“When a person’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
This week we are talking about peace. Yesterday we talked about what exactly peace is–not merely what it’s not. Peace is an active sense of calm and wholeness that persists in our hearts and minds because of our confidence in Christ and His promise to never leave us nor forsake us regardless of what our circumstances might otherwise suggest. I know that’s a bit more of a mouthful of a definition, but I think it fairly well captures the idea of peace we find in the Scriptures. What I’m left wondering today, though, is how exactly we come by this peace. What Solomon wrote here in Proverbs gives us a clue. Let’s take a look at this together.
When you think about some of the major virtues commended to us in the Scriptures, many of them are active. What I mean is, they are things we are to actively pursue in the context of a greater pursuit of Christ with our lives. Think about love (which we’ll focus on in a couple of weeks). We’ve talked before about what love is. Love is an intentional decision to see the people around us become more fully who God designed them to be. That’s active. That’s something you do. The same goes with hope. When we have hope, we are actively living out our trust in God’s promise to restore all things one day in Christ.
Peace is different. Peace isn’t something we can quest after and obtain like a prize we’ve somehow earned. Breathing techniques may help calm our bodies and minds in a stressful moment, but the kind of peace we see promised to us in the Scriptures goes beyond being calm in a moment.
Okay, well how do we get it? What can we do in order to experience this richer, deeper peace? Like I said before, Solomon gives us an important clue here. Listen to this verse again: “When a person’s ways please the Lord, he makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.”
You see the connection, right? Peace comes to those whose ways please the Lord. Hold on now. That sounds like a set up for some new form of legalism. If we just do what God says, He will give us peace. That sounds too transactional to fit with how the new covenant in Christ works. It’s not, but I understand how it looks like it. Let me spell out the connection for you. Peace is not something we work hard and finally lay our hands on like a prize. Instead, it is the natural consequence of doing some other things. It is, in other words, a by product. A by product of what? Of doing life according to the ways of God’s kingdom.
You see, in God’s kingdom, there is peace. That’s just how things work there. Where His rule and reign are complete, the peace of His presence dominates the landscape. A lack of peace is the result of the outworking of sin in some form or fashion. In God’s kingdom, there is no sin and thus there is no lack of peace. There is no crying or weeping or mourning or pain. Every single thing that would be an enemy of peace is gone entirely and won’t ever exist again. Now, God’s final kingdom, ushered in by the return of Christ the King, isn’t yet here in full force. The day for that is still coming. But because His kingdom is not first of this world, because it is a spiritual reality before it is a physical one, when we live our lives as if we were living in the kingdom, we are able to experience the fruit of what life will be like when it is fully here.
What does that mean? It means that if we want to experience the peace of God’s kingdom, this active sense of calm and wholeness that persists in our hearts and minds because of our confidence in Christ’s promise to never leave us nor forsake us in spite of what our present circumstances might otherwise suggest, we need to make some adjustments to our lifestyle. Anywhere in our lives we are not living according to the ways of God’s kingdom is a place where this peace is going to be out of reach for us. On the contrary, places where we are on track with the life of Christ are places where this peace is going to be not only available, but plentiful. We will even have peace with our enemies.
This means it’s time to do some introspection. Where are the places in your life you are not living up to the lifestyle of the kingdom of God? Where are those places you are putting your trust more in someone or something other than God? Where are the pockets of sin you are doing your best to leave in place because although you are loathe to admit it, you just aren’t yet ready to give them up? Where are you harboring unforgiveness for some past offense? Where is it that pride has taken root and is leaving you convinced you have what it takes to overcome whatever obstacle is sitting in front of you? Each of those places and more like them will be places where the peace of God’s kingdom is not something you’ll be able to experience.
But where you have submitted your life and lifestyle to the kingdom of God, everything changes. When your entire trust is in Jesus, things that might otherwise bring worry to your life don’t phase you like they used to phase you. When you have rooted out sin, even the little ones that you think are fine to leave alone, you no longer experience the pain or shame or stress of trying to hide. When you are living with a spirit of forgiveness, bitterness and anger don’t have easy access to your heart any longer. When you are fully aware of who you are, who God is, and are okay with that, you’re much more willing to accept help with challenges before you rather than putting all that weight on your own shoulders. Well, what do you call a life free from worry, shame, pain, stress, bitterness, anger, and frustration? I call it a life of peace.
Here’s the other thing about this life: It is pleasing to the Lord. Why? Because you’re living like He’s in charge, which, of course, He is. That’s reality. It is reality as He designed it to be. When we live in the world God made and not some fantasy of our own creation (thus suggesting a belief that God’s world isn’t good enough for us), we are going to be more pleasing to God than when we aren’t. Listen: When God is happy with us and we are living as if His kingdom were already here, peace is going to be the result every single time.
Here, then, is what you can do with all of this: Don’t seek peace. What? Didn’t I mean to say, “seek peace,” there? Nope. I meant it just like I said it: Don’t seek peace. Instead, seek to live your life like you are fully within the boundaries of God’s kingdom. Live as if Jesus really is Lord and what He says goes. Pursue love and justice and mercy and compassion and kindness and gentleness and all the rest. Do all of this and don’t worry even in the slightest amount about peace. What you’ll discover as you go is that peace has grown up in your heart and mind while you weren’t even paying attention. Even your enemies will be at peace with you. So, may you not seek peace, but may you find it as you seek the kingdom of the Child who came at Christmas.