Peace Not as the World Gives (Part 4)
We’ve seen that when Jesus gives peace, he gives it in the midst of two kinds of conflict: conflict within us, and conflict outside of us. But not only does he give peace in spite of this conflict, the conflict actually reassures us of the fact that we belong to him. Here’s what I mean.
First, the conflict within us is actually proof that the kingdom of God belongs to us. (Remember, when I refer to the conflict within us, I refer to the Christian’s internal struggle between the desire to obey God and live righteously on the one hand, and the awareness that we really don’t have what it takes to live a life completely pleasing to God on the other.)
Jesus said in Matthew 5:3, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Now everyone is poor in spirit, of course, but Jesus is saying that only those who realize this poverty and are troubled by it can enter the kingdom. This is similar to his teaching in Luke 5:31: “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” As long as a person thinks they are well, they won’t come to be healed. As long as someone believes they fall into the “righteous” category, they won’t repent of sin and come to Jesus for salvation. That’s why prostitutes enter the kingdom before self-righteous religious people do (Matt. 21:31)—because they know their spiritual poverty, and are troubled by it.
So the conflict within the Christian—the heartfelt cry of “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24)—is actually proof that he or she will enter the kingdom. After all, Jesus said that the kingdom of God is specifically for those who are quite aware of being “broke” spiritually.
Second, the conflict outside of us—the hostility from others which comes from trying to live righteously and preach the good news of Jesus in an ungodly world which is at odds with the Lord—is proof that we belong to Jesus as well. In John 15:19 Jesus says, “I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.” Did you catch that? Jesus says that because he chose us out of the world, therefore the world hates us. If Jesus hadn’t come to us and plucked us out of our sin and death and brought us into his family, then we could still be on generally friendly terms with the world. But because he’s chosen us for himself, we can’t. This means that the second kind of conflict—the kind that comes from a world which is hostile to God—is actually evidence of God’s love for us in eternity past. Every single time we encounter some opposition in the world because of our identification with Jesus, it is a reminder that God has chosen to save us for himself. It reminds us that we belong to him.
So we’ve seen that Jesus gives peace in the midst of conflict, and that this conflict is actually proof that we belong to Jesus. We’ve seen that Jesus gives peace differently than the world gives. So what kind of peace can we have, then? We will answer that question in this month’s newsletter, with a brief look at Psalms 46.