I want to begin by sharing a couple of quotes from the book study I am leading. The book is The People Called Quakers by Elton Trueblood. It is no mistake that this week in the study dealt with the chapter called, “The Struggle for Peace” as well as this being the Peace week of Advent. God is good.
Trueblood says, “It is obvious that peace does not come by wanting it” and later, “all realize that the road to peace is far from simple.” Now, before I had read this, if you were to ask me what a renowned Quaker writer would say about peace, it wouldn’t be these quotes. It would be some clear and simple lines about Jesus’ life and how we simply must obey.
But each and every one of us knows that peace is not easy. The trouble comes in our cynical and lazy age when we say that because achieving peace is hard we just have to realize it is not possible. And if it is not possible then we ought not to even attempt it.
But even if the world is sliding headlong into a situation where each person feels obligated to arm themselves and carry out their own law and justice, we are called to strive toward a different way. Trueblood mentions an old Quaker by the name of Isaac Pennington who said that every person and every government must come to grips with the evil in this world and how to quell it, but we must all strive to end hostilities because we know there is a better way. The way of Christ.
We are beginning the last week of Advent. The week where our hearts and minds and eyes center on peace. Specifically, our desire for peace. We know that God gave us peace. Jesus. Again, there is a human-sort of peace and then there is the Kingdom of God-sort of peace. And this gift works itself out in three ways: the Peace of God, a peace of spirit, and peace with others.
Peace with God
Humanity fired the first shot. We declared war with our Creator and Father in the Garden of Eden when we chose to make our own law rather than follow God’s guidance. And, yet, God did not repay us in the same manner. Instead, in love he resolved to offer us His Peace. He wanted the relationship restored, healed.
Jesus came as the gift of the Father’s Peace. And if we take that gift, we will have a restored relationship with our Creator. And having peace with God changes not just the external, vertical relationship with God, it changes me on the inside. If I have Peace with God, I will have a peace in my spirit.
Peace of spirit
I know it would probably be okay to say peace of mind, but I actually think the spirit is more accurate. Why? Because when we receive the gift of Peace with God we are actually receiving the Spirit of God within us. And God’s Spirit teaches our spirit. God’s Spirit nourishes our spirit. Our spirit is being shaped to God’s Spirit. And a person’s spirit, which is submitted to the Holy Spirit, wills the mind and body to conform to God’s Kingdom.
I sincerely believe that the world is longing for and chasing after this peace of spirit. Yet they are trying to have it without surrendering to God’s Spirit. So, will they ever find it? No, they will not.
Most of us have stories to tell of situations that ought to cause such stress, anxiety, depression, anger, and hate. Yet, somehow there is peace. I think of my own story, nearly 15 years ago. Erica was being carted off to an emergency C-section. She had lost a lot of blood; the baby was choking on it. I knew I might lose one or both of them. All the medical staff left me alone in that birthing room…yet I felt the Presence of God in a profound way. My spirit was at peace even though I knew my life and the lives of my wife and child may forever change.
And that Peace with God that the Spirit brings to our spirit doesn’t stop with the vertical, eternal or even internal reconciliation and healing. That movement of God’s Peace carries outward, horizontally to other people and all of God’s Creation.
Peace with others
The “peace” arrived at through hiding or ignoring the wrongs and evils of this world is a false peace. The “peace” arrived at through the use of force and aggression to quell the wrongs and evils of this world is a false peace. These are human solutions…and they cannot last.
It is the Peace of God that lasts. Do you remember what I said earlier—about how God responded to our first shot fired at Him? He responded in a resolved love. When we are filled with God’s Peace, we respond to the hostilities fired at us with a resolved love. God’s Love.
This love is costly. It involves sacrifice. “There is no greater love than this: that someone lay his life down for a stranger.” That is the height, depth, and breadth of Christ-like peace-making.
These three movements of peace: Peace with God, Peace within our spirit, and Peace with others…they don’t come by simply wanting it…and they are anything but simple. These three things are the ideals…the goals.
Does anyone here still find from time to time they choose to fight against one or two or all three of these things? I know I do.
I told an example story to the class on Thursday: I used to go to faculty meetings. There used to be a person that just grated against me. Oh, I would have loved to whack this person upside the head. The day before a meeting, I would think of all the smart and stinging comments I was going to produce when something critical was going to be said. And after the meeting I would dwell on all the other smart and stinging comments I should have spit back.
Now let me ask you, is that the Peace of God working out in and through me? NO! In time, God’s Spirit showed my spirit. I repented. Instead of preparing for hostility, I began to train for redemptive love responses. How could I bring God’s Peace into this situation? Did I always succeed? No. Is there temptation and failure in it today? Yes. But I am striving to surrender to learning to live out God’s Peace. And I pray that the struggle for peace is visible in my life.
The struggle for peace ought to be visible in all Christians’ lives. It ought to be visible in this church, in Rocky Mountain Yearly Meeting, in Quakers, in Christians worldwide. It is never easy and it is always costly.
Let us celebrate that it is possible! That God responded to us with love and peace! Let us live out the mandate that we are called to be citizens of the Kingdom of God. May the Peace of Jesus Christ reign in you so powerfully that you are transformed and the world transformed through you. Let it be so. Amen.