Peace Not as the World Gives (Part 1)
My entire life has been marked by a search for peace. The same is true of you, and of everyone else who has ever lived. John Lennon and Yoko Ono sang about this in 1969, declaring, “All we are saying is give peace a chance!” They recorded this famous song while sitting in bed in a hotel room in Montreal, Canada, during their Bed-In for Peace, a week-long anti-war protest where John and Yoko sat in bed for an entire week and invited the media to observe them, film them, and interview them.
This was their great idea for peace—sitting in bed for a week straight, amidst a media circus. How naive!
But our attempts to find peace are just as naive as theirs as long as we are searching for the peace which the world gives. Jesus contrasted the peace which comes from God with the peace which comes from the world when he said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.” So Jesus tells us that there is a kind of peace that comes from the world, and then there is the kind of peace that only Jesus can give. The two kinds of peace, Jesus says, are very different from one another.
So John and Yoko were not foolish for trying to find peace in bed, but they were foolish to try to find peace in anything other than Jesus. They could have had peace in their beds, so long as they sought it from Jesus. And so can we.
But our hearts wander, don’t they? Recently I’ve imagined that I could find peace in such things as: a perfect relationship with my wife; obedient children; respect from my in-laws; having a college degree; having a successful and visible ministry; living in a bigger house; earning an impressive salary; and being complimented by a congregation after preaching a sermon. Every day, I am tempted to find peace in all kinds of things besides Jesus.
And Paul had this problem, too. He describes the great suffering he and Timothy endured while in Asia, and says, “We were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death” (2 Cor. 1:8-9). Then he explains one reason why this had happened to them: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (1:9). Even Paul had to be reminded, over and over again, not to seek peace in his circumstances but to seek it in God himself. He needed—and you and I need—to hear Jesus say again, “My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.”
This month I want to ask the question, “What kind of peace does Jesus give?” Over the next three weeks, we will see that Jesus’ peace does not mean an absence of tension and conflict, but that it endures in the midst of that tension and conflict—and that it is way better than the peace the world offers us!