And the effect of righteousness will be peace,

   And the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever.

Isaiah 32: 17

This is a verse from a part of Isaiah where the prophet is describing how things will be when the Lord has returned and restored the land and its people to His desired state. His return is necessary, for peace is not something that we do a very good job of establishing on our own. In fact, I have confidence in saying that peace and its close corollary, peacemaking are not the sort of thing that most of us even place significant value upon. We might grant some form of honor to people who we say are going about the business of seeking after peace, but in fact, we are still mostly concerned with control and the power that grows out of that dominance. This world tends to view peace as something that is gained by virtue of force, conquest, superior might, high and strong fences, and by keeping those that we find uncomfortable or frightening at a seemingly safe distance.

Too much of the human concept of peacemaking is framed in by the approaches and the standards that are described above. None of this is in conformity with the way that God views the same topic. The Lord desires to draw close to all people, and He does not care about any of the concerns or issues that we use to define those who we would isolate or insulate ourselves away from. The Lord seeks after people who are distant or different from others, for there is no one on this earth that is not a part of His familial circle. God has poured out love, grace, mercy, and understanding upon all people, and He continues to treat each and every one of us in this manner for as long as we draw breath upon the earth. In all of this, Christ calls to His people to enter into the righteousness of peace. We are to be people who set aside all of the worldly ideas of what it means to be a peacemaker so that Christ’s love for others and His desire to care for their bodies, hearts, and souls can become our own calling.

We live in a time when the desperation and the struggles of a world that is sold out to gaining its form of peace through the utilization of force and dominance is the common theme. Most of our governments and the majority of our leaders are invested heavily in building up our arsenals of destructive weapons and of finding ways to utilize them to greatest possible effect in our quest for power and prominence. This is not the path of righteousness that Christ desires for us to follow, and it is not the way that He modeled for us to live, either. In the face of ultimate human power, Christ demonstrated complete submission to the Father’s will, and in the end our Lord prevailed absolutely over all the strength and the false might that this world could throw at Him. We do not yet live in the days that are to come when Christ will establish His redeemed kingdom upon this broken planet, but we can dwell in Christ’s presence every day of our lives, and we can be truly righteous by seeking to be peacemakers in every situation that we encounter. We can also speak forth Christ’s peace into our surroundings and promote the form of loving care and acceptance that Christ desires and that He calls out as righteous.    

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For in him all the. Fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.

Colossians 1: 19, 20

 

God created the heavens and the earth with it all existing in a state of peace, and God has promised to restore Creation to that same perfect and unbroken peaceful state. What happens in between those two periods of time is not very peaceful. We are living in that between time, and we experience the restlessness of God’s peace on a daily basis. It happens in our world as forces both great and small collide and cause drama to fill our ears with their rhetoric of angry posturing and hateful name calling. This is the small-time end of the spectrum where anti-peace dwells as the other extreme of this same condition is filled with violence and death as oppression is worked upon people around the globe. All of this mirrors the rebellion that Satan led in Heaven and that he has continued to prosecute here on earth.

 

God answered that heavenly rebellion, and He responds to all of ours in a manner that is fully engaged with bringing about the restoration of our relationship with Him while it brings conclusion to all rebellion and the elimination of all that is broken by sin in our world. The peace that follows this final removal of sin will be won through great effort, and it will come about after a conflict of a type and with intensity that is far greater than any that our world has seen before. Christ’s peace is deep and it is dense, but those who oppose God will not readily or willingly accept it. Although we live in a time where that same peace is available to us through the acceptance of Christ, we can observe daily the tenuous and the fragile nature of peace’s presence in our world as every corner of it has the potential to erupt into a human or a nature caused battleground.

 

The peace that we can know today came about through His sacrifice that was carried out under conditions that were extremely violent. Christ bled so that we could be restored to a form of peaceful intimacy with God that is the perfect expression of God’s heartfelt desire. The Father and Creator of all wants to dwell in close connection with the entirety of His Creation, and He will bring about that renewal of perfection in His own time. Until then, we reside in a world that knows both peace and conflict on an ongoing and a continual basis. So, the peace that Christ has won for us and that He grants to each of His people is a state of being that settles deep into the soul and that fills us with its calm voice and its gift of deep truth. It is often hard to listen and to truly hear these words of grace and love when the loud voice of turmoil and distress is shouting into our ears, but Christ’s hard-earned peace is ours if we will listen as our first priority to Him and to His words of life throughout each and every day.

Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!

Then your peace would have been like a river,

and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Isaiah 48: 18

 

Only if? This is one of the great regret questions that people ask of themselves. Only if I had responded differently, or my attention had been given more of the time. Things would have been so different, and the outcomes would have been so much more enjoyable. Yet, what is done, is indeed done. Things said already resonate off of the hills as our actions have already brought about pain, grief, and separation. At this moment, each of us has cast a shadow of the past upon the future, and that shadow is now a tangible part of the landscape that we will need to navigate during the coming aspects of life’s journey. Yet, God has always wanted each of us to understand that this situation does not mean that life is hopelessly diminished or that joy is beyond redemption during our days.

 

Christ offers the true hope of redemption to anyone who will enter in to His life-giving sacrifice and so allow grace to bathe a weary soul in His healing blood of rebirth. This does not eliminate the relational and the life pain that our actions and words have caused, but it does grant to us a form of forgiveness that brings freedom to the soul and that frees the body to take the steps of repentance and restoration that the situation requires. We may not be able to repair all of the harm that we have done during our days, but Christ walks with us in the attempt to do so, and He empowers and equips us to enter into the effort. With Christ we are baptized in the rushing current of God’s river of peace, and we can ride the waves of His righteousness as they break down barriers that sin has built around people’s hearts.

 

We might like for God’s peace to be a calm and a soothing place for us to dwell, but it isn’t. Righteousness is not smooth and placid, either. The peace that Christ gives to His followers is active, powerful, and compelling. His righteousness is challenging, disruptive, and forceful as it assails the defensive barriers that sin has constructed in our world and within our relationships. When we enter into Christ’s peace and engage in a life that is compelled forward by His righteousness, we are swimming in an unstoppable current that is intent on pulling all who will yield to its Lord and Master into its redemptive flow. The power of this river is found in the love and the grace that Christ grants to everyone who enters into Him and engages in a life that is now defined by God’s Word of truth. God’s peace is active, engaged, and often leads us to venture into turbulent waters, but at the same time, it allows us to do all of this while experiencing a calm, a joy, and the sure knowledge of salvation that come directly from Christ.

I acknowledged my sin to you, and my iniquity I did not hide;

I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord”; and you did forgive the guilt of my sin.

Psalm 32: 5

 

We have all seen pictures of the aftermath of a catastrophic storm, a tornado, or a very serious car accident. There is wreckage and debris scattered everywhere. Order and reason are overcome by chaos. Well, sadly, this is the sort of scene that I am capable of causing in my daily life. This is because my very human capacity to think and to act in ways that are far from righteous, in other words, my ability to sin, is an unfortunate part of the person that I still am. It is possible to be engaged in an experience of deep, personal worship of God at one moment and then to have thoughts or to take actions that are hurtful, selfish, and contrary to who my Lord has called me to be. Despite the fact that God knows this about me and about all people, He continues to love us, and He doesn’t become frustrated with us to the point that He gives up on us.

 

What the Lord does want us to do is to talk with Him. He is always patiently waiting to hear the voices of our hearts calling out to Him with an expression of our understanding that the way that we are living is sinful. There is nothing that is too small an issue, and there is certainly nothing that is too great, for the grace that was perfected by Christ is total, absolute, and all encompassing. Additionally, it is rather irrational to try to hide the dark aspects of our lives from God; since, He knows it all, anyway. What God does want from us is for us to recognize our need for forgiveness; then, our hearts are opened to the change that His Spirit will work in them. The weight of the hurt and the pain that these actions cause others can be lifted, and deep healing will begin.

 

The question for me is not what have I done that is sinful; rather, it is what am I trying to hold onto as a secret from God, and why am I still pretending that He doesn’t already know? We all need to open our hearts to the Lord and allow Him to see our deepest selves from our own viewpoint. God has already forgiven us completely, and He will lift the disabling guilt of the sin from us. Once the barriers of secrecy are gone, it becomes possible to work on healing the harm to our selves and to others that the sin is causing. It is this sort of healing that brings us and those involved one step closer to living inside of Christ’s perfectly righteous peace.

 

Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14: 27

 

Jesus knew that He and His followers would never again travel the road that they were on together. Jesus was aware of the plans that people were devising against Him, and He also understood the fact that everything that these people would do would be carried out in order to achieve God’s wishes and to fulfill His plan for the salvation of the world. In this time of reflection and instruction Jesus became very philosophical in the thoughts that He expressed. Yet, His philosophical statements carry with them a very practical quality. The time that these people have spent with Jesus has not always been peaceful; in fact, there has been more turmoil, excitement, and fast-paced movement that down time and rest. Now, all of the stress and the struggles that they encounter are about to accelerate greatly.

 

Yet, Jesus blesses them with peace. This is the gift that He bestows upon them. This peace is a deeply rooted and totally pervasive form of calm and assurance that operates at a level so fundamental as to reshape and redefine the stimuli that come at its holder from the outside and from within the mind. It grants comfort to the heart so that natural fears and concerns are no longer converted into anxiety. The peace that Jesus gave to His followers then and that He grants to us now is based upon our trust of Him, and this comes as a result of our faith in Christ as the true Savior, Lord, and King of all Creation that He, in fact, has demonstrated that He is. Christ’s peace is powerful and it is strong. It withstands the forces of this world as it enables us to pour out God’s righteous love into our culture.

 

The benediction of peace that Christ gives to us is very different in nature from the way that this world attempts to convey peace. Worldly peace is based upon power, control, and acquisition. In general it is given only in exchange for some form of return of the favor. God gives all to us. He gave us His Son, and belief that is founded upon Jesus, the Christ, grants to us an eternal relationship with God that is neither conditional nor is it incomplete. Based upon this relationship with Christ we can live confidently and love totally, for there will be forces and situations in life that will be hard, harsh, and frightening, yet, Christ stands with us always and prevails against all of it. The peace that Jesus brings to us is what allows us to be battered, bruised, and bloodied by life and still joyously proclaim the victory of our souls over it all.