away, and even the possibility of increased persecution against the church, we look to the Lord for our future. We don’t look to governments, political parties, or party officials.
Sufferers of Covid-19 are not redeemed by men. Racism or rioters are not redeemed by men. Aborted children are not redeemed by men. Not one aspect of our country is redeemed by men. We need to stop looking at Presidents, Senators, Governors, or Mayors as the one who will redeem our value systems. Every one of them needs redemption themselves. There is only one redeemer, Jesus Christ, and he is Lord over All! His Father is sovereign overall. So, “peace be with you!”
Christian, the greatest thing you must do is to find peace amid all that’s going on. That doesn’t mean a mindful reconciliation of all the variables in the world. That’s not possible. It means Isaiah 26:3. You find perfect peace by keeping your mind completely focused on God as you develop a deeper trust in Him. You need this! I need this! And if it means turning off the news channels, getting off social media, and staying in closet to read your Bible and pray, then let’s do it. We need to let peace rule in our hearts and find our way back to worshipping Him again.
This is also what the world desperately needs from you and I. The world needs to see God’s peace ruling our hearts. I speak often about John 13:35 – Jesus said they will know you are my disciples by the love we have for one another. And yet, it occurs to me that the first thing anyone will see from us – before they see love – is if our hearts are at peace. They will not see or feel love (or joy) from us unless we are living faithfully in peace.
If we’re posting on social media, and every post is promoting our “side” and railing against the other, we are not demonstrating or promoting peace. Therefore, they will see no love or joy in our hearts. People will certainly know our political ideology, but they won’t know that we know Jesus… at least not in a way that will do them any good.
How important is it that peace reign in our hearts? My final thoughts come from Acts 9.
Acts 9:31 – So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.
The universal church (all the churches together) had peace… and as a result it multiplied. That’s our mission and goal, right? Our mission is not to make more or better Americans. Our mission is to make more disciples (Matt 28:19) and present them mature in Christ (Col 1:28). Living in fear of the future, from any existential threat, is a subversion of the Gospel and the lordship of Jesus Christ. Instead, let’s find God’s peace and demonstrate his peace to each other, and let that be what changes the world. Peace be with you.