3 Ways Peace Jesus Gives Differs from Peace the World Gives

Peace

27 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.

John 14:27

Many times throughout my life, I have wondered how people of different faiths (or people who claim to have no faith at all) can seem to be living in such peace when their life comes crashing down all around them. If Christ is the true source of peace, why are there times when I feel devastatingly anxious and in the very same circumstance, someone who does not believe in God is able to move forward in confidence?


Biological influences aside, I’ve often assumed there must be some major flaw in my faith. Obviously, I am not trusting God enough, because the Gospel is not propelling me towards peace in the instant I experience pain or grief.


I no longer believe this is true. Believing in Jesus does not mean you will automatically have a leg up on feeling at peace in adverse circumstances.


Then what IS the difference between peace that Jesus gives and peace that the world gives? Here are three ways I think they differ.

  1. The world’s peace is temporal, Jesus’ peace is eternal.


    I don’t know anyone who would disagree with the statement that we live in a culture of immediate gratification. It is what feeds our addictions, greed, complacency, lust and more. The world’s offer of peace says that if you are a single person and you’re lonely and you want to feel wanted, go hookup with someone, watch porn, masturbate, or realize your own self-sufficiency to cope. Jesus’ offer of peace says to that same person, run to Jesus and to the body of Christ for comfort instead.


    If I’m honest, the first option sounds a whole lot better because it gives immediate satisfaction to my desires and brings a temporary peace. But the truth is, the second option will give me more of a long-term sense of well-being. The world’s peace is wonderful at masking symptoms. Its the most amazing painkiller. Jesus’ peace, on the other hand, offers surgery for the deeper issues of the heart. Its less pleasurable, but more effective. And at the end of this age, the peace of Jesus will be forever sustained. The peace of the world will show its true worth and be blown away like dust.

  2. The world’s peace relies on the power of self, Jesus’ peace relies on Jesus.What is the world’s best response to suffering? Suffering happens to everyone. Make the most of it by taking care of yourself and thinking positively. Jesus’ answer is quite a contrast. The focus shifts from self to God. “In this world, you will have trouble,” He says honestly. “but take heart” –why?!?–“for I have overcome the world.”


    Who overcomes?


    Not circumstances nor positive self-talk. Not even gratitude or praise or trust in God (though these things can be immensely helpful in providing proper perspective and can certainly bring comfort and give glory to God)! The peace Jesus gives is based solely on Himself. This means that, if you are a follower of Christ, you have peace whether you feel like you have it or not. You have peace even on your most terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day (Alexander, anyone?) because it is not dependent on your effort. If nothing else in life is well, it can still be said, “it is well with my soul.” When everything falls apart, the world does not have that reassurance.

  3. The world’s peace strives to find purpose in suffering, Jesus’ peace is a free gift in the midst of suffering.


    “At least you can let this tragedy motivate you to help others in similar situations.” You hear this sentiment from Christians and non-Christians alike. So, what’s the difference? If we are not destroyed by it, all of us tend to clamor to find meaning in suffering. This is a noble desire that speaks of the wonder and resiliency of the human spirit. The difference, however, is how one finds meaning in suffering. The world shoulders all the responsibility of forging meaning on human effort. What a terrible burden!


    In contrast, Paul says, “all things work out for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose.” We certainly have a responsibility to act (we are called according to His purpose), but we are not alone. We are in partnership with the God of the universe and with the body of Christ, where the power of God also dwells. “If God is for us, who can be against us?” There is a strength behind Jesus’ peace that, even when no meaning can be found in a particular pain, has the capacity to stand firm in the knowledge that God is surely working for my good behind-the-scenes of life.

 

The Puzzling Pursuit of Perseverance

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
James 1:2-4

I was boiling with anger. I felt paralyzed, helpless against the ever-changing tide of circumstance and self. I tried to keep my body language open. The usual practice of hugging my arms tightly around the blessed pillow (which doubles as a barricade for my heart) too often suppressed the unruly tornado swirling inside me.

“Ok, I can’t believe I’m asking this, but . . . how do I lose my conscience?” I asked awkwardly. I laughed, and my therapist chuckled. “I know that’s terrible . . . I mean, who asks their counselor that?” I added, my tone shifting quickly into incredulous despair.

“No . . . no, its not terrible at all. It just shows me how much you’re in pain. I can hear it,” she responded gently.

Apparently God has graced me with a remarkably strong conscience and a resolve to pursue truth no matter what it costs me.

I get angry about that a lot.

I observe the cultural stream of self-actualization and self-fulfillment with wonder and longing. I see the happiness of my friends who give more authority to the phrase be yourself than I am comfortable giving. In contrast, I step into self-sacrifice over and over again, to be met with disappointment (let me be clear – I do “go my own way” a lot, but there’s a boundary that I just can’t seem to cross that some people seem to be able to do a little easier).

What’s the point? To hell with suffering for Christ… I want to live!

In my darkest moments, that is my anthem.

Still, I’m grateful for the Holy Spirit’s unrelenting pursuit of my heart. Somehow, deep down I know that perseverance in pursuing what I know to be ultimately good and true is nurturing a maturity in me that will far supersede the temporary happiness of going through life the way I feel will make me happy. I have even been able to experience glimpses of this truth in my life now.

If it was just about maturity and growing into Christlikeness, I don’t think I would be able to resist rebelling. But its not just that. Through my suffering and my shaky trust in God’s goodness, I am being made complete.

Complete.

What a gloriously attractive word! If I were to marry a word, “complete” would be the one for me.

There is so much that is incomplete in this world. Whatever perspective you look from, the 107 billion¹ puzzle pieces (and counting²) of humanity scatter the earth in chaos. God the great puzzler sees everything that has been, is now, will be, and could have been. Keeping all this in mind, He is in process of shaping each of us to contribute to the whole picture in the most beautiful way we can. Some of us are side pieces, bordering the edges of this fraying world. Others burst in with color and focus in the center.

Each one He has made and chosen are essential.

Imagine for a moment scrolling through Amazon and seeing an advertisement.

700-billion-piece puzzle (2)

Intrigued, you click the ad, but all it reveals is a short description:

Box not included.

Such is the way of humanity.

We buy the puzzle and try to create meaning of a 107 billion piece puzzle with no box.

Only God has the picture on the box, but in His great mercy He allows us the freedom to choose… will we try to fit ourselves in our own way into a massive puzzle which we can only begin to imagine…or will we trust that the God who made us also created the box we came in and will fit us in such a way that we will be rendered eternally complete?

Perseverance must finish its work.

And what is that work?

It is the work of allowing God in His sovereignty to shape us into the puzzle pieces that will reveal us as the glorious, complex, integrated, communal, creative, complete human beings that we are.

It is the work of realizing that in the waiting for Him to finish the puzzle, God knows how we best fit better than we do.

And when that last piece is lovingly placed, we will experience that wondrous eternity where we will truly “lack no good thing.”

But for now, by the grace of a suffering Savior, I’ll try to continue on in the puzzling pursuit of perseverance.

¹the estimated number of people who have ever lived

²remember that show 19 (20? 21?) Kids and Counting? If you thought that was a nightmare, imagine having 107 billion kids! Its all about perspective, right?

 

My Response to The Nashville Statement

Earlier this week, The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a document entitled “The Nashville Statement.

Because I am passionate about loving LGBT people well due to some very personal ties, I feel compelled to express with utmost clarity my own convictions regarding sexuality.

Though I am an Evangelical Christian and though I live in Nashville and though I incompletely agree with parts of “The Nashville Statement,” I believe it is an extremely poor and untimely expression of beliefs in numerous ways, and one about which I am sad and angry.

And so, I’ve come up with some statements of my own.



Article 1

I AFFIRM that sexuality is complicated, confusing, and ultimately a gray area in a world that insists on being black and white.

I DENY 
that sexuality is merely the sum of our biological parts and AFFIRM that the characteristics of gender difference are mostly shrouded in mystery and therefore cannot be described in ultimatums.

Article 2
I AFFIRM that God has boundless compassion for individuals questioning their sexuality, and that He will love people through their own particular journeys.

I DENY that LGBT people are going to hell based on how they identify themselves.

Article 3
I AFFIRM that the Church is called to be a place where sexuality can be discussed openly, freely, and without fear of judgment.

I DENY that the Church has any right to condemn God’s children based on their gender identity.

Article 4
I AFFIRM that describing oneself as gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. as a partial expression of one’s experience of life are helpful descriptors that have many nuanced layers of meaning and that each person’s story must be heard in its entirety before jumping to conclusions.

I DENY that describing oneself as any of the LGBT descriptors is a violation of God’s “natural order”.

Article 5
I AFFIRM that a continuous searching of the Scriptures combined with consulting of the Holy Spirit is required to mold our understanding of sexuality.

I DENY that the discussion should ever be “closed” on the topic of sexuality.

Article 6
I AFFIRM that I will personally love and cherish every LGBT person I have the honor of knowing.

I DENY that my own convictions will prevent me from respecting another person’s story.

Article 7
I AFFIRM that evangelical Christians have been historically hateful and phobic of LGBT people.

I DENY that hate and fear are appropriate responses to difference of any kind.

Article 8
I AFFIRM that Christians have the radical and joyful privilege to BE FAMILY to their LGBT brothers and sisters in Christ.

I DENY that same-sex attraction for a Christian equates to a lifetime of loneliness and shame.

Article 9
I AFFIRM that God is fully and uniquely at work in each of our lives and that He will mold our hearts to His will if we are willing to be open to the painful and uncomfortable processes He uses.

I DENY that I have all the answers.


I’m sure I could go on and on . . . but for now I will stop there and leave you with this beautiful song about a Christian man who experiences same-sex attraction and how a church’s all-too-common condemnation of LGBT people deeply affects him . . . and the radical love of Jesus that broke through all of the man’s shame and fear.