(Monet, Garden Gate, 1881)
Beginning this week, I have been tasked with teaching a series to help create a peacemaking culture in the local congregation. We hope that this will be something which may be of use to others in the future. Anyway, here is the series introduction:
The Goal of this Series
I have a garden. But nothing will grow there, if I do not plant and water; care for the soil, drive off pests, prune, support. Nothing I do makes the seed grow; but if I do not work, nothing will grow.
My garden takes constant care. If I fail to water, the plants will die. If I do not tend the soil, the plants will be weak. If I do not drive off insects and vermin, I will lose all my work. My garden may never be perfect; but if I do my work, my garden will be fruitful.
A congregation of God’s people, gathered for worship is a garden, a vineyard. God calls his people his vineyard from whom God expects fruit. And one of sweetest fruits, one with a beautiful color and a ravishing scent is the fruit of peace.
Paul begins each of his letter with a prayer for peace: “and peace from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.” Peter prays, “peace be multiplied to you” (1 Peter 1:2). If we must pray for it, then it is something given to us. And if it something which the apostles constantly pray that God will bestow, then peace must be very precious.
Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace ….” (Gal. 5:22). Jesus says that he is the one who gives peace, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.” (John 14:27). Paul says that God is the “God of peace” (Rom. 15:33).
Jesus is “our peace” (Eph. 2:14). And so we have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1), and there is also peace among men. (Eph. 2:14-15). Indeed, when the Son came into the world, the angels sang of the peace brought into creation:
Glory to God in the highest
And on earth peace among those with whom he is well pleased.
Luke 2:14. This peace of God, this peace which passes all understanding, is the divine gift of the sovereign God. Just as the gardener cannot make the seed grow, so the Christian cannot force the gift of peace.
Although we know that peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit, we can so desire the good of peace and unity that we can try and force a peace. There can be a peace of silence and acquiescence, in which we are peaceful because we simply don’t care. There is a political peace, where we are peace in our actions but not in our hearts. It is a lack of fighting, and yet without any divine love. We can have a manipulative peace, or a fearful peace. We can have a peace which is based upon all of us getting along – but it is a peace which does not require Christ.
These false varieties of peace are like weeds growing bright green in the garden – they may even be strong and healthy, but there is no fruit. Or perhaps we could think of them like plastic grapes and silk flowers which look real from a distance.
And so we cannot obtain peace directly anymore than we can make the seed grow. Rather, to obtain peace we must learn to tend the garden of the church in such a way that peace naturally grows from the soil. We will have a great deal of work; we will need to water, and prune and support and drive off squirrels. But, we know from the promise of God and the constant demonstration of his work in the church, that peace – not perfect, due to our ongoing sin – will blossom and come to fruition.
In this series, our goal is to learn and live that sort of life which most naturally flowers into peace. To do that, we will work through the Sermon on the Mount.
As obvious as it may be to jump ahead to love one’s enemies, or turn the other check, we are going to start at the beginning. We will trust there is wisdom in the Scripture to teach us in the right order, to uncover our weakness and correct those thing which are twisted in just the right order.