Our world is so frenetic, we often feel that we are penned in by so many obligations that there is no way out. We have the calendar calling our name when the alarm rings in the morning. We have the cell phone buzzing to tell us people need our viewpoints immediately, whether we are ready or not. We have the children calling for our attention even as we are trying to work or fix breakfast. We have our spouse who seeks our attention even as we are preparing the evening meal. We have the iPod clanging that we have new emails that have not yet been read, and when we break into our activity to attend to the emails we find that they are advertisements for products we don’t need. The telephone distracts our attention with a recorded message for the politician or for the survey that some marketing company wants. Then there are the charities that call, the handicapped, the symphony, the church, the various ministries that we support … EVERYONE wants our attention on a daily, hourly, minutely basis! Peace is a desired characteristic of our daily, personal life but it often seems to be an illusion of the highest order in the reality of daily duties.
But then the news wreaks havoc on any semblance of peace that may otherwise have survived the daily distractions. Something extraordinary is subject of “Breaking News” and our mundane disturbances are brought into sharp focus as being what they are, relatively minor inconveniences.
Indeed, we have become aware of such “Breaking News” this past week when hatred interrupted a prayer service by barging into the walls of a beautiful, historic church in Charleston, South Carolina when a gunman opened fire and killed nine innocent people. (Picture of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, taken from the church website.)
Because of the cell phone videos and the media coverage swarming the area, we who are miles away from the scene participate in the shock and sickening disgust at the carnage the actions of a lone gunman can cause. The actions were particularly malevolent given the place in which they occurred; the sanctuary of a church where people go to pray and seek solace from God and their brothers and sisters in the Faith. Such evil is almost impossible for us to contemplate.
Clearly chaos was released into that building that day. But, the gunman’s actions did not kill Christ’s peace notwithstanding the havoc wreaked on the victims’ physical bodies. The Spirit of peace, of love and of forgiveness was brought into dramatic contrast to the spirit of evil when the victims’ families told the gunman that, despite their profound grief, they forgave him and were praying for his soul.
Such love and peace is impossible on our own. Jesus commanded that love was to be the primary characteristic of His people. John 13:35. The Apostle John said:
“So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.”
I John 4:16.
Jesus further instructed that He would give peace, even in times of extreme distress. One such time recorded in Scripture was when Jesus told His disciples of His imminent betrayal, trial and crucifixion. Needless to say, His disciples were confused and afraid.
After telling them that He would send the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, to them, He said:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:17.
Then just before His crucifixion, Jesus told them:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33.
The empty tomb is evidence that death has been overcome; Satan and evil have lost the cosmic war. Although in the short-term it may seem that evil is winning the contest, Jesus is the final victor. In other words, no matter what happens, we can have peace because, as He promised in John 16:33, He has overcome the world, including the evil therein!
Without a doubt, hatred won the headline for the day – but, those believers who were praying at the time of the shooting won the war. Through Christ, they were victorious over evil on that dark day in Charleston. They are with their Savior and are beyond any pain, tears or grief.
Because Jesus has overcome evil and death, His believers can have peace …
- a peace that is resident within them through His Holy Spirit;
- a peace that overcomes the evil in the world;
- a peace that enables the victims’ families to forgive in the midst of their grief;
- a peace that is truly beyond understanding. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7.
This peace was on display when the victims’ families expressed love and forgiveness for the one who had inflicted this unutterable loss on them. No one was hiding their grief — this peace was transcendent over their grief. This is the peace that is available to all who believe on Jesus’ Name and repent from their sins, accepting Him as their Savior.
Do you have this peace?