Ain’t No Peace Here.

September 13, 2010


I’m sure you’ve seen some variation of this sign:

For a long time, I ignored it as just one more example of someone trying to be witty and failing.  Lately, I’ve been thinking something else: If you’re a peaceful Christian, you’re doing it wrong.  Nothing I know about Christianity is peaceful.  You’re constantly called to step outside your comfort zone and do challenging things, from working with people you never thought to acknowledge (much less associate with) to standing up in front of a group of total strangers and speaking passionately about your cause.  If you’re a Christian, God can call on you to give up your comfortable, well-heeled lifestyle and enter a ministry that’s not  self-sustaining and won’t pay you even a fraction of what you were making.  He can nudge you into a new and totally different career, just as you start thinking about retiring from a job you’ve held for 20 years.  Being a Christian isn’t peaceful, it’s scary as hell.

So, where does this idea of “peace” come from?  What do they mean by “peace”?  Merriam-Webster says peace is  a state of tranquillity or quiet and freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions (it says more, click here for the link).  Dictionary.com says it’s freedom of the mind from annoyance, distraction, anxiety, an obsession, etc.; tranquillity; serenity.  Tranquility and serenity are described as calm and unruffled.  Calm, yeah; the rest, not so much.  And, at least on my end, it’s definitely an obsession.  So, if definitions aren’t clarifying things, let’s look at “peace” in the Bible and see what “peace” looks like in context.

The word “peace” is all over the Bible, and it’s used in several different ways.  Mostly, they’re talking about the absence of war, which was big deal in those days.  There are other places where it’s used to say “Calm down” or “Be quiet”.   Jesus told many people to “go in peace”.  What did He mean by that?  I like the explanation I found in the Urban Dictionary (I know, weird place to quote on a Christian blog): “A farewell saying, to leave without harm or harming. To leave with the spirit of God. To egress with safety and peace of mind.”   I italacized the middle part because that’s the bit I really like.  What’s remarkably absent is anyone using it to say everything’s going to be tranquil, serene and smooth sailing.  In fact, it says just the opposite in a lot of places.  Jesus specifically says he didn’t come to bring to peace, but a sword and that people will leave their families to follow him.  Doesn’t sound all that peaceful to me. 

I think God’s idea of peace is quite different from ours.  When He promised peace, He never meant that if we placed our faith in Him, we could just sit back and relax and all our troubles would be over.  Yet, for me, that’s the message imparted by saying like the one at the beginning of this little missive.  “Know Jesus, Know Peace” tells me if I know Jesus I’ll never have another care.  It’s just the opposite, though.  Knowing Jesus opens the door to all sorts of possibilities, scary and disturbing and fantastic possibilities.  Wait…, what?  Fantastic?  How did that sneak in there?  Because, sometimes fantastic things happen.  Like, going from evicting someone because of bad choices on their part to, a few days later, being able to keep a couple off the street because you just got a pretty good donation.   And, for me, even hearing about things like that make all the discomfort, fear, confusion and stress worthwhile.

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