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A Resource by Mark D. Roberts

Intimate Fellowship and Peace

by Rev. Dr. Mark D. Roberts

Copyright © 2005 by Mark D. Roberts

Note: You may download this resource at no cost, for personal use or for use in a Christian ministry, as long as you are not publishing it for sale. All I ask is that you give credit where credit is due. For all other uses, please contact me at Thank you.

This is a draft of the last chapter in my book, After "I Believe."

Almost in Paradise

I have seen Paradise . . . well, sort of. A few years ago, my wife and I were camping in Kings Canyon National Park, a deep valley in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. On the first morning of our stay, we packed a lunch and headed off along a trail that ran beside the South Fork of the Kings River. As we meandered through the pine and cedar forest, the trail gradually climbed up a narrowing canyon. After about four miles of uphill hiking, we came upon the dazzling cascades of Mist Falls. Clambering up the rocky, mist covered trail, we finally arrived at the top of the falls.

Before us lay an exquisite sight. The valley above the falls became wider and flatter. The river that rushed through the gorge below was now placid as it flowed gently between verdant forests and blooming meadows. The granite walls of the glacier-carved valley shone in the piercing Sierra sunlight. Locating a perfect spot for our picnic lunch, Linda and I drank in the tranquility of our heavenly realm. No wonder it was called "Paradise Valley,” a place of unrivaled beauty and peacefulness.

Paradise and Peace

Paradise and peace are inseparable. I can't imagine being in paradise that lacked peace. Moreover, the experience of inner peace feels like paradise to me. I know lots of people who would readily agree: the mom with young children who cherishes those rare moments when her house is quiet; the harried manager who lingers for an extra minute in the stillness of his car after work; the high school student whose gorged schedule allows no time for sleep. Then there are folks who find themselves in heartbreaking conflicts with family members. Others experience an internal war as old wounds haunt them every day. Many in our world today confront life-threatening violence in their communities. Peace -- in relationships, in our hearts, in daily life -- now that would be paradise indeed.

Relaxing in Paradise Valley in King's Canyon
National Park.

The Hebrew word for peace, shalom, has a much richer significance than the English word "peace." Whereas we sometimes think of peace as merely the absence of conflict, shalom includes notions of wholeness, completeness, and prosperity (see Ps 37:11 or Isa 54:12-12).

In the Old Testament, peace is inseparable from righteousness and justice. In Isaiah's vision of a future day when a righteous king will reign over Israel:

. . . the wilderness will become a fertile field, and the fertile field will become a lush and fertile forest. Justice will rule in the wilderness and righteousness in the fertile field. And this righteousness will bring peace. Quietness and confidence will fill the land forever (Isa 32:15-17).

With a similar picture in mind, the Psalmist looks forward to a time with God's salvation pervades the nation: "Unfailing love and truth have met together. Righteousness and peace have kissed! (Psa 85:10). In biblical perspective, therefore, the absence of conflict is only the beginning of peace. True peace includes personal wholeness, corporate righteousness, political justice, and prosperity for all creation. That's exactly the way God intended things to be when he created his garden, his paradise.

The creation accounts in Genesis reveal the peaceful dimensions of God's masterpiece. In Eden, all relationships are sound as creation works together to fulfill God's purposes. Human beings share intimate relationship with their Creator and with each other (Gen 2:25). The Old Testament conception of peace, therefore, is closely related to the New Testament notion of koinônia. When we have peace with God, we live in intimate fellowship with him. Similarly, peaceful human relationships are also characterized by koinônia. Peace, intimate fellowship, righteousness, and justice, characterize God's perfect paradise. They reveal God's plan for our lives.

Paradise Lost and Peace Destroyed

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end in the Garden of Eden. Even as Linda and I had to leave Paradise Valley, the first humans couldn't remain in God's perfect creation. Whereas Linda and I left voluntarily, Adam and Even were kicked out of their paradise. Whereas Linda and I left Paradise Valley in its pristine state, Adam and Eve ruined Paradise, not only for themselves, but for the rest of us as well. They disrupted the peacefulness of God's entire creation.

How did this terrible thing happen? When he was created, Adam was told by the Lord that he could enjoy the fruit of all the trees in paradise, save one. The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil he was to avoid completely (Gen 2:16-17). When the serpent entices the woman to eat some of the forbidden fruit, she disobeys God's command and is joined by her husband in an illicit feast (Gen 3:6). All of sudden, peacefulness is shattered.

Immediately after they disobey God's command, Adam and Even feel shame about being naked. They feel the need to hide from one another and from themselves, an implication of the loss of peace in their hearts and their relationship (Gen 3:7). Sin has also destroyed human peace with God (Gen 3:8). Moreover, although God intended humans to live forever in his peace, now they will die, both physically and spiritually (Gen 3:19). As the ultimate proof of sin’s devastation, God banishes Adam and Even from paradise.

The story of Adam and Even grips our hearts because it is not simply an ancient account of two people and their tragic mistake. It is our personal tragedy as well. We share in this story both because Adam and Eve are our spiritual ancestors and because we mirror their behavior in our own lives. Like the first humans, we have rebelled against God. We too live outside of God's paradise. We yearn for the peace for which we were created, but never experience that peace apart from God. We experience brokenness in all of our key relationships, with ourselves, our companions, our world, and our God.

One of the things I find most attractive about Christianity is its realistic appraisal of human life. Some religious traditions minimize or even deny the reality of sin and its results. Suffering and evil are considered mere illusions. The Bible shows us, on the contrary, that these sorry states are all too real. God doesn't try to sweep them under the rug of new age naiveté, and neither should we. As Christians, we live fully in this world, facing its brokenness head on, but not trapped forever within it. Though peace was truly destroyed in the fall of humankind, the Creator of peace remains. He has a plan to reestablish peace throughout creation.

Jesus Comes to Reestablish God's Peace

In the Old Testament, God promised to mend that which had been lost in the Eden by re-instituting peace on earth. The Lord spoke of such restoration through the Old Testament prophets Ezekiel and Isaiah:

And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and multiply them, and I will put my Temple among them forever. I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people (Ezek 37:26-27).

How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger who announces peace, who brings good news, who announces salvation, who says to Zion, "Your God reigns" (Isa 52:7).

Notice how God's peace is integrally related to his salvation, to the restoration of his reign on earth. When God saves, he will restore his kingdom so that those who live under his rightful rule will experience the fullness of peace.

Isaiah's vision of God's future peacemaking effort includes an unsettling, unexpected image. The prophet describes God's Suffering Servant, "a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief" (Isa 53:3). This Servant suffers, not because of his own sins, but so that we might be forgiven for our sins: "But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed!" (Isa 53:5). God would restore peace on earth through one who took upon himself the penalty for human sin.

Jesus entered the world to fulfill the mission of the Suffering Servant, thus bringing divine peace. Shortly before Jesus was born, one of his relatives proclaimed:

By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace (Luke 1:78-79)

Upon the occasion of his birth, angels filled the sky with praise to God: "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors" (Luke 2:14).

Peace on earth sounds just great, doesn't it? It also sounds like something promised on a tacky poster in college dorm or by a politician seeking votes in the next election. Or it sounds very much like something a British Prime Minister once promised, to his ultimate shame.

In March 1938, Adolf Hitler led Germany to devour Austria. Then, turning his eyes to Czechoslovakia, Hitler and his generals drew up a plan to take over that nation as well. As war between Germany and Czechoslovakia seemed imminent, the Czechs looked to their allies, France and Great Britain, for help. But the French and the British were eager to avoid a war with Hitler's military machine. In September 1938, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, in partnership with French leaders, began negotiations with Hitler. Things appeared hopeless, however, because Hitler insisted on Germany's right to annex a substantial portion of Czechoslovakia. Yet, Prime Minister Chamberlain was so eager to avoid war that he caved in to Hitler's demands. Hitler did promise, however, to resolve all future differences through consultation rather than military action. In October 1938, Neville Chamberlain announced to jubilant crowds throughout Britain that he had achieved "peace with honour. I believe it is peace in our time." Of course we know the rest of the story. Within months, Hitler had annexed the rest of Czechoslovakia and invaded Poland. "Peace in our time" was no peace at all because it failed to remedy the root cause of the strife: Hitler's plan to dominate Europe.

"Peace on earth" promised in Scripture doesn't mean much unless it solves the basic human problem of sin. Peace doesn't come along just because baby Jesus was born. It isn't a by-product of Christmas cheer. Jesus' birth was only a prerequisite to his final peacemaking effort, something we celebrate during Holy Week, not during Christmas. As the Word of God made fully human, Jesus represented us on the cross. He bore our sin as had been prophesied of the Suffering Servant in Isaiah. His death dealt a fatal blow to sin, the root cause of human brokenness. Because Jesus was crucified, we can have peace in all of its fullness:

For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross (Col 1:19-20).

For this reason, Paul says simply of Christ: "He himself is our peace" (Eph 2:14; NIV).

Peace with God through Christ

What kinds of peace can we expect to experience through believing in Jesus? First, when we accept his sacrifice through faith, we have peace with God (Rom 5:1). Although once we were God's enemies because of sin, now because of Christ we have been reconciled to God (Rom 5:10-11). The strife between us and the Lord has been overcome by his grace. Peace with God includes intimacy, blessing, and the unimpeded flow of divine love. It encompasses everything God had intended for his relationship with us, including peace within ourselves and peace with others.

Inner Peace

Jesus promised to give his followers supernatural peace:

I'm leaving you with a gift -- peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give isn't like the peace the world gives. So, don't be troubled or afraid (John 14:27).

Once Jesus ascended to heaven, he gave this peace through the mediation of the Holy Spirit. It isn't like the peace provided by the world, which depends upon outward circumstances or inward rationalizations. Indeed, God's peace often comes when events or reasons would provide just cause for worry. It "is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand" (Phil 4:7).

If you've never experienced this kind of peace, all of this talk can sound rather unrealistic. But millions of Christians have known supernatural, inexplicable peace precisely in situations that would seem to instill distress. The great hymn writer, Charles Wesley, who wrote such beloved songs as "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing," lived a full life of service to Christ. Early in his 79th year, however, his health began to falter. As sickness dominated his body, Wesley knew that he would soon die. His doctor, who regularly visited his bedside during the last days, described Wesley's attitude in the face of death:

He possessed that state of mind which he had been always pleased to see in others -- unaffected humility, and holy resignation to the will of God. He had no transports of joy, but solid hope and unshaken confidence in Christ, which kept his mind in perfect peace. [1]

I have sat with many ordinary Christians in the hours before their death, who also have known the perfect peace that once filled the heart of Charles Wesley.

We find evidence of God’s peace in the life of another well-known hymn writer, Frances Havergal, who penned many beloved hymns, including "Take My Life, and Let It Be Consecrated." Her relatively short life was filled, however, with difficult challenges. When she was eleven, her mother died. Shortly thereafter, her father remarried. Frances's stepmother came between her and her father, causing deep hurt to the girl. As a young adult, Frances became so ill that she struggled even to get out of bed. Yet she continued to live actively, especially in her song-writing ministry. During one of her periods of illness, she composed these words:

Like a river glorious,
Is God's perfect peace,
Over all victorious,
In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth,
Fuller ev'ry day;
Perfect, yet it groweth,
Deeper all the way.
Stayed upon Jehovah,
Hearts are fully blessed;
Finding, as he promised,
Perfect peace and rest. [2]

Perfect peace in the midst of severe physical pain, that's beyond our comprehension. It's a gift from God.

Peace Among People

Peace with God and peace within do not exhaust the potentialities of peace through Christ. Scripture connects inner peace specifically to peace among people: "Let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are all called to live in peace" (Col 3:15). If divine peace reigns within us, it should touch our most important relationships in family, among friends, and in church. But the peace Christ affects an even broader set of human relationships than these.

Paul's letter to the Ephesians lays the spiritual foundation for peace among people. After first showing that the death of Christ leads to our personal salvation (Eph 2:4-10), Paul goes on to explore the corporate implications of the cross, focusing on the fundamental division between Jews and Gentiles.

For Christ himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. By his death he ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new person from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death, and our hostility toward each other was put to death (Eph 2:14-16).

The death of Jesus not only brings reconciliation between individuals and God, but also creates reconciliation among people by exploding the hostility that keeps us from living peacefully together. It's crucial that we pay attention to what Paul is teaching here, because sometimes we get so excited about the personal relevance of the cross that we neglect its corporate implications. We can proclaim the possibility of peace with God and peace within ourselves without mentioning peace among people.

God’s peace, however, entails reconciliation in all aspects of human society. I didn’t always realize this. As a young Christian, I focused solely on Christ's provision of peace with God, with my own soul, and with my closest companions. I reinterpreted Biblical passages that spoke of the social dimensions of peace to fit my narrow presuppositions. I could easily ignore the texts that connect peace with justice (Isa 9:7).

When I was in graduate school, however, my best friend was a Mennonite pastor who conceived of God's peace much more wholistically. While not denying the importance of personal peace with God, Tom spoke passionately of the fuller dimensions of divine peace. He helped me to wrestle with biblical passages I had ignored or misinterpreted. He also showed me the richness of the Hebrew term shalom, a word that I had misunderstood as meaning only the absence of conflict. Through Tom, I realized that I had truncated biblical peace to fit my own preconceptions. Through his influence, I came to embrace a truer sense of biblical peace, recognizing its interconnectedness with righteousness, justice, and wholeness.

Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the grave to restore peace to a broken world. Wherever there is conflict, whether inside individual hearts, or within families, or among brothers and sisters in church, or between different ethnic groups, or even between warring nations, Christ "wages peace" as his followers wield the paradoxical power of the cross. This power is paradoxical because victory comes through the embodied proclamation of Christ's own powerlessness.

It would be a great error to think of the social dimensions of peace as simply whitewashing evil in a grand attempt to "make nice." There are families, for example, which appear to be peaceful only because a powerful parent uses emotional violence to institute order. Churches sometimes pride themselves on their peacefulness, but avoid conflict only because the pastor silences open discussion. When we look for peace, we must keep before us the concept we find throughout Scripture. True peace will always include right-relationships, just treatment of all persons, and wholeness in all dimensions of life. Sometimes the path to true peace passes through strife and division before it arrives at its destination (Luke 12:52-53).

What does all of this mean for you personally? It means that no matter how much you enjoy peace with God and within your own heart, you must also pursue the corporate aspects of shalom. God has called you to be a peacemaker.

Becoming Peacemakers

Jesus said: "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God" (Matt 5:9). The rest of the New Testament echoes his preference for peacemaking:

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification (Rom 14:19; NIV).

Bind yourselves together with peace (Eph 4:3).

Try to live in peace with everyone (Heb 12:14).

Each of these passages sets peacemaking within the context of Christian community. We seek to live in peace as part of our koinônia together.

Martin Luther is correct. The Church of Jesus Christ is indeed a “mighty fortress,” against which the gates of Hell cannot prevail. But individual Christian communities are sometimes quite fragile. Frequently they shatter because members seek their own good, rather than the benefit of the community as a whole. You and I are called to be peacemakers within our churches, to preserve the unity of Christian koinônia.

How can you be a peacemaker in your church? Note carefully Paul's wise counsel in Ephesians 4:2-4. First, "be humble and gentle" (Eph 4:2). If you have a complaint or criticism, communicate it with humility, realizing that you could be wrong. In all interactions, treat people with gentleness, remembering that they are precious to God.

Second, be "patient with each other, making allowance for each other's faults because of your love" (Eph 4:2). This call to patience implies that those around you will frustrate you with their slowness. They won't serve actively enough. They will pray too long or not enough. Yet, you must put up with their faults, even as they must put up with yours, thank God!

When I read Ephesians 4:2, with its call to humility, gentleness, and patience, I immediately think of one of the founding members of Irvine Presbyterian Church. Jack was on the search committee that called me as pastor, just as he had been on the committee that called our founding pastor, Ben Patterson. Jack, who had retired after a successful business career, was the most respected man among church members. When I first arrived at the church, I noted that Jack had a room named after him, the only room in the church named after any person, living or dead. It was apparent to me that Jack had great power within my congregation.

Jack could have used his power to dominate me, but he never did so. Instead, he always used his power to serve me in a Christ-like manner. He was an outspoken supporter of my ministry. When he believed that I was making a mistake in my leadership – as I often do -- Jack would not gossip. Instead, he would make an appointment to see me. After affirming my ministry and reassuring me of his support, he would tell me what was bugging him. He always did this with humility and patience. Jack could have wielded his power to coerce my agreement, but he never even tried to do it. He could have said that he was tired of trying to help young pastors grow up, but he never said anything like that. When Jack and I finished our meetings, I always felt encouraged. In his woodshed, there weren't any switches, just abundant peace and wisdom.

If you are going to make peace within your church, you must "make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit" (Eph 4:3). Church unity is not something you can take for granted. Rather, you must seek it with vigorous effort. Where you see the beginning of division, snuff it out. If two church members are stuck in disagreement, help them to reconcile. If something about the church begins to get on your nerves -- and, believe me, something will! -- don't complain behind the leaders' backs or threaten to leave the church. Rather, talk directly and humbly with those who are responsible. Don't ever brandish the "I might leave" threat unless you're facing a major issue of intractable heresy or unrepentance. The tendency of American Christians to leave their churches over petty matters is one of the saddest and most unbiblical dimensions of church life in our society.

Peacemaking requires forgiveness. Over and over again, our Christian siblings will hurt us. If we hold onto the offense and the pain, if we fail to forgive or pretend to forgive without actually doing so, then we will contribute to the demise of our Christian community just as much or more than the one who wronged us. When we do forgive, however, our relationships with be renewed and the body of Christ will strengthened.

Everything I have said about peacemaking in church applies equally to family life. Humility, gentleness, patience, unity, and forgiveness belong at home. Unfortunately, home is often the toughest place to live out these virtues. When I come home from work, after a day of exercising humility, gentleness, patience, and forgiveness with my staff and church members, I'm worn out. My children might get the last bit of peacemaking I can muster, though sometimes they don't even get the dregs. My wife Linda, however, can get pride, insensitivity, impatience, and unforgiveness. If she's had a bad day too, you can imagine how much peace will bless our marriage that night.

As I grow in Christ, I'm learning to live my faith at home first and foremost, not last and least. Because I'm so human, as are my family members, forgiveness pervades our household. Without forgiveness, we'd soon build up walls of hostility that would damage our fellowship. That's the state of many families today, even Christian families. Husbands and wives have substituted pretending for peacemaking, thus storing up bitterness against one another. The same is often true of other family relationships. Only forgiveness, forgiveness modeled after God's own forgiveness and inspired by God's own Sprit, will bring wholeness -- shalom -- to our families.

Our peacemaking task begins right in front of us, in our closest relationships at home, at work, at school, and at church. But it doesn't stop there. As God's peacemakers, we must take the message and substance of peace into the whole world. How? First, we announce the peacemaking work of Christ on the cross. Telling the good news about Jesus is essential to any Christian peacemaking effort. This good news invites others to renounce their sin and to be reconciled to God. It opens the door so that they might begin to live in God's peace and to join the ranks of divine peacemakers.

Second, we bring God's peace to the world by holding up the cross of Christ as an example to emulate. Though the world might scoff at Christ's paradigm of self-sacrifice, it shows us all how to live.

Third, we extend divine peace into the world by living peaceably each day: "Do your part to live in peace with everyone, as much as possible" (Rom 12:18). Notice that we are to live peaceably with "everyone," those inside the church and outside of the church, those in our families and those at our workplace, the servers who forget to bring our food on time and the "stupid idiots" who cut us off in the parking lot.

Fourth, we bring God's peace to the world by seeking his righteousness and justice. Jesus tells us to "seek first the kingdom [of God] and his righteousness" (Matt 6:33, MDR). If we pursue God’s righteousness in all of life, we will treat all people with respect and dignity, especially those who are helpless and defenseless. We will make sure our practices and policies reflect God's revealed values, even when we operate in "the world." We won’t turn the other way when we see injustice, but will invest our energies so that God's justice might take form in our world.

This last activity, doing justice in the world, has sparked considerable debate among Christians. When I was young, I watched Christians pummel each other verbally over American involvement in Vietnam. For some, a Christian commitment to peace demanded immediate withdrawal. For others, Christian values required that we free the South Vietnamese from the domination of communism. In the 1980's, some Christian friends of mine protested against the American nuclear arms build-up, even being arrested in acts of civil disobedience. Other Christian friends worked to help the U.S. make nuclear weapons, believing that their efforts furthered the cause of peace in the world. Today, some Christians focus their efforts on justice for the unborn, while others claim that racial reconciliation or fighting poverty deserves our primary attention.

Even though the relationship between Christian peacemaking and political activism can be confusing, we may not neglect it. Scripture calls us to make peace in every dimension of life and to seek justice in this world. Many peacemaking actions are clearly taught in Scripture and therefore require little debate. Building a home with Habitat for Humanity, sponsoring a child through World Vision, embracing someone from an ethnic background other than your own, caring for inmates through Prison Fellowship -- all of these actions and countless more are clearly biblical. Let me urge you to invest yourself in doing that which God obviously favors, without spending all of your peacemaking efforts debating the difficult issues and doing nothing tangible.

When it comes to the tricky issues, however, let me urge you to seek God's wisdom in Scripture. Many advocates of social causes, including many Christians, do not ground their efforts in God's word. Thus they easily go astray, either in goals or in strategies, and usually in both. Before you adopt a pet issue, search the Scriptures. Is your position really taught there? Is it a major theme of Scripture, or just your pastor's favorite bugaboo?

When I consider Jesus' blessing of peacemakers, I think of a ministry in Hollywood, California called "City Dwellers." In my last years at Hollywood Pres, I was privileged to watch this ministry grow. City Dwellers was, in part, a response to God's word through Jeremiah:

But seek the peace [shalom] of the city to which I have sent you in exile, and pray to the Lord for it, because in its peace [shalom] will be your peace [shalom] (Jer 29:7; MDR).

Members of the City Dwellers team move into one of the neighborhoods in the city of Hollywood, a barrio of filled primarily with lower class immigrant families. Violence, crime, poverty, and injustice -- all are common in "the neighborhood." City Dwellers seek God's shalom for that community.

City Dweller teammates are usually young adults who commit to spend a year living in Hollywood as peacemakers. Their ministry is multifaceted. They share the gospel and their possessions with their neighbors. They shepherd children and encourage parents. They seek justice for people whose ignorance of American society makes them easy targets for oppressors. They feed the hungry and visit prisoners in jail. They comfort mothers whose children are shot in drive-by shootings. They teach young people academic skills and they teach them about Jesus.

I marveled over a Bible study led by Jay, one of the first City Dwellers. He had gathered a group of Hispanic boys around ten years old. Jay called them his "Bible study," but they did much more than study together once a week. Jay shared his life with these boys and they reciprocated. As the boys grew up, some of them started looking like the gang-bangers in the neighborhood. Many found the strength to stay away from risky involvement with gangs. But no matter what, Jay loved those boys and they loved him back. Because of his loving witness, many of them also grew to accept the love of God personally. What a joyful sight at Jay's wedding, where several of these young men were dressed up in their tuxedos, truly Jay's brothers in Christ.

The Peace that Lies Ahead

When City Dwellers share their lives with Hispanic kids, or when World Vision mobilizes the church to care for victims of famine, you catch a glimpse of the peace that lies ahead. When a family moves into its very first home, which was built by volunteers with Habitat for Humanity, or when men at a Promise Keepers gathering cast off their racism and embrace other men whose skin isn't the same color as their own, you can see the dawning of the future. When a husband and wife choose forgiveness over bitterness, or a person of power chooses the way of humility, you taste a morsel of the messianic banquet yet to come. When people whose lives have been imprisoned by brokenness find wholeness and freedom through Christ, you peek through a window into eternity. Every time God's peace invades our present existence, we get a foretaste of the infinitely greater peace that will someday envelop heaven and earth.

The last book of the Bible, the Revelation of John, reveals a future filled with divine peace:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, "Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever." (Rev 21:1-4).

God will not obliterate his creation, but renew it to match his original intention. He will no longer be separated from us because of sin. The work of reconciliation will be completed and we will live with God, just as we were supposed to from the beginning. Koinônia with God, lost in the fall, regained in the cross, will be fully restored. In place of sorrow, we will delight in the fullness of joy. Bathed in God's peace, we will once again inhabit paradise.

Christians are people who live now in intimate fellowship with God and with God's people. In these relationships, we experience genuine peace, yet not the fullness of peace. By the indwelling Spirit, we step into the future, enjoying peace with God and all its benefits . . . but only in part. We walk intimately with God, even though sin keeps nipping at our heels. We share life with our Christian brothers and sisters, sometimes loving each other as Christ has loved us and sometimes clobbering each other like a bunch of squabbling siblings. Already we can see Heaven beginning to arise on the horizon, but the dawn tarries.

The biblical vision of the peace that lies ahead helps draw us near to God. It enables us to trust him in the midst of a world so filled with brokenness and strife. This vision also motivates us to be peacemakers, even when our notions of peace and our approaches to peacemaking seem naive to a jaded world. Finally, the biblical picture of peace yet to come binds us together with other Christians in a koinônia of hope.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13, NIV).


This article on peacemaking is the last chapter in my book, After "I Believe." If you're interested in the whole book, you can find it (used) online.

[1] From "The Life of the Rev. John Wesley" in The Works of John Wesley, 3rd edition, Volume 5, (1872).  Retrieved through Ages Software.

[2] Words to "Like a River Glorious" are in the public domain.  For more on the life of Frances Havergal, see Jane Stuart Smith and Betty Carlson, Great Christian Hymn Writers (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1997) pp. 79-84.