Galatians 5:22-23 tells us:
As we consider the third of these fruits – peace – I think it’s good to give a reminder that these fruits do not originate with us; they are called the fruit of the SPIRIT for a reason. It is the Spirit’s work in us that makes these qualities possible in our lives.
That is why we began with the hymn “Like a River Glorious.” God’s glorious river of peace flows into our lives – perfect and flowing fuller every day, perfect and growing deeper all the way. Just as every river flows eventually into the sea, the river of God’s peace in our lives also has a destination; it turns us into lovers of peace, and peacemakers within this peaceless world of ours.
Did you know that in Hebrew, Greek, and English, the word “peace” is used in two very distinct ways? The word can mean “inner tranquility,” and it can also mean “not fighting with others.”
Because of this, it is useful to think of peace as being “the absence of war.” Inner tranquility comes when you are not at war with yourself, and outward peace comes when you are not at war with others.
When we talk about peace as one of the fruits of the Spirit, it’s worthwhile to talk about both the inner and outer aspects of peace.
And if you saw the title of the message, you might have thought you were getting a message on finding inner peace and tranquility during times of unrest. And while that would be appropriate for this week, that’s not what this message is. Today we’re focusing on the second meaning of peace, which is equally appropriate considering the state of our nation and world.
The message this morning comes from Luke 9:46-56. In this passage, we will see Jesus training His disciples in mindsets that lead to peacemaking. It is my prayer that as we consider this training, the Spirit of God will train us in the same way, making us instruments of His peace in this world.
Let’s read Luke 9:46-56:
Jesus’ disciples are having an argument (a common argument for them, by the way) about who was the most important. Jesus knows what’s going on, and so he teaches them an important lesson. He takes a little child who is nearby and puts him in the middle of the circle of arguing disciples. He says, in effect, “If you want to be great, you must welcome this little child, because the ones you see as least important are actually the greatest.”
I don’t know anything about this little child, but I can imagine that he was there with his parents listening to Jesus teach, and the disciples were so caught up in their own arguing and bickering that they couldn’t see anyone but themselves.
For the disciples, a small child would have been considered quite unimportant. You may remember another time when children were being brought to Jesus, and the disciples tried to keep them away, suggesting that Jesus was far too busy and important to be bothered by little children.
Jesus flips that mentality on its head and tells His disciples that the little child – far from being the least important, is actually of great importance. Jesus tells them that true greatness comes in recognizing, welcoming, and considering the greatness of even the least and smallest person you meet.
How is this a step toward being a peacemaker? Simply this: when we see and understand the value of another person, living in peace with that person matters to us. When we regard ourselves as the most important in whatever social circles we find ourselves, then it becomes much easier to belittle, insult, and generally treat others with contempt. This does not lead to peace.
I am often embarrassed and ashamed of how swift Christians are to treat others with contempt. In our hyper-partisan society, we find someone who does not agree with us and we hurl words of contempt and insult toward them. Every word and deed that belittles another is a declaration of our own sinful pride, and breaks peace instead of making it. Our own pride grieves the Holy Spirit of God, and prevents the fruit of peace from growing in our lives.
Regarding others as being of inestimable worth is an important step toward living in peace with others. Do not forget, it is because of Jesus’ great love for us that He made peace between us and God, at great cost to Himself. So too, you will create peace when you begin to see the worth of other people.
After this, it seems that the disciples still wanted to guard their own importance. They noticed someone else casting out demons and invoking the name of Jesus to do it. They thought, “Hey, that guy isn’t one of us! He has no right to use Jesus’ name in casting out demons!”
So they went to the man and tried to tell him he wasn’t allowed to use Jesus’ name. Nothing is said about the actual conversation the disciples had with the man; I can imagine him arguing, “But it WORKS, so how can it be wrong?” However the argument went, clearly the disciples didn’t win, because when they reported to Jesus, they said, “we tried to stop him.”
Jesus’ answer is another good lesson in peacemaking: “whoever is not against you is for you.”
Consider those words carefully. “Whoever is not against you is for you.” Jesus didn’t say, “Whoever is not for you is against you.” In the gospel of Matthew, He does say, “Whoever is not with me is against me.” But Jesus is the son of God, and he’s allowed to have that kind of exclusivity. But for the rest of us He has a different sort of expectation. Do not begin by assuming someone else is your enemy. Assume that they are with you until they prove otherwise.
Again, this is a deep problem in our society; we are quick to make assumptions about the beliefs, actions, motivations, and thought processes of others. If we can pigeon-hole them in a particular group (he belongs to political party X, or she supports candidate Y, or they belong to social movement Z), then we feel like we can make all sorts of assumptions about them without ever taking the time to find out anything about them. Take this lesson from Jesus. Do not begin from the assumption that someone is an enemy.
If it seems like Jesus is having to correct His disciples a lot, just wait, because next He has to deliver a stinging rebuke to them.
They are on their way to Jerusalem, and along the way, they have to pass through Samaria. Jesus sends some people on ahead to let the villagers know He’s coming, so they can be prepared to welcome Him.
In order to understand what happens next, we need to remember that the Samaritans were racial outcasts to the Jews. There was no peace between the two groups, just as there is often little peace between racial groups today. We need to also understand that the Samaritans refused to worship God in Jerusalem; they thought their own places of worship were just as good. Because of this, someone traveling to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover would have been like a slap in the face to the Samaritans. And that’s exactly where Jesus was going – to Jerusalem for the Passover.
Apparently Jesus’ messengers told the Samaritans where Jesus was headed and why. They reacted as though he was snubbing them, and therefore they snubbed Him in return. They refused to give Jesus a welcome in their town.
The disciples are appalled by this, and James and John decide they should pull an Elijah-stunt (remember Elijah prayed for fire from heaven to burn his sacrifice). They say to Jesus, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?”
And here is where Jesus rebukes them. We don’t find out the words He uses in His rebuke, but it’s clear He does not want them to call for destruction on the Samaritans.
What is the lesson here? Even when the Samaritans proved that they were not “for Him,” Jesus refused to treat them as His enemies. This is the greatest and most challenging part of being a peacemaker. When you have an enemy, do not treat them as though they are an enemy.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said:
One of the things that I find interesting about this passage is what follows immediately after it. Luke 10 is famous because of one of the most beloved parables which appears in it: the parable of the Good Samaritan.
You know that parable, I’m sure. As a quick summary, a man is attacked and left for dead. His own countrymen, people of his own culture, race and religion, ignored him and passed by. But a Samaritan – someone of a despised culture and race – stopped and tended to his wounds, and then provided food and shelter for him.
The Samaritan serves as a peacemaker here, crossing the boundaries of race, culture, and religion in order to care for someone who almost certainly despised him.
He saw the worth of the man lying by the road. He chose not to assume the worst of him, and then treated him as he would treat a friend.
But beyond this, I see something else that’s extraordinary: immediately after Jesus is snubbed by the Samaritans in chapter 9, he turns around and makes a Samaritan the hero of His story in chapter 10.
Would I have done that? No, almost certainly not. If someone treated me badly, I’d be more likely to make them the villain of the story I told, not the hero. So Christ rejects the model of behavior that leads to animosity, and embraces the generous, kind, and humble attitude that can bring about restored relationships.
Ultimately, peace grows in our lives because we see that this is who Christ, the Prince of Peace, is. And our love for Him re-forms us into His image.
At one of the churches I preach at regularly, when I ask the congregation for prayer requests, one of our parishioners repeatedly asks, “Pray for peace in our nation, pray for peace in our world.” How deeply our troubled world needs peace. Let us not be people who add to the strife in this world through our words or deeds. Let us, children of the Prince of Peace, strive for peace in all our ways. As Paul said, “as far as it depends on you, live in peace with everyone.” Pray for peace, and let that peace begin with us.
In light of the events of this week, I think it is important for us to consider ways that Christians might indulge in behaviors that are diametrically opposed to peacemaking. When we mock and use insulting names for those who disagree with us, we show our own sinful pride, and create animosity. When we lump people together in “us vs. them” categories without any regard for individual people, we build walls instead of tearing them down. When our regard for others is based on their race, their politics, their beliefs, or their social status, we stand in direct opposition to the character of God, as demonstrated in the life of Christ, and further illustrated in the story of the Good Samaritan. When we love our political parties or our political candidates more than we love the Prince of Peace, we are political idolaters, and we diminish peace and stir up rage in this world. In addition, I would add, when we reject truth because it is inconvenient or accept falsehood because it fits how we want to perceive the world, our willful ignorance demonstrates our disregard for the one who said, “I am the Truth.” In doing this, we sow confusion that reaps chaos. In all these things, if we are guilty, we must repent, for inasmuch as we hold to these ways, we are insurrectionists against the God of Peace, and add to the turmoil in this world where we have been called as God’s ambassadors. Let us repent, as needed, and turn instead to become true ambassadors of the Prince of Peace, who has given to us the message of reconciliation and the ministry of reconciliation.
Lord Jesus, you were the ultimate peacemaker, making peace between us and the Father, sacrificing your own self to make peace possible. Help us to value others as you have valued us. Help us to treat all people as potential friends instead of likely enemies, and we pray especially for the strength of heart and mind to treat even our worst enemies kindly and with love, for your sake. Amen
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me bring love.
Where there is offense, let me bring pardon.
Where there is discord, let me bring union.