Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6–7 NIV)
In one of my favorite pieces of writing, poet Wendell Berry explores “The Peace of Wild Things”:
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The picture our imaginations capture when we think about being at peace mimics these soft words Berry writes. We think of the quiet graces of nature that afford us breaks from days that can be marked with anxiety and punctuated with a gnawing sensation deep into our very marrow that things aren’t as they should be. We may even have a crude running list in the corners of our minds of things keeping us from experiencing peace.
Yet, the examples we see in Scripture aren’t about a kind of peace contingent on our circumstances but one that transcends the reality of our days. In the Old Testament, the Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom describes a state of well-being, harmony, and tranquility achieved through God’s presence. This comprehensive peace encompasses all aspects of life, including relationships, health, and safety. In the New Testament, the Greek word for peace is eirene. Eirene describes a state of harmony and tranquility achieved through God’s grace and the presence of the Holy Spirit. Philippians 4:7 says, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This verse points us to a supernatural peace that cannot be achieved through human reasoning.
While it’s true we’ve been given this incredible gift of inexplicable peace, we’ve also been given the responsibility of being peacemakers in the world. At a time when it seems everywhere we look we’re being influenced to wage war – a war against cultural issues, a war against things we feel violate our morals and our religious ethics, a war against whatever the “other” side of the faulty political continuum is to us – John 3:17 reminds us that God didn’t even send Jesus in the world to condemn the world, but to save it.
Our identity isn’t rooted in our ability to commit physical, emotional, or spiritual violence against perceived enemies in the name of Christianity but in God’s call for us to wage peace by climbing into the trenches with the bloodied and binding up the wounds of the broken, sometimes even binding the wounds of those we ourselves have broken.
One of the most beautiful aspects of the fruit of the spirit is the complex ways we’ve been given both the fruit to partake in for our own good and the seeds to plant more fruit to help nourish a weary world. That feels a lot like peacemaking. And waging peace, both in our own hearts and in the world, sounds like work worthy of our calling.
—Written by Sarah Sciarini, Director of Communications for First Baptist Church in Lodi, California, and NorCal NAB. She is also a part of EYELET, working to elevate the voices of younger leaders in the NAB.