Meditations in Colossians: 5: Peace?
Col 1:2b Grace and peace to you from God our Father
Have you ever wondered why in so many of his letters the apostle Paul in his greeting to his readers seeks grace and peace for them, and now as we are considering it, specifically peace? A simple and short answer may be because peace is a part of the salvation package and as such is something we would want to ensure we all have. And that suggests it is possible that we do not appreciate and appropriate it, and that it is possible to lose it!
Perhaps a useful starting point would be to ponder on the absence of peace in the world. The absence of peace is anxiety, so why are so many people anxious? Let’s look at the main reasons and then we’ll see how the Gospel meets them. I am going to start out by suggesting that anxiety is a response to a fear and so if we can identify the fear, we will see the cause of the anxiety and then go on to see how the Gospel meets that with peace.
Fear of God: I think that the first fear that the world struggles with is this fear of or about God, which is why there are so many so-called ‘world religions’. An awareness that there is a hidden world, a world more than mere materialism, is prevalent in all cultures. Ours (temporarily at least) has the majority putting their trust in materialist declaring that there is nothing more that that which can be seen or touched, and yet increasingly there is a disillusionment creeping in that recognises that this is not fulfilling, and so we are gradually moving from getting our kicks from things and turning towards getting experiences, but that too will prove a hollow hope.
Yes, there are many who are honest enough to say that they sense that there is something more and they often tend to be superstitious, fending off the ‘who knows what’ which is very similar to animists and the like from third world countries. The worry that many have is, if there is a God what will He be like? The enemy seeks to convey a distorted picture from a largely ignorant knowledge of the Old Testament and conveys that He must be a nasty God. Perhaps it is better to remain in ignorance of Him. And then Jesus comes and reveals a God of absolute love and at the heart of the Gospel is this, that “perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment,” (1 Jn 4:18) and we find that the perfect love who is God has come to deal with our punishment and suddenly we are presented with the wonderful possibility that we can be adopted children of a loving heavenly Father who just desires good for us. Peace!
Fear of who I am: Observe human beings and you observe people who are constantly striving to make something of themselves or present themselves well to all others. Yes, that is what we do, and then suddenly reality breaks through and we realise we are not the nice people we wish we were. We act with hostility towards others, we denigrate others, we are unkind or uncaring. We eat to much and wish we were thin. We smoke and justify why we can’t give up. We drink too much and deny we have a problem. That’s life in the human race and we could say so much, much more. We snap at loved ones and wish we could control our temper, and so it goes on. We buy self-help books or go on personal improvement courses but ultimately nothing seems to help. And then we are presented with the Gospel and with it comes forgiveness through the Cross and empowering by the Holy Spirit and we are ‘born again’ and we are new people; and suddenly everything is different. “since we have been justified through faith, weA have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom 5:1) Peace!
Fear of my guilt being found out (about yesterday). We all of us have a past and many of us have things we would rather forget and things we dread might come to light and show us up in bad light. We were violent, we had an abortion, we stole something, we took drugs, we took a bribe to look the other way, so many things that can act as something nasty in a dark cupboard in the recesses of our memory. And then Jesus saves us and he not only deals with our present sins but all the sins of yesterday. Yes, we were wrong, yes we are sorry and yes, only he can wash us clean of the past. Today is another day, a new day and we are a new person: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor 5:17) That old sinner, that old guilty person has gone. They have died and are dead and buried. This person that is you today is a completely new person, cleansed, forgiven and given a new life and a new hope. Peace!
Fear of not coping (in today): But then we have anxiety about today, how I can cope, how I can cope with people, how I can cope with difficult circumstances, how I can cope with the pressures of life, how I can make the money go round, how I can cope with failing health, how I can cope …. with it all! And then I meet Jesus and I am told that I am “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph 2:10) and I realise that I am now living within his plans for me and he has it all mapped out and whatever he puts before me, he will give me the grace to handle (and I now know all about grace!) Suddenly I realise he is in charge and he cares for me, loves me, provides for me- and that includes all of today. Peace!
For of what might happen (tomorrow): And not only does that include today but it also includes whatever might happen tomorrow and I hear the same whisper that the apostle Paul heard, “My grace is sufficient for you,” (2 Cor 12:9) and the same word that came through the Hebrews writer, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” (Heb 13:5) and I realise that he will be there tomorrow and his resources will still be there for me tomorrow, and as I browse the words of the New Testament, I find more and more verses that show he will always be there providing for me. Peace!
So there it is. No wonder Paul includes peace in his greetings, as one of the things he wants for us. We need it to handle the world and we handle the world because of what He has done for us and because of what He has said He will do for us. No wonder Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (Jn 14:27) Jesus was at peace knowing he was in his Father’s plan, in control of all that went on, and knowing what would be the outcome. And he gives that peace to you and me – knowing that he is in control, he has a plan and we are part of it, he has done everything that needs doing to deal with our Sin, and he has given us his Spirit to empower us every day. Peace! Receive it, enjoy it, hold on to it!