Summary: The local Church and the worldwide church is transformed when the Peace of Christ rules and the Word of Christ dwells, and all is done in the Name of Jesus.
As a Church – are we at peace (3:15)?
Are we carrying any stresses or tensions around? Are there any strained relationships amongst us? What doubts are we experiencing? As a Church – are we at peace? If we were to take a vote now – either a show of hands or a secret ballot – I wonder how many people would say that as a Church we are completely at peace with God and with each another. I wonder how many would say that we are not? As a Church – are we at peace?
The truth contained in these three verses from Paul’s letter to the Colossian Church can transform our lives. These nuggets of gold can enrich many times over the life and witness of this Church. This appeal to live and breathe the message of Jesus can lead to a change in us that will impact every aspect of our lives; and I am not exaggerating.
Verse 15: Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.
Shortly before he was arrested and crucified Jesus said to his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you” (John 14:27). After the horror of the crucifixion and the wonderful joy of the resurrection Jesus appeared to his confused, fearful disciples and said, “Peace by with you!” (John 20:19); even though Jesus wasn’t Church of England; because of course he was Jewish! When St. Peter began sharing the Good News of Jesus with people outside the Jewish community he described the message of God as “the good news of peace through Jesus Christ, who is Lord of all” (Acts 10:36); and St. Paul, writing to the Corinthian Church ended the letter we call 2 Corinthians like this: “Aim for perfection, listen to my appeal, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor 13:11).
When St. Paul writes to the Church, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” he has in mind the Jewish concept of ‘Shalom’ – peace and wholeness and unity. The ‘Peace’ or the ‘Shalom’ that Jesus has for us is so much more than an absence of conflict. The peace of Jesus is not an uncomfortable truce borne out of past conflicts or grudges or issues that have been swept under the carpet. The peace or the shalom of Jesus is a reality where unity is genuine, where unity in Christ settles disputes, where grievances are forgiven and left in the past, and where suspicions or disagreements are dealt with at the very deepest level.
St. Paul would say to us: ‘People and community of Christ Church – Shalom! Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace.’ Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you.” We are called to be a community of people where the peace of Jesus rules and reigns.
Jesus also says to us, “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).
I was in Milton Keynes on Friday; meeting with a potential guest speaker for our Church weekend away in the autumn of 2011. We were chatting away; I had just mentioned that the peace of Jesus was to be a major theme this morning, and at that moment we noticed that outside there was a flock of doves circling just to the side of the house. The potential significance wasn’t lost on me because at the baptism of Jesus the Holy Spirit descended upon him like a dove; and of course we associate a dove with peace. This flock (if that’s the right word) were flying together, soaring upwards together, swooping low together, and every so often settling on the roof of a house together. They weren’t precisely in unison, some were a little awry, but they were unmistakeably together.
We are called to ‘shalom’, peace, togetherness, unity, common purpose; a common mind; but how do we get there? How do we rid ourselves of the relationship difficulties – some very minor but some perhaps more challenging – that prevent us from experiencing the fullness of the peace of Jesus?
Last week as we studied Colossians 3: 12-14 St. Paul was showing us how: “Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (3:12). That is how we are called to be with each other. That is how we are called to behave towards one another; and Paul then refers to the issue that tends to block and spoil the ‘shalom’ of Jesus from flooding into the Church, and into our lives. If we can deal with this issue then our relationships will be utterly transformed! In verse 13 Paul writes: “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another”. Are you doing that? Are we doing that?