Peace is an intrinsic part of the Christian life. Believers receive peace with God. We, in turn, seek peace with others as we forgive and love them. We also experience peace in our hearts and minds when we let go of our sins and our fear to trust in God. In fact, letting go is a key aspect of peace.
In Galatians, Paul includes peace in the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
Peace with God
Through Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we receive forgiveness of sins, reconciliation to God, and eternal life. In Baptism, our old sinful nature is drowned, and we are made new creatures in the image of Jesus by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. In other words, our sin is let go, and we are changed from enemies of God to beloved sons and daughters.
In 2 Corinthians, Paul summarizes how God reconciled, or made peace, with humanity through Christ:
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. (2 Corinthians 5:17–19)
The 2 Corinthians 5 passage begins with Christ reconciling us to God and moves into giving us the message and ministry of reconciliation. Verse 20 continues this thought: “Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making His appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”
Reconciliation with God through Christ inevitably leads Christians to reconcile, or make peace, with others and point them toward their own reconciliation with God.
Peace with Others
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God,” Jesus says (Matthew 5:9). Making peace is different than keeping the peace. Keeping the peace is often about avoidance of conflict, which looks like peace but is more like a clean bandage hiding a raging infection beneath. Real peacemaking requires bringing conflict to the surface, listening well, confessing any sin we committed against another person, and extending grace and forgiveness.
Making peace requires us to let go of our desires to be right, to hold a grudge, to insist on our own way. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness often seem impossible outside of God’s grace. Forgiving and seeking forgiveness are truly works of the Holy Spirit.
What about peace in the context of ongoing disagreement? Early Christians, surrounded by hostility from both culture and religion, still sought peace with those around them. Paul writes to the Romans,
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12:14–18)
How do we think and talk about people we disagree with? Do we bless them or curse them? As followers of Christ, who died for all, we must consciously let go of the “us versus them” thinking that pervades public discourse today. We must let go of our impulse to be “wise in my own sight.” We may not agree with our neighbors, but we are still called to love, serve, and bless them.
In John, Jesus speaks to His disciples of peace even as He prepares them for His coming death: “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 His disciples would experience great fear and grief upon His arrest and death. Yet Jesus promised them peace, independent of the very real trouble to come.
God’s peace does not depend on our outward circumstances. Even if every fear I can imagine comes to pass, I am still safe in the hands of God. Jesus died and rose again to give us peace that does not disappear in the face of conflict, suffering, or death. It lasts beyond our “light momentary affliction” (2 Corinthians 4:17), beyond our disagreements, beyond even our own death. We can let go of fear, anger, and sin and instead trust in Jesus, who gives us His peace.
Read more about the fruit of the spirit in this nine-session Bible study.