There are nine fruit of the Spirit, and in my view, these nine are grouped into three groups of three. The first grouping is love, joy, and peace. They are not so much checklists or even ideas as much as they are states of mind.
The opening trio finishes with peace. Peace is elusive, although we all want it, very few people would say he or she has achieved peace. The words we usually describe are ‘striving for’ or ‘looking for’ or ‘working towards’ or maybe ‘in search of’ peace. Peace is something we are all eagerly desiring, but very few of us ever actually achieve it.
But we try. We try very hard. We try to achieve peace through security. This is true of nations with their armies and weapons, but also of people with firearms. Peace is often the intangible good being sold by insurance companies, financial investors, home security companies, and health care experts. Security, they say, gives you a peace of mind.
But it doesn’t.
We also try to achieve peace through relationships. We mistakenly believe if find just the right spouse and raise our children just right or have the best friends ever then we can have peace. The problem is, relationships often rob us of peace because, as I’ve learned with my children, I’ve not had decent night’s sleep since they were born because I’m constantly worried about them. My mind is overtaken by concerns about whether or not they are eating, are they okay, are they emotionally healthy, do they have enough money, and are they pooping regularly? The relationship can give us love and joy, but peace is not found there.
We also try to find peace through techniques such as yoga, meditation, long walks in the woods, or mantras. I find these to be meaningful, but not long lasting. Peace can be attained on the trail or in the moment of tranquility, but then when the moment is gone or the trail is complete, all the nagging comes back.
Some people seek peace through revenge. This is folly, a folly so evident I hope most of us intuitively know it to be a bad idea.
Humanity, on its, own, cannot achieve peace of any lasting significancy. The best we can hope for are temporary warm feelings or fuzzies we cobble together between the anxieties of existence. But that is okay, because the good news of the gospel is that Jesus gives us peace. Humans can’t achieve it, because Jesus has given it to us as a gift. It is akin to salvation in that we either accept it as a gift, or we reject it as unwanted grace.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will hard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid . . . I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. in the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.John 14:27, 16:33
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.Romans 5:1
If we revisit the ways we try to gain peace in our own way of thinking but insert instead of our own will the ministry of Jesus, then we find the true secret to lasting, meaningful peace. Jesus is our security. We are eternally secure in him, and we are provisionally secure now in that he is with us and working through us. Jesus is the key relationship. He will never leave us or forsake us, and he has empowered us with the Holy Spirit to be a blessing to all of our relationships. He is our meditation, our mantra, our pathway, and bliss. He is also the bringer of justice, which removes from us the need to fixate or seek revenge.
The Old Testament word for peace is shalom and the New Testament is irene. In the context of the Bible, they mean wholeness, completeness, and wellbeing. I find English synonyms for peace instructive. Accord and concord are about doing things with the heart — by the heart and with the heart. Peace comes from the heart. Harmony is another synonym, and I find it fascinating that is a musical term. Peace comes when all the elements of our life blend together rather than screeching in dissonance or discord.
Perhaps the key synonym used in the New Testament is reconciliation. We are reconciled to God, and we have a ministry of reconciliation. Perhaps that is why Jesus said, ‘blessed are the peacemakers.’ This peacemaking is with other people, for certain, but pastorally I find the key places of discordance in our lives is conflict with our past, the choices and events that have occurred, and our future, the idea about what will come to be. We must make peace with our past rather than relive over and over again what cannot be undone. We must also make peace with our future, because it is in the hands of God. Both of these elements of time pivot around security and trust in God, his provision for justice, relationship, and contentment.