Let Peace Rule

Dr. Brian Allison

October is the time of the year when many people are tuned in to the Major League Baseball play-offs. Many who have not been baseball fans from April through to September, often become one in October. The emotions of the play-offs are inviting and contagious. Now, emotions can escalate, especially when umpires make controversial calls. The fans may vehemently disagree with a call. They may boo and hiss. The players may vehemently disagree with a call. They may stomp their feet and throw down their bat or glove. The managers may vehemently disagree with a call. They may dash out of the dugout and yell at the umpire. But when the umpire has made his ruling, it stands. The role of an umpire is to regulate the play, to make sure that the game continues smoothly and orderly, at least from his perspective. The umpire supervises the opposing teams and their actions. He serves as an arbitrator; he watches and rules over the proceedings.

Now, according to the Scriptures, as an umpire is to baseball, so peace is to be to our hearts and to our relationships; and if peace is the umpire in our hearts, ruling over its affairs, then we will express a certain kind of disposition. Colossians 3:15 reads, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which [also] you were called in one body; and be thankful." The wider context of this verse is that of Christian relationships. We read, "And so, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other; whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you" (Col. 3:12,13). Here we have presented the kind of relationships that ought to characterize the Christian community. As the apostle Paul focuses on this matter of Christian relationships, he is particularly interested in communal or Christian unity. Thus, he writes, "And beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity" (Col. 3:14). The quality of relationships is determined by the condition of the heart. The content of the heart determines one's fruit and actions; and the essential characteristic of a good heart, and thus of healthy relationships, is that of peace.

The legacy of Christ's peace

The peace that should rule in the Christian's heart is Christ's own peace – "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." Recall the language of John 14:27, in which Jesus uttered words of encouragement, hope, and consolation. He affirmed, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." Christ has left us His peace as a legacy, and thus it is not something we must strive for, nor is it something for which we should necessarily plead. Because Christ has left us His peace as a legacy – "My peace I give to you" – it is already a possession. Think about that for a moment. As a believer, you already have Christ's peace as a personal possession. And in spiritual union with the living Lord Jesus, you have immediate access to this peace. By faith and trust in Christ and His words, the Spirit communicates this peace to you. Do you believe that?

Now, this fact of a present possession justifies and explains the apostle Paul's language. He urges, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts." It is an exhortation which implies, first, the possibility of personally experiencing the peace of Christ; and, second, that it is our responsibility to ensure that we actually experience this peace. Let me ask you: Are you distressed? Are you perplexed? Are you confused? Are you in a pressure situation? Did you receive some devastating news this past week? Well, to you my brothers and sisters, the Word of God says, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts."

It is possible to know God's calm, tranquillity, and serenity. But the question is: How? Isn't it true that there are so many spiritual blessings that are already ours in Christ, but that many do not know how to actually access them; and thus many do not personally experience and enjoy that which Christ has already freely given to them? So, how can we actually 'enter in', how can we know the reality of the peace of Christ? First, you need to recognize and acknowledge that this peace is already a possession, that you already have access to it. You need to claim it as a fact. You need to remind yourself that Christ's peace is already your legacy. Simply affirm what is already true. Second, by faith, you need to personally appropriate this truth. It is by faith that you will secure it. Again, "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hb. 11:6a). Do not expect that you will receive anything from God, if you doubt; you will lose the blessing. God has freely given, but we must receive and appropriate it. It is not an automatic transaction. We must, and can only, accept God's grace by faith. You must say, "Lord, you have given it. I believe You for it. I accept it as done." Third, you need to choose or decide to live and act accordingly, that you indeed have such peace. Now, I am not talking about self-manipulation, and I am not talking about positive thinking. I am talking about confirming the truth of God's Word, about ratifying what God has clearly said and promised. I am talking about entering into that which Christ has already established. Let me give you an example. A little while ago, someone said that they would repay me some money that they owed. I recognized and acknowledged that it was already mine, because I trusted what he said; it was, in effect, already my possession. And so by faith, I accepted it as a 'done deal'. As a result, I began to live and act in the light of that truth; I began to plan how I was going to use the money. So it is with the peace of Christ.

Christ's word is true; you must trust what He has said – "My peace I leave with you." Again, it is yours as a legacy, and we dishonour Him by denying in mind or in practice what He has pledged. You must pray, "Father, I recognize, I acknowledge, that peace. It is already mine in Your Son. I have access to it, in virtue of being in union with Your Son. I accept it by faith, and I will live and act in the light of that fact." Is that true for you? And, of course, the context in which we will know the full measure of this peace is prayer. Prayer is the spiritual context for accessing Christ's peace. Philippians 4:4-7 reads, "Rejoice in the Lord always; and again I will say rejoice! Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication [an expression of faith] with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Are you experiencing this peace? You should be, my Christian friend. If not, the problem does not lie on God's side, but on yours. You really do not believe what the Word of God says; and as a result, you fail to 'enter in'. So, how is your faith?

Christ's peace should rule in your heart

When it states: "Let the peace of God rule in your hearts," what is presupposed? Well, simply that there may be inner conflict. Christians can experience inner turbulence or disturbance. Our emotions, at times, can get out of hand. We may experience anger, bitterness, hatred, jealousy, envy, etc. What is further presupposed is that life may be characterized by upsets, misfortunes, tragedies, etc.

The term 'rule' can be translated 'arbitrator' or 'judge'; and so peace, metaphorically, should assume the role of an umpire. The point is this: peace should 'decide' over the disputes or conflicts that we experience in our hearts. Peace should regulate and guide the thoughts, the perceptions, the interpretations, etc. in our minds, and thus determine and decide how we should particularly act. In other words, the governing principle and motivation of our hearts should be that of peace; and if it is, then we will accept the various unfortunate circumstances and disturbing situations of life. If peace is the governing principle and the main motivation in our hearts, then we will not soon get flustered or ruffled at the unexpected; we will not soon become self-centredly angry at unfulfilled desires or unanticipated disappointments; we will not soon become embittered, jealous, envious, enraged, or wrathful at personal defeats. Peace, by its very nature, squeezes out all these negative and destructive emotions.

Is peace the umpire in your heart? Is it saying to anger, "You're out!"; and to jealousy, "You're out!"; but to kindness, "You're safe!"; and to gentleness, "You're safe!" Carrying through on the metaphor, what is the score inside your heart? Who or what is winning? Peace ensures sanity and stability of mind. In peace of mind, you are then able to surrender everything to Christ. Have you done that? Have you surrendered everything to Him. With peace ruling in the mind, problems should no longer bother you in the same way, they should no longer trouble you as they once did.

Christ's peace should rule in your relationships

Inner peace guarantees relational peace; to be quiet on the inside results in harmony on the outside – "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which also, you were called in one body." If peace rules within, then in reference to others, you will yield, you will defer, you will be kind, you will be gentle, etc. Often relationships are in turmoil because of the spilling over of inner conflicts and unrest. Your husband or wife, or colleague or friend, receive the fallout of your lack of inner peace – the irritability, the grumpiness, the moodiness, etc. My friend, you will not know peace in your relationships until you first know peace in your heart.

Notice, peaceful relationships ensure unity, which, of course, ought to characterize the body of Christ – "to which [peace] also you were called in one body." Christ calls us, and the Scriptures exhort us, to be peacemakers because He has also called us and made us to be one fellowship. Peace serves as the spiritual cohesion which maintains and promotes unity. Accordingly, if peace really does rule in your relationships, particularly in the body of Christ, there won't be any murmuring. There won't be any quarreling. There won't be any backbiting. There won't be any gossiping. There won't be any destructive criticizing. In experiencing peace, of necessity, you will experience unity. The Lord Jesus prayed for the unity of His people. He petitioned, "That they may all be one; even as Thou, Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in Us; that the world may believe that Thou didst sent Me" (Jn. 17:21). Incredible, isn't it? A demonstration and confirmation of the divinely purposed work of Christ may be realized by the harmonious relationships that characterize the body of Christ. It is in our unity that there is the proclamation, and the evidence, that God sent the Son to be the Saviour of the world. It is astounding that the manner in which Christian brothers and sisters relate to one another can communicate the most profound spiritual truth concerning what God has done in human history. In a certain sense, Christ died not simply for His Church, but for the unity of His Church. When peace really rules in our relationships, camaraderie will be developed, fellowship will be encouraged, reconciliation will be achieved.

Christ's peace promotes and produces thankfulness

The fruit of peace is thankfulness. When peace is ruling, when the governing principle in the heart and in relationships is peace, then the fruit will be thankfulness – "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful." First, only through inner peace can we thank God for all the concerns and problems that come into our lives. It is only when the peace of God is ruling in our hearts that we can accept life's troubles and difficulties, without complaining, but rather with gratitude. Second, when peace characterizes our relationships, then we can truly be thankful for another's presence, and for another's contribution, and for another's fellowship, and for another's friendship. Through peace, we can accept others freely, appreciate them, and embrace them in true Christian love and praise God for them. Unless peace rules in your relationships, my friend, you cannot do that. You will grumble against people, you will think unpleasant thoughts about people, you will bend over backwards to avoid people, you will have the greatest difficulty thanking God for people. But when peace rules, you will thank God at the remembrance of them.

Thankfulness is not only the fruit of peace, but it is also the fuel for peace. When you go to prayer, for instance, thanking God for someone, expressing gratitude for how they have touched your life or how they have made a contribution to your life, how will you feel towards them the next time you see them? Probably positively. You cannot be sincerely thankful for someone and soon react when you see them or are with them. Being thankful has a way of softening the heart and promoting peace.

My non-Christian friend, there is no peace for the wicked (Is. 48:22; 57:21). Now, you may narcotize yourself through the enticements of this world. You may intoxicate yourself with the enjoyments of this world. You may deceive yourself in believing that your life is satisfying, that your life is full. But one day you will discover (if you remain in your sin) that indeed there is no peace for the wicked. You may enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season, but you will experience the fires of hell for eternity, unless you turn in repentance to God. You will mourn and weep; and in His judgement against your sin, you will be in agony of soul; and there will be no peace for you. None! But the Prince of Peace has come, proclaiming peace and goodwill to people; and He now offers to you that peace. There is peace through the blood of Christ's cross. My friend, you can be reconciled to God today and know peace with God, so that you might experience the peace of God. And so, on Christ's behalf, I exhort you, "Be reconciled to God. [Because God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:20b,21). Won't you come? Stop fighting against God, you cannot win. Surrender to Him and know His peace.