World news seldom features stories about peace. It reports peace talks but actual peace, or at least the absence of war, is not in the headlines because it seldom occurs.
Peace is an illusive quality. Human nature longs for it yet our behavior is counter-productive. Consider two small children in a playpen. One has a toy; the other child wants it. By the resulting noise, one wonders if this could be the beginning of another world war. Even mothers add their own din by shouting, “Can’t we have some peace and quiet around here?”
Playpen battles continue in playgrounds. Older children go on to fight in the streets, in high schools and colleges, in pool halls and later in boardrooms and around conference tables. No location is perfect. People stranded on a paradise island also fight with each other.
Modern educational systems offer courses in Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution but who would offer a course called How to Deal with Peace? If someone did, would it be boring? Would anyone register? Who knows?
Most people define peace as absence of strife or tumult. For them, peace is tranquil surroundings with nothing to disturb or interfere with plans and goals. They say, “If only people would get along or if only everyone would be quiet, then we would enjoy peace.”
Jesus had another idea about this illusive commodity. He 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.”
According to the Bible, Jesus was the Prince of Peace. The angels at His birth said “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” However, Jesus’ life was not free of conflict. Noisy crowds pushed to see Him and hate-filled rivals tried to destroy Him. For that matter, “all men” have not experienced peace since He came. For most, it is the opposite.
Jesus is the Prince of Peace because He personally enjoys it within Himself. We demand silence and freedom from conflict but He did neither. We demand personal or corporate wants, and insist on treaties. He needs none of these to enjoy a calm heart. He owns and controls peace; therefore, has no need to demand it. Furthermore, He says He will give it to us.
Paul called this inner calm “the peace of God” and said it “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” It comes from Him and because it does, it “transcends all understanding.”
That transcendent aspect of peace surprised me. Early one morning, a frantic call from frantic neighbors jarred my husband and me from our sleep. They reported their child and one of ours (who was sleeping over) and their vehicle were missing. The situation was serious — we lived in southern California (the fruit and nut state) and neither of these two young people could drive.
I did not have time to breathe a prayer before a sudden, strange calm settled over me. I recall thinking, “This is weird...” I usually argue with myself about not worrying. I thought I should be anxious at least, yet being upset was impossible. Unexpected peace controlled me. For the next few hours, it filled my heart and protected my mind. I was free from fear and emotional turmoil. Such peace greatly amazed me, but it should not have; Jesus said He would give it to me.
Since then, I know God’s peace is sufficient. Noise, conflict, danger or problems need not fill His people with turmoil nor should we have any desire to fight with others. God cares for us and although He may not wipe out external conflict or remove troublesome people from the scene, He can prevent a troubled heart. He simply fills it with something else.