Lesson 4: The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace
Let’s start with the irony.
We have to fight for peace. Eleanor Roosevelt put it well when she said,
“It isn’t enough to talk about peace; one must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it; one must work at it.”
To deny the peace of Christ is to fall into a spirit of passiveness that allows bickering, backbiting, angst, and general malaise to enter our lives and relationships. We all seek peace as though it’s an elusive creature. Could it be, however, that it’s something that can only be grown and cultivated through the working of the Holy Spirit?
Christ, as He was preparing His disciples for His impending departure, could sense their stress and discomfort. Through all the symbols and parables, He had tried to make clear what was soon to happen to Him, and subsequently, to them. Their hearts were heavy, He knew, and so He sought to cheer them up with a glimpse into the eventual future.
“Let not your heart be troubled…Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:1, 27
Think about the world we live in today. It’s vastly different from the one in which the disciples were living. They had to face persecution from the Jews and Romans, but we have wars and catastrophe every where we turn. As the world becomes more and more ravaged by sin and its effects, we could easily (and justifiably) panic. Look around you – people are trying to find peace, serenity, or “one-ness” in so many places. Relationships, wilderness retreats, yoga classes, zen spas… Relaxation is one thing, but true peace, peace that won’t shatter when the bombs fall or when all those that are familiar turn their backs on you, comes only from God. This is why we can’t just sit around and wait for peace to cover us in the time of need. There are so many things out there that are vying for our peace of mind. As Christians, we must rely on the Holy Spirit to develop this fruit in our lives so that we won’t allow our circumstances to dictate our peace. Christ has offered to help us by taking our load, but we must put on His yoke and follow His leading. (Matt. 11:28-29) When we surrender our lives to Him and we are confident of our justification through faith, we are reconciled to God. We are at peace with Him by virtue of Jesus’ sacrifice. (Rom. 5:1)
What does a life that reflects peace look like? I saw it last week on the cover of the New York Times online. As part of its coverage of the disaster in Haiti, it flashed photos of the people and the wreckage in an updating slideshow. I flipped through the photos, increasingly horrified as the sequence advanced. Finally, I landed on a photo of an old man walking past a blue-green wall. He was carrying several long loaves of bread. There was no rubble in the frame and for all intents and purposes, it looked like a normal day in an island nation. The caption simply read that a man walked on the road in Port-au-Prince carrying bread. All of a sudden, it hit me – the man was my great uncle, or someone who looked uncannily like him. His profile, his short white hair, his long fingers… In awe, I realized that I was looking at peace personified. I know my uncle is a man of great faith, and I just imagined that the photographer had captured him as he walked from a market, having bought all the loaves they had left. He probably was on his way to bring much needed food to his family or some grieving church members. Or maybe, I thought, he was just going to break up the bread and hand it out to children, or anyone else, he passed on the street. His features were calm and quiet, fiercely confident yet composed amidst the chaos. He knew that despite the upheaval his city was experiencing, his God was watching out for him and was enabling him to be an angel to others.