- Keith Harris
The Fruit of the Spirit
Jesus was a peacemaker. He said if someone hits you on your face give them a chance to do it again. This really seems odd to us. The natural response would be to defend ourselves, not open ourselves up to additional abuse. But Jesus calls us to be peacemakers. Jesus was a man who was powerful and expressed His outrage, but never once do we see it come out in the form of fighting. In fact, when they were in the garden and the men came to arrest Jesus, Peter drew a sword and started slicing. When Peter cut off Malchus’s ear, Jesus picked it up and put it back on…and he said to Peter, “Put away your sword” (Matthew 26:52).
The Hebrew writer called us to “Strive for peace with everyone…” (Hebrews 12:14). Paul understood the importance of striving for peace, and he knew clearly what Jesus was trying to get at. In Romans 12:17-18, Paul wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Jeff Foxworthy told a story about going home and finding crayon writing on the wall. So, he asked his 2-year-old who did it and she told him that the dog did it. He said, “That will start to really bother you as a parent…because we’ve had that dog for 10 years and now he starts writing on the wall?!” But that’s who we are. As kids, we all learned the phrase early, “I didn’t do it.” Some have not grown out of that. But this text is not just making a statement, it’s asking a question. God is saying, “I know you don’t think it’s your fault. I know you were not the one who pulled the trigger. But I have to ask you anyway. When are you going to start accepting responsibility for the condition of your surroundings?” A woman burns her thighs on the hot coffee she was holding in her lap while driving, and she blames the restaurant. A man crashes into a tree while driving home drunk, and he blames the bartender. Our children are without manners, and we blame the tv shows. Why is this the case?
The process of living at peace demands that we take responsibility. The bad news is that there will always be fights, wars, and conflicts. But you can have a greater peace in your life today. The Bible calls it the peace of God, and it goes beyond what we understand. In order to completely grasp this kind of peace we have to hear God and act on his questions. The truth is peace comes from God. I can’t have peace with God until I’ve claimed responsibility for my will. But after we claim responsibility, we have to surrender our lives to Jesus. Before we can have real peace with others we have to find peace with God. The Bible says that at one time we were all strangers, aliens and enemies of God. Maybe you never pictured your life that way. You might say, “I was a stranger but I wasn’t an enemy. I didn’t know Him, but I never rejected Him.” Do you know what the definition of enemy is? It’s simply this, “someone who is not on your side.” Colossians 1:21 says, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.” So it wasn’t just our indifference that made us enemies of God…it was sin. That’s what sin does; it separates us from the One who wants to know us; it will devour us if it is given the chance. Were it not for the saving grace of Jesus, sin would eat us alive. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:1-5).
I am always intrigued by the process of personal peace because first we have to own responsibility then give it to God. Yet at the same time, it’s only in God that we find our true identity, and only in Christ do we find complete peace. Paul wrote, “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). It’s only when we have learned to rejoice in God’s presence that we arrive in a place where we experience the peace of God. The truth is, we were created to live in perfect peace and harmony. C. S. Lewis put it this way, “If I find in myself a desire that this world cannot fulfill, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” That’s a logical conclusion. If I’m not satisfied with this life, maybe it’s because I was made for a different kind of life. If this world looks dark and dreary to me, maybe it’s because there is something better. And the peace of God is that “something better.” The harvest of the Spirit is peace.