Real Peace

Romans 12:12-15

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

(Parts are borrowed from Holileticsonline.com)

Trinity Sunday is a Sunday in the lectionary that is not celebrated with near the fanfare as Christmas or Easter. It’s not even as big as Pentecost or Transfiguration like some would think either. But the biggest reason for it is because it’s just so darn hard for us wrap our heads around. The Trinity has had more words written about it than any other part of our Christian faith. Because we have tried so hard to make heads or tails out of one of the great mysteries that God has for us. Sometimes mysteries are not supposed to be explained with words, they are meant to be felt with emotions. God in three persons, the blessed Trinity is meant to give us a sense of peace.

In 1976 there was a rock band called Boston that had a number one hit called peace of mind, listen…

I understand about indecision.
I don’t care if I get behind.
People livin’ in competition;
All I want is to have my peace of mind.

The story behind those lyrics, founder and lead guitarist Tom Scholz, an MIT grad, was working as a senior engineer for Polaroid while he was putting the band together. As he plugged away at his day job, Scholz noticed that a lot of people around him who were “climbing to the top of the company ladder” but didn’t realize that they had propped that ladder against the wrong building. Scholz wanted more than the predictability of corporate life. He wanted “peace of mind,” and his song soars with hope, urging listeners to “take a look ahead” to something better.

More than 40 years later, plenty of people still resonate with Scholz’s lyrics. We’re all looking for some peace of mind, and in a world where conflict and hopelessness seem to be epidemic, where people are “livin’ in competition” for attention, success and even just the basics of life, real peace seems pretty elusive.

What does real peace of mind look like? Remember actor Robert Mitchum, who had a difficult and challenging upbringing that included everything from growing up in New York’s “Hell’s Kitchen” neighborhood, to being a hobo riding the rails, to spending time on a Georgia chain gang and even doing a stint in the boxing ring before becoming a Hollywood star.

Mitchum defined peace of mind as, “becoming the person I always wanted to be.” No matter the circumstance, Mitchum recognized that peace of mind is the result of an internal orientation. It’s not dependent on what one accomplishes or accumulates.

Psychologists tend to agree with Mitchum and Scholz. Psychologically speaking, peace of mind is the result of cultivating an intimate knowledge of oneself, knowing and valuing the person you are and want to be and living fully in the present moment. Then why is it so difficult to seek out a healthy peace of mind?

I think part of it is because we just love to complain. There are people in this world that we know that it just seems like they are not happy unless they are complaining about something. The other thing that I have noticed is it seems like the older we get the more we complain. Now that may be partly because we have more to complain about as our bodies and minds begin to fall apart, but there is no written law that says we have to constantly verbalize that. It’s like we get part of what Paul was trying to say to us in our Romans reading, we get the boasting part, but we forget why we boast.

If we start at verse 3 in the reading Paul says, “We boast in our suffering.” But the problem with that is we are to boast or speak about it through the lens of the Trinity. You see we know that as Christians we have fallen short of God’s glory because of our sins. Part of the problem is that we know intuitively that we’re not the people we want to be and, more importantly, we tend to fall short of being the people that God created us to be. Sin distorts our self-concept as people made in the image of God and causes us either to focus on our past mistakes or to worry about the future. Biblically speaking, real peace of mind doesn’t come from being mindfully aware of ourselves, but rather from standing on the promises of God, someone who can actually do something about removing the barriers to real peace.

In order to receive peace we have to back up in Paul’s letter. In verses 1 and 2 he writes, “Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand.” When we put our faith, allegiance and trust in Jesus and in what God has done through him, we have peace with God. God’s grace has been extended to us in Jesus, who died for our sins.

The essential meaning of justification is, that we exist now “just as though we had not sinned.” This is possible because the sinless life of Christ has been given to us as the agent of forgiving our sins. God sees us as righteous.

And so, God has no argument with us. We have peace with God, and God has peace with us. Thank you, Jesus!

Like, imagine that you have committed a crime, but so far the authorities have not caught on to you. But to escape detection, you need to move around a lot. You create false identities. You use aliases. You are always looking over your shoulder. You have no peace with the law, and the law has a rap sheet as long as your arm against you.

But then, magically, it all goes away. Perhaps the law nabs the wrong man. You’d have an ethical responsibility to set that straight. Or perhaps the evidence room is destroyed in a fire. Charges cannot be brought against you. Whatever. Just imagine that something’s happened, and now you don’t need to run anymore. You don’t need to worry about getting caught.

How good would that feel?

Pretty good. And this is what Paul’s saying right here. The law is satisfied. The All Points Bulletin has been withdrawn. Your slate has been wiped clean. You have been given a fresh start. You are in a state of peace with God, and God is no longer demanding justice. Justice was rendered.

Without that foundational peace with God, it’s virtually impossible for us to have any other kind of peace. If we were to look at the primary reason our world and our society are not at peace, this would be the root — people are not at peace with God; indeed, they seem to be warring against God.

The prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel described ancient Israel before the exile in this way. Just as today, people in the days of the prophets were walking around crying out, “Peace! Peace!” (Jeremiah 6:14; Ezekiel 13:10). But there is no peace apart from peace with God. Without that peace, people are still enslaved to sin, still racked with doubt and fear, still wandering aimlessly searching for peace they can never find.

But if we have peace with God, Paul says that we are then able to live with a new kind of peace: the peace of God .

This is the second peace.

Back to verse 3, after Paul says we have peace with God, he goes on to say that “we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

Peace with God leads to the peace of God, and that is a peace that produces actual peace of mind within us. We have freedom from anxiety and panic because God is present with us in the Holy Spirit. It’s not a peace that is dependent on circumstances but based on faith that God is at work in us and is caring for us. We can have joy and peace when it matters most, especially when we are in the midst of trying times. It’s this kind of inner peace that makes us resilient people, and that makes us stand out in contrast to an anxious world.

People who have this kind of peace are attractive to others because they want to have that kind of peace for themselves. Many people have endured horrific circumstances in their lives and yet have a deep peace about them — people who have experienced loss, grave illness or unfair treatment, and yet still have peace.

People who are at peace with God and have the peace of God are non-anxious; they don’t panic when life gets hard; they don’t react negatively when circumstances don’t go their way. Rather, they worry less; they endure suffering with grace and, as a result, have strength of character and hope for the future. It’s not about simply pretending things are okay or “fake it ‘til you make it,” but it’s about an inner peace given by the Spirit’s presence. As Paul puts it in Philippians: “The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). The peace of God is the fertile ground in which peace of mind can really grow when it is cultivated by the Spirit.

But the peace of God is not the end goal. Peace always comes to us on its way to someone else. When Jesus sent out his disciples to spread the good news, he told them to greet everyone with “Peace to this house” (Luke 10:5).

Peace was not just something for them to have as an inner feeling, but something to be extended to others. Later in Romans, Paul puts it this way: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all” (12:18). When we have peace with God, we also receive the peace of God, but that is to lead us to become the peacemakers of God. We extend God’s peace to others. This is the essence of what Paul means when he includes “peace” among the fruit of the Spirit — it’s the peace we share that really matters (Galatians 5:22).

This is the third peace.

What does this kind of peace look like? We get a clue about what living “peaceably with others” looks like toward the end of Paul’s letter to the Romans (12:9-21). How do people of peace act peaceably?

 

  • They show genuine love to others (v. 9). People who live peaceably hate evil and hold fast to what is good, serving one another in mutual affection and showing honor to one another.
  • They are enthusiastic, serving the Lord with the fire of the Spirit (v. 10). People of peace are not the “frozen chosen” but are genuinely excited about serving and doing the work of the Lord.
  • They have hope no matter the circumstance, being patient in suffering and fervent in prayer (v. 12).
  • They contribute to the needs of the saints and show hospitality to strangers (v. 13).
  • They are able to bless their persecutors instead of cursing them (v. 14).
  • They are empathic, rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep (v. 15). There is no schadenfreude or jealousy, but a genuine hope for the well-being of another.
  • They live as part of a community where they see everyone as equals and are humble about their own abilities (v. 16).
  • And they don’t seek revenge when wronged. Instead, they care for their enemies and let God handle the rest (vv. 19-21). Instead of overcoming evil with revenge and retaliation, they conquer evil with good to the point that their enemies are embarrassed.

Peace of mind as the lyrics in the song indicated is a work in progress. When Jesus promised us the Holy Spirit and it came and dwelt among the disciples peace came over them and their ministry grew because they let God be God. God in three persons, blessed Trinity is not about our manipulation of God, but God being present in our lives. And that is peace of mind. Amen.

 

 

 

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