The fruit of the Spirit is . . . peace. Galatians 5:22 NIV
Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody. –Romans 12:18 TEV
Make every effort to live in peace with all men. –Hebrews 12:14 NIV
Karen and Paula were fighting again. Our third grade class was split in two.
“Whose side are you on?” one classmate would ask the other.
Never mind that the two best friends would soon make up and put the spat behind them, leaving the rest of us in social turmoil, everyone mad at everyone who wasn’t on her side.
Everyone, that is, except Thomas.
“I’m on my own side,” he answered confidently when I asked him.
Good for Thomas for not choosing sides and staying out of it. He probably had—and kept—the most friends.
Why did I have to choose a side, anyway? Because it was the thing to do? Because I felt pressured by my peers? Because if I didn’t choose a side, I’d be left out? At least if I chose a side, I’d have some friends.
At that age, I thought the silliness of taking sides was a kid-thing, that we’d outgrow it and, as adults, be able to get along with one another.
Ha! It doesn’t get any better, does it? From office squabbles to church splits to road rage to family feuds, discord abounds in the world around us. Will it ever end?
A more important question, though, is, where does it start? (Once you can answer where it starts, you have the answer to how it can end.)
It starts, not with conflict between two people, but in the heart. When the twins of selfishness and pride reign, one-upmanship defines all your relationships. You have to tell the better story, own the nicer home, drive the more expensive car, have the last word, inflict the final blow.
It never ends, though, does it? It just goes on and on and on, until one person says, “I’ve had enough.”
It takes two to tangle. All it takes for peace is for one person to refuse to take part in these dangerous games people play.
Look at the story of King Saul and David, the shepherd boy anointed to be the next king. With all his kingly resources, Saul relentlessly pursued David to kill him, but David, even when he had an opportunity to gain the upper hand, refused to retaliate. It wasn’t David who suffered from a troubled spirit (1 Samuel 16:14).
How can we obtain the inner peace that spills over into outer peace?
Second, learn to trust God with every aspect of your life, banishing anxiety by telling God about your needs (Philippians 4:6–7, 19; Matthew 6:8, 25–33), knowing that His way is always the best way (Isaiah 55:8–9).
Third, train your mind so that your thoughts are on God, for He will “keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on” Him (Isaiah 26:3).
Fourth, make a conscious effort to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15) by refusing to play the one-upmanship game, to retaliate when someone hurts you (Matthew 5:38–48). Don’t allow bitterness to take root in your heart and mind, where it will grow and poison you and your relationships with others (Hebrews 12:14).
“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, and every kind of malice” (Ephesians 4:31). Don’t play the payback game (Romans 12:14–21).
Instead, “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as God, in Christ, has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32), and overcoming bad with good.
Peace is a choice.
Dear God, in a time when world peace is humanly impossible, remind me that true peace begins with me—and You. Amen.
Read and reflect on 1 Samuel 24 and Colossians 3:12–15.
From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea, Vol. 3, © 2019 Michele Huey.