Peace seems to be so elusive these days. We hear on the news that there are shootings, robberies, rapes, murder, deception, road rage, escalated arguments and so much more. Then we see the earth becoming more volatile with earth quakes, storms, fires and so on. News about spreading disease is becoming commonplace. Friends cannot seem to get along with each other. In the church, we are seeing the same activity as among the unchurched. What is worse is that Christians know better; or they should if they are truly following Christ and not their own hearts.
Now more than ever, we need to be vigilant. We need to be who we say we are, children of God most high. There are numerous places in the New Testament where we are warned against the sins mentioned above. We are cautioned about the dangers of allowing ourselves to entertain sin in our hearts. The warning extends to the danger of allowing it in the church and in our relationships with others. If there is sin in our hearts, we cannot have peace in our lives and our relationships.
Psalm 34:14 says, “Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.” It takes effort on our part to find and cultivate peace in our lives. Hebrews 12:14 says, “Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.” Read also Romans 12:18; Romans 14: 17-19
Psalm 37:37 says, “Consider the blameless, observe the upright. A future awaits those who seek peace.”
Peace does not come from our circumstances. It comes from God himself. 1 Corinthians 14:33a says, “For God is not a God of disorder, but of peace…”
Philippians 4:6-7 says, “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 Jesus Christ.”
So why is it that so many of us live lives without peace? If we study the scriptures, we will find that our lack of peace is not because of the circumstances we are in. It is because we have lost sight of who we are in Christ. We have lost sight of the source of our peace, Jesus Christ. We have begun to take Him for granted. We have begun to take things into our own hands; to fix our circumstances and others who rub us the wrong way. We have accepted lies that hinder us from seeing things through the eyes of our savior. The problem with that is, we cannot fix or change others and circumstances are often beyond our ability to control or change. The only things we can change are our own hearts and attitudes about others, circumstances and God. Trying to do anything other than working on ourselves too often gets us into trouble.
Heb 12:14 above says “make every effort…” Other translations say, “with everything that is in you…” That both empowers you and shows you your limit. If you pour your whole being into making sure there is peace between you and others, you will stand a good chance of succeeding especially when your effort is in the power and peace of Christ. The limitation comes at the place where your God given boundary ends and the other person’s God given boundary begins. God created us with the power and right to make choices. If you try to force them or manipulate them, to do what you think is the thing that will bring peace, you will fail while violating their God given boundaries. If you make every effort to bring peace and they are not willing, they have that right to choose unwillingness. They will answer to God for their choices and you will answer to God for yours. Keep trying gently. Galatians 6:9 says, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time, we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” Please read Galatians 6:1-10. that will give you the context for verse 9.
That brings me to the topic of sin. I think we need a definition. Wikipedia has a fairly good definition for the word “sin.”
“In a religious context, sin is the act of violating God’s will. Sin can also be viewed as anything that violates the ideal relationship between an individual and God; or as any diversion from the perceived ideal order for human living. To sin has been defined as “to miss the mark.””
The scripture defines sin in many ways but, to condense it, sin is a violation of the will of God, a rebellion against God, any act, thought, word or attitude that is not in agreement with God’s will and character. The natural consequence of sin is loss of relationship with God or anther person and a loss of peace in our own hearts. That is why scripture teaches us to make every effort to live at peace with everyone.
If the scripture tells us to not do something, doing it is sin with consequences. It can include everything from a horrendous evil act all the way to an attitude or thought and everything in between on what seems to us to be a continuum. God says sin is sin and the smallest sin possible has the same consequences against others and ourselves as the largest sin. Scripture tells us that if we have sinned in one thing, we have broken the whole law of God. In order for us to truly have peace, we must dig out everything in our hearts that is not in line with what God wants for us. If we continually “make every effort,” we will receive more and more peace. We need to remember that peace does not come from anything except right standing with God and that is always a work in progress for all of us. The scripture, in numerous places, tells us to pursue peace and to pour ourselves into finding it. It is about relationship building with God. The better our relationship is with God, the easier it will be for us to be at peace with others in all circumstances.
This, however, is not works salvation. It is about pursuing God with all our heart, mind, will and strength. It is about humbling ourselves before the Lord with awe and reverence. It is about imitating Christ in every aspect of our lives. All of these things, scripture tells us to do. Relationships do not just happen. They only grow if they are maintained actively. If I want relationship with someone, I need to connect with them meaningfully and regularly. It is a two way street. Both parties are involved. Jesus has so much that He wants to share with you. Peace is one of those things.
May the peace of Christ dwell in your hearts more and more each day as you follow Him into the new adventures he wants to share with you.