When it comes to the next fruit of the Spirit I confess that I am at somewhat of a loss. Peace just seems like such an abstract concept to me. While looking at this particular work of God in the lives of His children, however, I have come to see how real and concrete this Peace can be.
I feel that, to begin, I must define the term. The following definition is straight out of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.
1peace \ˈpēs\ noun
[Middle English pees, from Old French pais, from Latin pac-, pax; akin to Latin pacisci to agree — more at pact]
1 : a state of tranquillity or quiet: as
a : freedom from civil disturbance
b : a state of security or order within a community provided for by law or custom 〈a breach of the peace〉
2 : freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions
3 : harmony in personal relations
4 a : a state or period of mutual concord between governments
b : a pact or agreement to end hostilities between those who have been at war or in a state of enmity
5 — used interjectionally to ask for silence or calm or as a greeting or farewell
— at peace
: in a state of concord or tranquillity
I normally hate to use definitions from a dictionary because language is such a fluid concept that it is difficult to be normative in the application of denotative meaning. I tend to be a connotative user of words. In plain English that means that I try to let the context of a word give it meaning rather than trying to force a formal definition onto a word that is better understood in broader, or narrower, terms. In this case, however, I will make an exception in that I will use the dictionary definition and put it into a context that depicts rather than defines the meaning of the word.
To begin I must tell you that Peace is only from God. Is 45:7 says, “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things”. Isaiah makes it clear, Peace is of God. In this study I am assuming two factors: first that only those who know Christ as Savior can have the fruit of the Spirit, and second that God is in complete control of the entire universe and all it contains. This is crucial to the idea of Peace because only God provides it and He provides it only for those whom He calls His children. Let me acknowledge that I am talking about more than just a feeling or the lack of physical aggression between countries. I am talking about all of the parts of the above definition, plus the assumption that this peace is predicated on an initial Peace by the removal of the enmity between man and God through the redeeming work of Jesus, the Christ, on the cross of Calvary.
Now, with those preliminaries out of the way I want to look at what is meant in Galatians 5:22 when Paul says that Peace is a fruit of the Spirit. The first aspect of Peace is that it is spiritual in nature. This is an absence of conflict between man and his Creator. But it is more than the mere absence of conflict it is the presence of fellowship. This ties in to #3 in the above definition. We are in harmony with God as His children. (As was mentioned last time this is predicated on obedience to God’s commands.)
The second aspect of Peace is that it is practical in scope. I try not to let my children live in fear. I do not talk about monsters or let them watch scary things on T.V. This is not because I am trying to shelter or deceive them, but rather because I want them to know that they are loved and protected. This is also true of the believer’s relationship to the Father. Are there evil people and things in this world? Sure! But are we to live in fear or are we to live without fear? Without question we are to live without fear!
The practical scope of Peace goes beyond the concept of security. It also ties into the way we conduct ourselves as Christians. One of my favorite quotes is from Max Lucado and says the following, “Conflict is inevitable, combat is optional.” I believe Christians are to be Peace lovers. I do not mean spineless, and unprincipled. I mean dedicated to Peace. It is possible to stand for truth without compromise and yet live in and at Peace with others. This does not mean that everyone will like us but that the conflict that may surround us will be geared at the truth we espouse. Jesus did say that we will be blessed when we are hated and persecuted for righteousness’ sake. This does not mean that we are to seek combat. We are to seek Peace. (This is where the truth of the Gospel almost becomes oxymoronic.) The world will hate us because of Jesus, and it is our duty to bring them to a personal knowledge of Him, so that they might have Peace. We will never be at peace with the world but we are to continually strive to bring Peace to the world by introducing it to the Prince of Peace.
There is a third aspect to Peace, and it is personal. When we are in obedience to God there is Peace. A preacher once said it this way, “Peace is not the absence of conflict, it is the Presence of God.” He was very right! Regardless of the outside world there is the availability of Peace within for every believer. This applies as much to making decisions as it does to going through rough times. When we are in obedience to God we have fellowship and when we are in fellowship with Jesus He will manifest Himself in our lives as the Prince of Peace. As with Love and Joy this goes beyond the pale insignificance of our circumstances and becomes the reality of our lives when we walk with God.
The fourth and final aspect of Peace deals with the relationship of believers to one another. Let me say this very carefully but very plainly, true believers live at Peace with one another. Now what am I not saying? I am not saying that all believers hang together and hold hands singing praise choruses. What I am saying is that those who are of the family of faith do not go around disparaging one another. Do you disagree with someone’s theology? Fine discuss it with them. But do so only if you can do it Peaceably. Don’t like someone’s methodology? Fine, talk to them about it. But do not go around telling everyone you know that they are evil sinners. In Short, to have Peace among the children of God we must practice Biblical love as is described in 1Corinthians 13. Weird, huh? The fruit of the Spirit go together. We must understand that there is no room in the family of God for dogmatism where it is not warranted. Be dogmatic in your doctrine but allow for some difference in the way you and others practice and there will be greater peace in the Body of Christ.
This is by no means a comprehensive study of Peace, nor have the previous studies been comprehensive ones on Love and Joy. The point is to think about the distinctives of a Christian who walks in obedience to God’s commands.
Peace be to you all who are in Christ. (1 Peter 5:14b)