What is peace? We often define it in terms of what it isn’t — as in, it’s the absence of conflict or distraction or anything that makes us feel uncomfortable or disturbed. A nation is at peace when they’re not involved in any wars; a person is at peace when they feel relaxed and comfortable.
But what if I told you that the biblical idea of peace sometimes means diving into conflict, choosing discomfort, and being disturbed?
For [Christ] himself is our peace, who has made [Jews and Gentiles] one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace,and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility (Ephesians 2:14-16).
According to Ephesians, Jesus is our peace, and Jesus came to reconcile us both to God and to each other. And the biblical idea of peace is much broader than our modern understanding; it is not simply the absence of conflict but also the presence of harmony. It’s not ceasefire; it’s community.
Sometimes, we get so caught up in seeking ‘peace’ for ourselves that we create discord for others. Or we isolate ourselves from the problem (by moving out of the city to that peaceful cabin in the woods, for instance) so that we can pretend it doesn’t exist or isn’t relevant to us. But conflict avoidance is not peace.
In fact, sometimes, pursuing real peace — Jesus-peace — means engaging in conflict. In my marriage, with my kids, in my ministry and at church, it’s easier and simpler to sweep tension under the rug and hope it will just dissipate on its own instead of engaging it in hopes of reconciliation and better understanding. Engaging it means breaking down the walls and facing the hostility for the sake of reconciliation, because there is no peace without reconciliation.
All this is uncomfortable and emotionally taxing. It means hearing things you don’t want to hear, and staying in the conversation. It means leaning into relationships when you want to run away. It means believing in a kind of reconciliation that looks impossible, and trusting Jesus for a miracle. Peace is hard work.
But we can trust Jesus to provide those miracles, because Jesus is our peace. And while pursuing perfect harmony and reconciliation may be hard, it is far from hopeless. In fact, the truth is just the opposite: peace is promised to us from God. As the leader of our Ephesians 2 study at Multi-ethnic Staff Conference reminded us, there is a place where there are no dividing walls of hostility, no injustice, and no shame. Unfortunately, that place is not America, or Wales, or even my home. It’s the kingdom of God, our true home.
I struggle to live in that kingdom from day to day because I don’t have the spiritual or emotional resources on my own to really put in the work that peace requires. But this is when the Spirit bears his fruit, supplying me (if I remember just to ask) with what I lack, and reminding me that the hardest reconciliation work of all is already done.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
We must never forget that Jesus himself is our peace.
This article first appeared on the blog of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA www.intervarsity.org/blog. Used by permission of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship/USA, P.O. Box 7895, Madison, WI 53707-7895.
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