Summary: This sermon is 3rd in a series on the fruits of the Spirit, or Charcter of a Christian: Peace
I. I have to begin with a little story that came across my e-mail this week about a "haunted car" in Lousianna. (1) This story happened about a month ago in a little town in Louisiana, and while it sounds like an Alfred Hitchcock tale, it’s said to be true. This guy was on the side of the road hitch hiking on a very dark night in the middle of a storm. The night passed slowly and no cars went by. The storm was so strong he could hardly see a few feet ahead of him.
Suddenly he saw a car slowly looming, ghostlike, out of the gloom. It slowly crept toward him and stopped. Reflexively, the guy got into the car and closed the door, then realized that there was nobody behind the wheel. The car slowly started moving again. The guy was terrified, too scared to think of jumping out and running. The guy saw that the car was slowly approaching a sharp curve. The guy started to pray, begging for his life; he was sure the ghost car would go off the road and he would plunge to his death, when just before the curve, a hand appeared thru the window and turned the steering wheel, guiding the car safely around the bend.
Paralyzed with terror, the guy watched the hand reappear every time they reached a curve. Finally, the guy gathered his wits and leaped from the car and ran to the nearest town. Wet and in shock, he went into a bar and voice quivering, ordered two shots of tequila, and told everybody about his horrible, supernatural experience. A silence enveloped everybody when they realized the guy was apparently sane and not drunk. About half an hour later two guys walked into the same bar. One says to the other, "Look, Boudreaux, Dats dat idiot dat rode in our car when we was pushin it in de rain."
Are things always as they seem? (2) "If someone were to come and ask you, “WHAT IS PEACE”, how would you answer them? Peace is one of those things that everyone wants, but no one has a real clear answer of what it is or how you can get it and keep it." Peace is often something illusive, something that must be misunderstood. We talk about Peace in the Middle East or in Israel and yet "peace" doesn’t seem attainable. The dictionary first (3) defines peace as "the absence of war". At first I thought that this was a good definition because then that means that everything short of all out war is still peace. Minor disagreements, still peace! Little household dispute... I mean not a "war", is that still peace? But then you look up "war" and discover (3) it is 1) "any major armed conflict" (I guess its not war if your not armed), but you also find 2)any struggle or fight; 3) the science of military operations (I’ve know people who are good at this); and 5) to be in a state of strong opposition."
So we may well be in and out of war from moment to moment, not to mention the spiritual war within our souls, and yet the character of a Christian includes "peace". But yet what is peace besides the absence of war? Included in its definitions is (3) 2) "an agreement that ends war; 3) a state of harmony among people or groups; (I like this one) 4) freedom from disorder in a normal community (what do you do if you live in an abnormal community?); 5) freedom of the mind from fear, anxiety, or annoyance; 6) silence; or 7) holding one’s silence (peace).
We have these seemingly loft definitions of "peace", yet it is still confusing, if not bewildering at how to attain it. (2) "Someone once said that “Peace is that brief glorious moment in history when everybody stands around reloading.” [Lloyd Cory, Quote Unquote]
Wow, we are suppossed to have peace, as the character of a christian and I can’t keep from being at war with my tennis shoe strings that won’t stay tied!?! By definition is seem hardly attainable, and yet it must be. The word for "peace" that is used both in Galatians 5:22 and Col 3:15-17, is (4) "eirene" (i-ray’-nay), which might literally mean "to join", to bring two sides together; to "join" two enemies, but looking deep within its meaning, it implies "to set at one again".
Paul in his letter to the Collossians deals with the heart of this matter in "forgiveness". the NLT (New Living Translation) says "you must make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive the person who offends you. Remember the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others." (vs 13) And above all "putting on the clothing of love". Peace then is perhaps really a state of "setting at one again", being forgiven, and forgiving, joining together with Christ, and through the grace of God, with others.