Saturday, March 5, 2011
The Fruit of the Holy Spirit part 3: Peace ( Galatians 5:22-23, Psalm 46, Ephesians 2:11-22 )
Peace is kind of one of those slippery words, like love, that we use a lot and that we can attach so many different meanings to.
Peace says Richard Longenecker is the ‘universal quest of humanity, though it is defined differently in various philosophies and cultures.’ That’s important when we come to grasp a biblical understanding of peace, because the New Testament is a collection of very cross cultural documents. The New Testament writers in the main part are Jewish thinkers writing in the Greek language to people from a whole raft of different cultural backgrounds held together by the ‘Pax Roma’ social peace backed and enforced by the military might of the Roman Empire.
Eirene The Greek word we translate as peace, Eirana, picks up the Greek definition and aim in life to find an inner tranquillity, and a quietness of mind. Expressed, negatively it means an absence of pain in the body or trouble in the mind.
Shalom is at the core of God actions towards us. Jesus is called ‘the prince of peace’, the one who has come to restore those right covenant relationships, the one who invites both Jew and gentile into right relationship with God and a new way of being humanity together, in the kingdom of God which the whole of creations Romans tells us is aching to see revealed .
In saying that in knowing God we find an inner peace and stillness I’m not saying we are to be passive or fatalistic.
Jesus said that this trust in God should free us up to put first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.’
We can easily forget that the context of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is not primarily in our own personal life but it is in the community of faith. The fruit of the Holy Spirit are at the centre of how we can form the people of God together, they are the character traits of the Christian believer and of the Christian community. This understanding of peace is very much the Hebrew understanding of right relationships. Influential fourteenth century theologian and mystic
In Ephesians 2:11-12’ Paul articulates the fact that Jesus is the one who is the peace across the great divides of humanity. He is the one who has broken down the dividing walls between us and it’s only natural that as we allow his spirit to lead us and we walk in the spirit that we should grow this peace between us. Again we don’t often pick up the irony in the scriptures, Paul was writing to the Ephesians while he was in prison awaiting trial in Rome. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had accused Paul of taking a gentile past the court of the gentiles in the temple to where only Jews were able to go. Paul maintained he was innocent, but must have had a lot of time to reflect on the way that Jesus had broken down that dividing wall and that in Christ we all have that same access to God, he made a way for us all to be God’s children together. So a fruit of the spirit working within us is a peace between us.
It is why when we look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit we see that they all need to ripen and develop together. To achieve this peace we need love and a shared sense of joy we find in knowing and being known by God, we need patience and kindness and generosity, gentleness and self-control.
‘Christians often focus on the peace that is beyond understanding, its the peace that Jesus gives us as we come to know him a peace that the world cannot understand it because it comes from God and a peace that comes from knowing God. But we also need to be aware that the work of the Holy Spirit is to produce a peace between us.
The great thing is that in Christ we can have both.
(once again I am indebted to the book 'Fruitg of the Holy Spirit' by Thomas Trask and Wayde Goodall 2000, Zondervan)