One thing I’ve noticed in all the years I have been a Christian, is that concepts or terminology has a way of taking on a life of its own. This is especially true when popular teaching gets a hold of it that ends up in a prolific mass production twisting the word or concept from its intended meaning. I believe that having peace is such a concept that has taken on meanings it was not intended to.
The idea of having peace with God is rightly and understandably taken from these passages.
“Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1)
Because we are reconciled to God, we are no longer at war with God (cf Romans 8:7), no longer under condemnation (Romans 8:1) and therefore can rest in the assurance that we belong to Him (1 John 3:1). Clearly, there should take great comfort about that.
There is also the idea of peace taken from this passage
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7-8)
This passage speak to the fact that we can have peace with the things we petition the Lord for in prayer because there is a trust that He will take care of it. But I’m afraid here is where some deviations begin to occur. It is when peace becomes something other than what scripture intended by necessarily looking for or being guided by a tranquility that rids us of any internal conflict in relation to whatever it is we are confronting.
Now, I am not saying that we should not have a calm kind of internal settlement. But I fear that it can become the primary factor in determining what we believe, the decision we make or the lifestyle we lead and possibly misguide us. In other words, by relying on an absence of internal conflict we can be in danger of accepting what we should not accept simply because there is a peace about it. It is relying on a subjective feeling to be the determining factor.
I have encountered many people who have deviated from essential Christian doctrine, made unwise decisions or embraced sinful lifestyles simply because they had a ‘peace’ about what it is they have finally accepted as truth and a misguided notion of God’s will. They were troubled about some doctrinal points, questions, church practices or experiences, choices, sinful habits or lifestyles. They have claimed to pray about it and believed because they had a peace about what they accepted, that it must be truth and it must be God’s will. By relying on the subjective nature of feelings, they ultimately embraced error or apostasy.
The reality is in the Christian life, believing what we should believe or doing what we should do will not often produce peace but conflict. This is especially true when our beliefs or choices or lifestyle is contradictory to what scripture dictates. The Holy Spirit’s job is to convict Christians when this happens and certainly there will be internal tumult that ensues. We cannot necessarily rely on the subjective feeling of internal calmness but on the objective reality of Christ and His word. The subjective feelings must be subjected to the objective reality. Yes, we can ultimately have peace when our thoughts, beliefs and actions are in alignment with the objective reality of what is true and fitting according to who God is and what he wants. But we cannot dictate what is right by the subjective feelings.
Moreover, I believe there is tension inherent in living a committed Christian life in the existence of a fallen world. Christian beliefs and commitment will go against the grain of the pulls in this life. Flesh is opposed to Spirit and a ruthless enemy is on the prowl. Jesus said he did not come to bring peace but a sword. We will have to live out the tension between brokenness and redemption where hope meets groans of creation. Peace in the midst of this cannot be calm feelings of euphoria but an alert realization that God who he says he is, is working out his plan and commands our trust in spite of any uneasiness on our part.
Otherwise, we are saying that God can only be right as long as we feel good about it. But we are only fooling ourselves in believing that God must be subjected to our internal harmony. If you are born of the Spirit, you have peace with God although that may not always feel good in this life. Let’s stop looking for peace in all the wrong places lest we go into wrong places in which there will ultimately be no peace at all.