Live at Peace
Sermon by Pastor Josh Van Leeuwen
Introduction by Phyllis Yearick
We all long to live in a world completely at peace, but how many of us are actually working to bring about that reality? It won’t happen on its own. Wishful thinking won’t bring it into being. What can we do to make at least our little corner of the world more peaceful? Is it even possible? Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” He also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.” Where does peace in our communities, our world, begin?
First, we must be at peace ourselves. We’ve seen before that peace is not the absence of conflict but the presence of the Holy Spirit in us. What about our dealings with others? Where there is life, there will be conflict. Think back to your high school English classes and all the literature you read. Remember the varieties of narrative conflict? There’s person vs. self; person vs. person; person vs. society; person vs. nature; person vs. machine. That’s a lot of conflict. But if we want peace, we must address all of these.
In our personal narratives, which are all part of God’s Big Story, how we choose to respond to conflict of any kind determines whether we are peacemakers. When someone treats us badly, do we treat them badly in return? Paul writes, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.” Old Testament law required an eye for an eye, which ensured that punishment did not exceed the severity of the crime. But Jesus taught a different way: turn the other cheek. When someone harms us, we must relinquish our right to revenge and leave that up to God, who will be our avenger.
When things don’t go our way and it seems as if the universe itself is against us, do we take out our frustration on our loved ones, coworkers, other drivers unfortunate enough to be on the road with us, or even the family pet? The better choice is to dig down and find that peace inside us that Jesus left us in the person of the Holy Spirit and hold onto it as tightly as we can. Bonus: when other people see us remaining calm in a volatile situation, they will wonder what we know that they don’t, and sometimes an opportunity to share the gospel of Christ will present itself. As others meet Jesus, accept his gift of salvation, and welcome the Holy Spirit, peace grows and God’s kingdom advances.
Not only are we to respond with peace when we encounter conflict, but also we are to meet the world as peacemakers. Social justice is an important arm of peacemaking. Can we be comfortable in our economic prosperity when we know some in our communities are living in poverty? Can we enjoy our full refrigerators and pantries knowing that others are going hungry? Can we savor our freedom knowing that others are victims of injustice? There is evil in the world, and although we followers of Jesus do our best not to contribute to that evil, that’s not the same as confronting it where we find it. Paul says we should “overcome evil with good.”
Extending the love of Jesus to everyone we encounter, especially our antagonists, can be challenging. We’d rather avoid them. We’d rather they get what they deserve. We don’t want them to be our problem. We don’t want to feed them or clothe them or fight for justice for them. All that goes against human nature. But we need to remember that it is infinitely less than Jesus did for us, and it is the only path to peace. The question is, will we take it?
You are welcome at Westview Church! Join us this Sunday morning at 9:30 for worship (Children’s Worship and nursery care available). Discovery Hour is on summer break.