All of you, if you have been in the church as long as I have, have heard the phrase "passing the peace." Most of us think of it as a greeting during, before or after worship, and it can surely be this. Some of us might think it is part of the act of communion, and it surely fits in the communal aspect of the eucharist. But I would like to think God's word leads this practice further and deeper.
Jesus speaks about the importance of peace as he weeps for Jerusalem saying (Luke 19), "How I wish today that you, of all people, would understand the way to peace!" Paul tells us, in Colossians 3, to allow peace to "rule in our hearts." He follows this calling with an admonition to teach, counsel and sing (I love he brings music into this!). To Jesus and Paul this idea of peace is something that should not be an occasional choice or a spiritual "bone" we throw to God saying, "See ... I can choose peace when I want to!" They see it as a way of doing life. Maybe we should explore it more deeply!
Three words about peace. Presence, persistence and power. When we choose peace over conflict, we acknowledge the PRESENCE of Jesus. There are lots of opportunities to practice this. Just go through a normal day, and you will probably have a chance to choose peace over conflict. I usually do this by asking a few questions. "What are we trying to accomplish here?" "How can this situation become a way to achieve the mission of Jesus?" "How can I be Jesus and the Church to another person?" When I ask these questions, Jesus is present in my thought process.
Peace also takes PERSISTENCE. To live in an attitude of peace, I must continually put my natural tendencies down. My natural attitude is to win, conquer, overcome, overpower and rule. Colossians 3 says to allow peace to rule, so I must be persistent. My natural habits and knee-jerk reactions are oppressively persistent, so my love for Jesus and my submission to Him must persistently be on my mind. Peace must rule my actions!
Finally, peace has a POWER component. Does Christ have power in your life? Does He rule over your emotions? Is Jesus dominant over your thought process? These are the questions about allowing peace to "rule the roost" as the Message states Colossians 3. I wonder? We all say we want God to have power in our lives. We say we seek the power of Christ, and even people like John Wesley were concerned that Jesus would cease to have power in the upstart Methodist church. So, do we want God's power? When Colossians 3 uses the word "rule" it is used in a governing sense. The implication is that our hearts and our attitudes are governed by peace ... not emotions, not feelings and not reactions. Feelings, emotions and reactions are natural, but we, as mature Christians, are called by Jesus Himself, to cede rule to our "higher authority." In our world today we see Jesus losing presence and power in our world. Maybe this is because the people called by His name have given up power to the wrong thing. Maybe it is time for us to reassert the presence, persistence and power of Christ in our lives and in His Church! "Oh, how I wish that you, (we) of ALL people, would understand the way to peace!" Jesus' words ... not mine! Randy