“I have a low tolerance for people who complain about things but never do anything to change them. This led me to conclude that the single largest pool of untapped natural resources in this world is human good intentions that are never translated into actions.” (Cindy Gallop, an English advertising consultant and founder of “IfWeRanTheWorld”) (1)
I think we would all agree that our good intentions will never fix anything or solve our problems unless we act upon them. As far as peace and gospel living go, most of us have intentions to be faithful to our calling as Christians. But acting on our intentions is a different matter entirely. Implied in Gallop’s statement above and her work with her foundation is her belief that we can do what is necessary to fix things if we would only translate our good intentions into observable behavior. You and I have probably spent enormous amounts of time trying to do what is right or good, especially in our relationships, and have failed on many of those occasions for various reasons. One reason for our failures is trying to independently to achieve something only God can do, especially when it comes to living in harmony with others. Our relationships with family members of differing ages, friends with alternative beliefs or opinions, tired and overworked co-workers vying for success, neighbors whom we don’t really know, or church members who bring all different experiences with them from different churches and backgrounds are often complex and challenging when we would like them to be pleasant, agreeable, and enriching.
Peace is something we all value; those parties who must debate and negotiate are thrilled when amenable terms are reached. We bring out the champagne (or ice cream) and sign contracts, or remind each other of what we just agreed upon, getting onto the business of life. We want peace. We seek peace. We pray for God’s peace. Unfortunately, we desire peace mainly because we want to avoid trouble and conflicts. But James reminds us that this peace must start inside us. “What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you?” (James 4:1) God wants us to be at peace with him, and at peace within ourselves, but we know that as long as we are alive here on earth, our flesh’s’ desires will war against our spirits’ renewed longings. We are like the people described by Paul in Ephesians 4:14, “…children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.” In “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” Rolf Dobelli writes about how “Why We Prefer a Wrong Map to No Map At All” in Chapter 11. (2) I was led astray by someone who gave me wrong directions, rather than just say, “I don’t know” when traveling on dirt roads in Africa, looking for a school in the bush. Dobelli makes a good point, but his worldview is godless and based only on man’s limited wisdom. I could cite hundreds of other people, books, and articles that point to man’s ineffective ways to fix our thinking, our problems, and our relationships. But we have another resource for resolving our differences, and not only to avoid turmoil. We have the Holy Spirit’s help, so we don’t have to seek just any solution that seems better; he gives us the courage to dive into the mysterious waters of our bewilderment and conflicted desires, with his presence for our peace.
Why does God desire our peacefulness? We are called to maintain the unity of the Spirit, to attain the unity of faith and knowledge, no longer being easily influenced by wayward ideas, doctrines, or schemes, to grow in Christ as a body that works properly and is built up in love. “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all…to attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ…speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 4:1-6, 13-16) “Peace is what the saints are called unto in the effectual calling: and what is suitable to God, who is the God of peace; and to Christ, who is the Prince of peace; and to the Holy Spirit, whose fruit is peace; and to the Gospel, which is the Gospel of peace; and to the character which the saints bear, which is that of sons of peace.” (3)
The Holy Spirit is the source of our “soul” peace; he can permeate our lives and our desires for unity in the body after he establishes God’s peace in us when we are regenerated. At that time, the Spirit enters our hearts and lives to help us “feel [our] dependence on Christ in the very depths of [our] being, —in the sub-conscious life. Hence [we are] incorporated in Christ, and as a result experiences that all the grace which [we receive] flows from Christ. The constant feeling of dependence thus engendered, is an antidote against all self-righteousness.” (4) When our friend expresses her strong political leanings that are in direct opposition to ours, rather than try to prove that we are right in our opinions, desires, viewpoints, or actions, the Spirit gives us the desire and ability to be at peace and find our unity in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When a family member disagrees with our parenting style, God’s Spirit walks with us, bearing with others, eager to maintain our unity in Christ, and possibly using our differences as an opportunity to share the gospel. When our brother or sister at church questions our response to a biblical statement, the Spirit may convict us of their accuracy and we grow together. One of the most effective graces for peace is our corporate worship, Bible study, and prayer through our local churches. These are avenues for the Spirit to work in us, teaching us to love each other more than ourselves. “The consideration of this should engage [us] to unity, because a contrary conduct must be grieving to the Spirit of God, unsuitable to his genuine fruits, and very unlike the true spirit of a Christian.” (5)
“Immaturity in the truths of Christian doctrine makes the church like gullible children tossed helplessly by the waves and wind of cunning and deceitful schemes of false teachers…Some people think that the learning of doctrine is inherently divisive, but it is people who divide the church, whereas the knowledge of the Son of God (both knowing Christ personally and understanding all that he did and taught) is edifying and brings about “mature manhood” when set forth in love.” (6) We know that the Holy Spirit continually teaches us Jesus’s teaching and works; he is the One who gives us Christ’s peace of reconciliation and sanctification. (John 14:26-27) Our calling is to maintain the peace already given and continually supplied to us by him; this is not a one-time event, but an aspect of our eternal life with Christ.
Do we separate our lives into compartments, so that shopping, having meals with friends, working, parenting, and enjoying entertainment are all “other” things we do when we are not worshipping, praying, or studying Scripture? Or do you depend on the Spirit to supply your peace and help you maintain it in your relationships? Are you trying to fix the world and make your own (wrong) map to avoid the tricky aspects of life? Do we try to fit into the upside-down culture of our times, and the expectations of others to debate and disagree about almost everything? Or do we seek to follow God’s path of true peace? “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit. But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.” (Jude 1:18-21)
(1) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cindy_Gallop.I am not endorsing her or her foundations.
(2) Dobelli, Rolf, “The Art of Thinking Clearly,” Sceptre, U.K., 2013. I do not recommend this book.
(3) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 4:3, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-4.html
(4) Berkoff, L., Systematic Theology, “The Mystical Union” (page 452-3), Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, Reprinted 1993
(5) Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Ephesians 4:4, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/ephesians-4.html
(6) English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Ephesians 4:13-14, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
June 12, 2019