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A Lasting Peace
Can such a thing be had?
Last Sunday I offered a sermon to the people of First Baptist Church, Valley Mills, Texas. My thoughts that day led me to Romans 5:1-5. It says:
Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Our primary reading on Sunday came from Joshua 11:16-19. In that passage, we're told that Joshua and the Israelites were victorious over the kings who presided over the northern cities of the land of promise. They had "rest from war." In English, we might say they were "at peace."
And certainly, the term peace suggests the absence of outward conflict. But in the Scriptures, while peace is certainly not less than the cessation of fighting and struggle, it encompasses far more. The Hebrew word for peace is "shalom," broadly defined as flourishing or wholeness, "right relationship" between parties (neighboring tribes, or between people and God), prosperity and well-being, and, finally, the end of conflict.
In Ephesians, Paul names Jesus as "our peace." We think of peace as a condition. But the New Testament tells us that peace is a person, it is an outflow of relationship.
In Romans 5:1 we are told that we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Why? Because we have been justified through faith. By trusting in Jesus and receiving his grace, we have been put into "right relationship" with God, and, having been reconciled, are now appointed as ambassadors of Christ, people who go forth announcing, and demonstrating, that peace with God is on offer, and can be received, given freely to us, but having been secured at great cost to God (2 Cor. 5). Having received peace with God, we can be at peace with ourselves, and with our neighbors, and even with our enemies.
Work brings daily stresses. It can even bring us into conflict. And, if the law of averages holds, I'm sure it is likely that there are a few people out there who find themselves right now in a place of "unrest," with family members, with friends, in a church community, in the work context, on social media, in the world.
Whether we find ourselves in a place of relative ease or present struggle, we all do well to remember that, returning to Paul, "we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand." And that even as we endure our trials, we can trust that God, thereby, is developing a refined character in us, while further grounding us in the hope that is ours in Christ. And, furthermore, God's love has been "shed abroad into our hearts," to use a King James rendering, through the Holy Spirit, who now dwells in each one of us who trust the Lord. What a gift.
I finished Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, and I’m still reading Peter Brown’s Augustine of Hippo and James K. A. Smith’s latest collection of essays, The Nicene Option: An Incarnational Phenomenology.
Sights and Sounds
The Fast Saga: F9 is a silly but fun movie. The 2014 movie Sabotage, starring Arnold Schwarnegger, was a waste of my time, as was 6 Underground, starring Ryan Reynolds.
Before I go, standard copy.
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Be well this week. Bless others.
P.S. - Streetscape.