Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Peace I Give You.

We continue to follow Barnabas and Paul on their missionary journey.

We mentioned yesterday that Jews from Pisidian Antioch and from Iconium had come to Lystra, and won the crowd over. They stoned Paul, and dragged his body outside the city, thinking he was dead. But when the disciples gathered around him, he awakened, got up, and went back into the city. The following day, he and Barnabas left Lystra and headed to Derbe, where they preached the good news, and won a large number of disciples.

Then they returned to Lystra, to Iconium, and even to Antioch. They encouraged the disciples to remain steadfast in spite of their difficulties, and to remain true to the faith. “We must endure many hardships in order to enter into the Kingdom of God”, they said. Paul and Barnabas ordained elders for the disciples in each of these churches. With prayer and pasting, they committed them to the Lord, in whom they put their trust.

The voyage continued, through Perga and Pamphylia, and down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been committed by the grace of God to the mission they had now accomplished. Upon their arrival, they gathered the church together, and reported everything that the Lord had done through them, and how he had opened the gates of faith to the Gentiles. They stayed there with the disciples for a long time. (Acts 14:19-28)

Jesus said to his disciples, shortly before he arose into Heaven.

Peace I leave with you; my piece I give you. I do not give it as the world gives peace. Do not be troubled, and do not be afraid, because you’ve heard me say, “I am going away and I will come back again.” If you love me, you will be glad that I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.

I have told you this now, before it happens, so that when it happens you will believe. I will not be speaking with you much longer, since the prince of this world is coming. The prince of this world has no claim on me, but the world must learn that I love the Father, and I will do precisely what my Father has commanded me to do.” (John 14:27-31a)

What is peace? In the modern world, the word refers to a cessation of hostilities. In the Scriptures, peace is a right relationship with God and with others because it is first with God. In this perspective, there can be no peace in the world unless the people of the world are at peace with God. But, in the past century, we have often settled for less. There was no peace treaty, but an armistice (literally “putting down arms”) ending the conflict on 11-11-1918. There was no peace treaty at the end of the Korean War – for that matter, it wasn’t even a war, but a “police action”. And there was no peace after the fall of Saigon. We simply went home and within months what we had purportedly tried to prevent had occurred. The entire peninsula was under one rule, and that was the outcome we had fought to prevent.

Our usual expression for the beginning of a war is that it “breaks out”. Sounds rather like the onset of a skin disease, leprosy? small pox? chicken pox? acne? Perhaps there is more to the analogy than appears on the surface. After all, the causative agents of these diseases are hidden until they break out. Why doesn’t anyone speak about peace breaking out? Like the skin conditions previously mentioned, peace cannot break out unless it is there within us to begin with. And, truth told, it is. “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you.”

The Jews of biblical times, and even today, great one another with the word, Shalom!, which means Peace! Like any other greeting, that word can easily become superficial unless we see the depth of God in it. It is not a vague wish for the other person, like “Don’t worry, be happy.” Or like the post-modern expression greeting, “Whassup?”

Here is the original text in which the Jews were told to bless and greet one another with “Peace”.

The LORD bless you
and keep you;
the LORD make his face shine upon you
and be gracious to you;
the LORD turn his face toward you
and give you peace." '
(Numbers 6:22-26)

May HIS peace be with you and yours.

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