We sang songs at church this week about Jesus being our peace. There are two meanings of peace for most Christians today. One is individual peace, being free from inner turmoil. The other is interpersonal peace, living in harmony with others.
The second sense is nearly always what Scripture means. For example, “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Col 3:12) does not mean, as some Christians think, that we are guided by feeling peace about a decision, it means that we pursue peace with each other in everything we do.
At least one of the songs we sang was talking about peace in this second sense. It said Jesus is our peace because he has “broken down every wall” or something to that effect. In other words, Jesus is the peace between us, not merely the peace within us.
Other songs were about personal peace, about no longer being anxious or troubled. Even though this is not the most typical meaning of “peace” in the New Testament, it can be a legitimate application of the Biblical meaning. We have personal peace because we are no longer at war with God. We used to be his enemies, but now we have been forgiven.
Furthermore, inner turmoil is a kind of war within myself. When I “have it all together”, when I am sure of what I want and what I believe and who I am, then the turmoil is quieted and I am at peace “with myself” — which is peace in the first sense. For the Christian, though, this peace is always the by-product of peace with God.
I was thinking about all that this week as we sang about the peace that was coming when Jesus returns. That’s clearly true of interpersonal peace — Jesus will put an end to war and injustice — but I also long for personal peace. Are the two ideas still connected?
Yes, at least in my case. I worry about a lot of things, but almost all of them are people-related. I worry about letting people down; about being judged; about being treated unfairly; about being embarrassed; and so on. All these worries reflect the fact that in a fallen world, we are always a little bit at war with everyone else. If the whole world were full of people who were perfectly loving, peace in the first sense would be blended with peace in the second sense to create just plain Peace.
That’s the kind of peace we’ll have someday. When Jesus restores all things and makes all relationships right, than peace will come in both senses.
A good book about the way we are all a little bit at war with everyone else is Donald Miller‘s “Searching for God Knows What”.