“Peace is not the absence of conflict…” This quote has been lifted and shared many times. A Google search will show multiple sources. It seems that everyone from Ronald Reagan to Martin Luther King Jr. to peace advocates in the early 1940’s have been credited with authoring similar statements. More than an interest in who has said this, or penned something like this, I am interested in the truth of such a statement. I would say it is so oft repeated precisely because it rings true in many of life’s difficult situations.
In the Gospel of John, particularly toward the end, peace is a major theme in what Jesus wants his disciples to understand. According to John, in his last two days with his inner circle of disciples, Jesus is constantly talking about the peace that comes through faith. This peace exists in the middle of tremendous conflict. As Jesus prepares to go into the pain and struggle of his arrest, mock trial, suffering and crucifixion, he speaks repeatedly of being at peace. His greatest desire seems to be putting his disciples at peace in preparation for the storm of confusion and doubt they are about to experience.
These events will be shocking and ground-shattering for them. Everything they know about Jesus and believe about the Messiah will be challenged. Everything they have hoped for in their journey with Christ is about to be exploded by his death. They don’t know that without the devastation of his death the victory of resurrection would not be possible. They don’t know it, but Jesus does. For this reason, Jesus speaks to them of peace and says to hold on. He can already see the other side of the storm. He knows his plan for their salvation and for ours. This knowledge enables him to be at peace and to encourage them to cling to peace as well.
It strikes me that our situation today is not much different from that of those first disciples. In fact, ours is better. We know the rest of the story that the resurrection brings. Still we do struggle with storms of doubt and uncertainty. We are going through several now and in recent years. God has preserved the messages of Scripture and informed us of the life-changing power of his plan through the cross precisely so we can hear him say ”Peace be with you” in the midst of our storms.
The questions we must ask ourselves are: Do we believe that Jesus still sees the future? Can we trust in him for the best possible outcome? Can we hold onto faith and lean into peace while we wait for him to calm our storms?
“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…
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.
But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
John 14:27 and 16:33