What would a moment of peace look like for you? Mine involves a cool starlit evening, some dark woods, and a glowing campfire. But maybe yours is completely different, like when the toddler takes a nap and you can curl up with a good book. Or a business meeting where everyone is on the same page. Or a family gathering that is steeped with joy instead of petty words. Peace seems to be very elusive at times, hard won and easily lost.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23, NASB95)
If you are just joining us, this is the seventh article in a series on the Fruit of the Spirit. And yes, we’re working backward. For this series we are going to be looking at three things, what does the fruit look and taste like, how can we encourage its growth, and how can we give it away. The fruit of the Spirit that grows in us by walking with Jesus is not only for our benefit but also for those around us. In addition to this article, there is a link to a short story I wrote in 2004 which portrays in some way a Fruit of the Spirit that is being given away.
What does the fruit of peace look like?
There are many different kinds of peace. Peace for some is lack of conflict or freedom from war. For others peace is only found when they are winning or are in control. I will honestly admit that while Betty is a perfectly fine driver I don’t always feel at peace when she’s behind the wheel. While I’d like to blame that lack of peace on her, it’s really because I’m not in control and would make different choices. While peace may be found by being in control a deeper peace is found through surrender. Surrender leads to reconciliation and relationships put right. Peace is not simply a cease-fire, but walking in harmony, unity, security, and reconciliation. Consider the following passage from Ephesians. Paul is talking about how faith in Jesus brings Jews and non-Jews together.
“For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were far away, and peace to those who were near; for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:14–18, NASB95)
Notice, Jesus is our peace. There is a cessation of hostility and enmity. There is a reality of unity and harmony. There is reconciliation through Jesus. There is security in access to God the Father. Not only does this way of peace function between people groups but also between individuals. But then we need to face a reality, what if the other side doesn’t want peace? We may never experience complete peace. Jesus promised as such, “Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division; for from now on five members in one household will be divided, three against two and two against three.” (Luke 12:51–52, NASB95) We don’t often hear those words. The point is that the fruit of peace finds unity, harmony, reconciliation, and security in Jesus. Other moments of peace may follow, but even if they don’t we still have peace in Christ.
How do we grow the fruit of peace?
Let’s be honest. Most of us let outside forces and circumstances determine our feelings of peace. But the fruit of peace is different. Its seems that every day there’s a news story about someone’s peace being upset by something silly. Chalk statements, microaggressions (a confusing term to me), Starbucks holiday cups. I hesitate to suggest more because someone somewhere will become offended and lose their peace. But let’s think about things closer home, what steals your peace? Or to go the other way, what things have to be just right for you to have peace? When we only look outwards for peace it will be hard won and difficult to keep. It would be easy to assume then that our peace must be sourced inside. That’s the opposite of outside, right? The real fruit of peace is not some Zen-like internal calm and control where our feathers are never ruffled. Peace is not obtained outwardly, as our world conforms to our hopes. Nor is it grown inwardly as we rule our emotions. The real fruit of peace is grown in something entirely other or more specifically comes from someone entirely other. It begins with reconciliation with God through Jesus and continues to grow as we surrender more and more of our wants, desires, offenses, hurts, wounds, and expectations to Him. Peace is not grown by controlling our circumstances or our emotions but by a vital person to person living relationship with Jesus. He is our peace. Jesus said, ““Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27, NASB95) We discover then that the fruit of peace is all about growing into Jesus’ peace.
How do we give away the fruit of peace?
We know that folks must “find” Jesus to discover real and lasting peace. We give away the fruit of peace by connecting them with Jesus and the peace He offers. I think that the best way we can do that is by praying with folks. USA Today recently ran a story about an Idaho Sheriff’s Deputy*. Officer Brakeman pulled over a car for going ten over the speed limit. The story reports, “He could tell something was different as they started talking. The driver’s mother was in the passenger seat. ‘I asked where they were headed, and she said to the oncologist,’ Brakeman said. ‘She then started to become a little bit emotional.’ He learned the driver’s mother had been battling cancer. They were making another painful visit to the doctor’s office. Brakeman went back to his patrol car to collect his thoughts. He knew he needed something more powerful than a ticket here. ‘I walked back up to the passenger side and asked her mother if she would accept a prayer,’ Brakeman said. ‘And she said, ‘Absolutely.’ So then we prayed and told them to have a good day and went back to my car.’” Officer Brakeman gave away the fruit of peace that day by doing and showing, not by telling.
The real fruit of peace is not what we think it is. It’s not getting our ducks in a row and keeping them there. It’s not the end of hostilities and war. It’s not an inward calm – like a lake without waves while a storm blows above. The real fruit of peace is experienced as we connect with Jesus. I don’t mean connecting in a religious sense, or as a philosophy, or even as a way of life; but connecting with Him as a real person. The real fruit of peace is only found in Jesus. There will be war, conflicts, troubles, offenses, pains, and heartaches. We can’t control everything. Some may find ways to control themselves but even that can be upended. The only sure peace when the storm is raging and the seas are high is Jesus. As the song says, sometimes He calms the seas, sometimes He calms His child. That’s my encouragement for you today. There may be a storm blowing right now in your life, find your peace in Jesus Christ and nothing else.