Friday, January 19, 2018

True Joy and Peace

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As we continue with our study in the fruit of the Spirit, we move from love to the next two aspects of His fruit: joy and peace. What is Christian joy? John Calvin, who is so often thought of as stern and harsh, said that this joy is a “disposition toward cheerfulness.” Calvin preferred the term hilarity. Joy of the Spirit is a hilarious frame of mind, according to Calvin.

This joyfulness is based on the Christian’s awareness of victory. It is because Jesus has overcome the world that we can rejoice. This is a deep-rooted sense of joy and peace, not a superficial “happy face.” Sometimes Christians put on an artificial front of happiness that is really very offensive and results in our being thought of as “plastic Christians.” True cheerfulness goes deep. It is the celebration of the Bride before her Bridegroom.

As we read that the Spirit gives us peace, we probably quickly think of some kind of inner tranquility or peace of mind. The biblical concept is much broader. The Old Testament Hebrew word is shalom, which first of all means an interlude of safety from the ravages of warfare. The insecurity that comes from war made its mark on these people, and they looked for the day when the swords would be beaten into plowshares.

The Old Testament concept of peace does not stop here, but ascends into a theological vision. It is a vision of a new relationship between God and man, and between man and man: a relationship of friendship. Because of sin, we are estranged from God, but in Christ we have peace with God. And this leads us to what Paul means here: The fruit of peace with God is peace with others. The Christian lives at peace as much as possible with all mankind.

Too often we desire to be the recipients of joy and peace. We wait for it to come to us through other people and circumstances. However, Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” suggesting we should initiate peace. Today and through this weekend anticipate how you can actively bring peace and joy to a situation, relationship or task.