Peace. Many people are searching for it: Peace and quiet. A peaceful stroll through the woods. Peace on earth. Peace of mind. Peace between countries, people groups, and even writers on the Internet.
How do we find peace, though? There are a million ways to create enmity between people, but somehow our attempts to achieve the opposite continue to be foiled. The League of Nations didn’t prevent World War II. World leaders repeatedly try to broker peace in the Middle East, but fighting continues. Even fictional characters often find peace only when their opponents are destroyed.
Paul, in his letter to the Colossian church, suggests the following, with regards to peace within the church:
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Colossians 3:14-15 NLT
This passage starts out with the command to be clothed in love. One could argue that this is a separate command from the second sentence above, but I would say that harmony is closely related to peace, and that love is an important prerequisite for peace. If we don’t love our neighbor, or even our brothers and sisters in Christ, we shouldn’t expect peace. Yes, we might be able to enforce an absence of conflict through superior force, or by always conceding to others’ demands (even when they are wrong or harmful to them and to us), but that isn’t the true peace that we can achieve through love.
This passage also shows us that the peace we’re supposed to have comes from Jesus Christ. Without the restoration of peace with God that Jesus provided, and the example that He lived out, we might not know how to be at peace with other people. Without the strong direction of a wise, loving leader like Jesus, groups fragment into factions, following imperfect human beings down different paths. Without the freedom of having been saved, peace often gives way to legalism and judgment for those who don’t keep the “rules”, and pride for those who think that they do (even if that’s just an illusion). Jesus’ peace is unique and superior to all of these sub-par alternatives.
In addition, we are reminded by these verses to live in unity. Followers of Jesus are part of the same body, and should realize that when multiple parts of the body fight each other, that means that the body is sick. Ideally, everyone would perfectly follow the instructions of God the Father, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. However, since even those who have accepted Jesus as Lord behave imperfectly here on earth, we must consider our reaction to others’ shortcomings (as well as our own). The realization that we are part of the same family (one that will be spending eternity together!) challenges us to overlook and forgive each others’ mistakes, just as we have been forgiven. In addition, I think that it challenges us to help other believers overcome their vices, not so that we will look better, but because we love them and want to help them live a better life.
Finally, this passage gives us a reminder to be thankful. Thankfulness can help guide us to peace, but here I think that it is a result. As we express our gratitude to God for the many blessings that He has given us, one of those blessings is the opportunity to have peace. When you find peace, whether with God, or with others in the body of Christ, take a moment to thank God for that. Even as we remember past times of turmoil and conflict, may we appreciate and praise God when He gives us peace.
So, if your world is chaotic, conflicted, or confused, I hope that you will seek – and find – peace through the guidance in this verse. God’s peace transcends anything we’ll find through human effort.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 NLT
Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright ©1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, a Division of Tyndale House Ministries, Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.