“By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, PEACE, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things… If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22–23, 25 (Bearing Fruit Series)
“Si vis pacem para bellum” is a Latin adage that means, “If you want peace, prepare for war.” For a great deal of human history, it has been a defining doctrine of humanity. In order to keep your enemies from attacking, you need to intimidate them with bigger and better weapons — or maybe you even need to strike first, to attack before they do.
The problem is, as much as we have prepared for and waged war, we have not found peace, ever! We have to wonder if peace really is what we think it is.
Largely we define peace as the absence of disturbance or conflict. By that definition humanity may never experience real peace. But I don’t think we were ever really supposed to worry about peace on a global scale. Yes, we desire for an end to conflict and violence, but even within our own country, our own tribes, we do not experience freedom from conflict. From our own nation, to our states, to our communities, and neighborhoods and churches, and even our homes, conflicts reign. (A few minutes before I sat down to write this, I was in a heated conflict with my 10 year old about doing her chores!)
Peace is different from security, which is usually what our governments think peace looks like. Peace, the kind of peace that Jesus promised both at the announcement of his birth and in his earthly ministry, has little to do with our warmongering and violent tendencies as the human race, and more to do with an end to the internal conflict, the internal and seemingly eternal struggle for peace in our souls.
The peace that is produced as a fruit of the Spirit is not necessarily the big dream of world peace, but rather a peace within yourself that can help others to find their own peace. It is the assurance of knowing that you are actually and finally following the path of Christ; the internal struggles of worth and purpose begin to cease, conflict begins to melt away, and peace is born in you.
The beautiful thing is is that peace is contagious. Once you are at peace with your worth and purpose before God, it is much easier to make peace with those around you. As they experience even a little of that peace of Christ, they can be drawn into that path and the peace of God multiplies, and maybe, eventually, we see that larger, global scale, kind of peace. But, as the song indicates, peace must begin with me.
May peace abound in you,