Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
Yesterday we got up early, jumped in the car, and headed west to the International Peace Garden. The Peace Garden was established in 1932 as a symbol of cooperation and friendship between the US and Canada. At the entrance of the Peace Garden is a plaque that reads, “To God in his Glory we two nations dedicate this garden and pledge ourselves that as long as men shall live we will not take up arms against one another.”
It was a perfect day to be there. The garden was beautiful. There are an estimated 150,000 flowers planted in the garden each year. It is truly an amazing sight. From the entrance there is a view up the length of the garden. It is a well-manicured lawn interspersed with gardens, fountains, and a stream that runs right along the border between the town countries. As a person strolls through this centerpiece of the garden, they literally step back and forth between the two countries. In some ways it is rather surreal.
The Peace Garden represents a deep longing of all people; to live at peace. Yet, for all of the efforts that have been made, we live in a world of war and strife. The peace that the world offers is often at the expense of someone else. We put up walls to protect ourselves and keep others out. We tenaciously hold onto what we have instead of sharing it with others.
James makes it clear that we don’t experience the peace we desire because our hearts are in the wrong place. What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don't get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3)
Everyone wants peace, but on their terms.
The Hebrew word for peace is shalom. Shalom is far more than the absence of strife. Shalom is an overall sense of well-being, a sense of contentment and wholeness that can transcend circumstances. It is seeking not only a person’s own well-being, but seeking the well-being of others as well. True peace cannot be found in isolation. It is always in the context of community.
Paul addressed this in Philippians 2:3-4. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. True peace comes when we take the focus off of ourselves and put it on others. As we seek the well-being of others, we will experience peace for ourselves.
As Jesus was nearing the cross, He gave His disciples a gift, the gift of peace. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. Jesus knew that the disciples were headed into rough waters. He knew that they would be facing many challenges. So He gave them an underlying sense of His care and His presence that would sustain them even when their environment was in turmoil. The peace that the world gives is temporary and is based on outward circumstances. The peace that Jesus gives is permanent and it not based on outward circumstances. The peace of Christ is an internal source of strength that can overcome fear.
Paul tells us that the way to tap into the peace of Christ is to bring everything to Him. Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7) The more that we let God be an active part of our life, the more we will experience the peace that He has promised us. When we know that the sovereign God of the universe has our back, we can be freed from anxiety and worry. We can experience peace.
The International Peace Garden is a beautiful symbol of humanity’s highest ideals. But on our own we will not attain our goal of peace. It as only as we yield, in humble submission to Christ, that we can experience the peace we so desire.
For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.