The pitcher puts his foot on the rubber and leans forward, his eyes intent on the catcher crouched sixty feet and six inches away. The count is full as the catcher flashes through the signs. The batter sets his stance and raises his bat in anticipation. The pitcher pulls back, winds up, and delivers a smoking 2-seam fastball to the outside corner. The batter sees the ball but chooses not to swing thinking that the ball will tail outside the strike zone. The ball smacks the catcher’s mitt. A heartbeat later the umpire makes his call. Ball or strike? Does the batter walk or is he out? It’s all in the hands of the umpire.
Paul wrote in his letter to the Colossians, “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15, NLT) This verse is part of one of my favorite sections of the Bible as Paul discusses the differences between the old life and the new life in Christ. In the larger section, Paul talks about God’s people laying aside old things and putting on new things. In a way, verses 12-14 could be thought of as what to do while 15-17 are the how. For our purposes today let’s just look at the 15th verse.
The Greek word in this verse translated “rule” is only used this one time in the New Testament. Although Paul did use a compound form of the same word earlier in his letter. That earlier verse says, “Don’t let anyone condemn you by insisting on pious self-denial or the worship of angels, saying they have had visions about these things.” (Colossians 2:18a, NLT) The word translated condemn is related to “rule” and has the idea of being disqualified like an athlete in a contest. The word “rule” in Colossians 3:15 likewise has the idea of someone judging an athletic contest. An umpire if you will. That umpire, that referee, according to Paul is to be the peace of Christ.
We often pray for peace; asking Jesus to calm the storms in our life or in the world around us. We rightly ask for Christ to bring peace to our hearts, to our family, to our church, and to our lives. Jesus promised, “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)
It’s good and right to pray for peace. But in addition, we are to allow Christ’s peace to become the umpire of our heart. In other words, to have our choices, our words, our attitudes, and our actions decided by the peace of Christ. I’m not talking about feeling peaceful about a decision. I know of at least one instance where a feeling of peace followed a co-worker’s decision to take their own life.
What Paul has in mind is examining the options and taking the way that protects or encourages or leads to Christ’s peace for all involved. As Paul writes to the Romans, “Do all that you can to live in peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18, NLT)
Just like in baseball we may not like or agree with the umpire’s call. It may not seem prudent. It may seem unfair. It may cost us something. It may put the burden of taking the first step on us. But if we really want peace in our lives we must let Christ’s peace be the umpire of our heart as life throws every imaginable curveball our way.