The One Foundation
"Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace." — Martin Luther
From time to time even a very old and tired brain like mine sees something from such a different angle that the whole world lights up with a new clarity. My friend Randy Uselton brought Luther’s words above to my attention, and no sooner were they out of his mouth than all my synapses started clicking.
WE GET IT BACKWARDS
We say to ourselves, "When I get justice, then I’ll have peace." Actually, that precisely reverses the order of cause and effect. We don’t have peace because we get justice. Justice—along with holiness and righteousness and contentment—are born in us and in the world around us only out of the peace of Christ.
A few days ago a friend of mine lapsed into an embarrassing sin. He is slowly working his way out from under a big problem in his business, one amounting to tens of thousands of dollars. Needless to say, worry has exercised his mind.
My friend is in one of those "blind" businesses where the retail customer pretty much lies at the dealer’s mercy. A customer sold my friend something that was worth about $400 more than he had paid. When my friend realised what had been done, he purposed to keep the whole benefit to himself, without notifying his customer. Strictly speaking, he would have been within his rights, but his deed would have fallen about 55 yards outside the circle labelled "and thy neighbour as thyself." He knew that his genuine integrity and service lay in advising the customer of the greater value, and then in trying to realise that extra amount for him out of the sale. Happily for my friend, an employee forced the issue and kept him on the right track, but only after temptation had thoroughly mauled his morality and self-respect.
RUSHING THE OUTCOME RUINS IT
When Randy quoted Luther to me, I understood why my friend had fallen into sin. On the very face it was silly because the $400 bucks gained wouldn’t make a hoot’s difference in the face of his debt. Ten times that would hardly have dented it. So why did he succumb to greed? Because his business problem had crowded out the peace of Christ. He had allowed his anxiety to overcome his trust and faith in God. The foundation and beginning of his understanding of the problem was not, "God has sent this for my good, God will turn it in his good time." Rather, his debt had become greater than the lovingkindness and power of God.
He had reversed the order. Peace was not to be found in paying off his debt. Rather, paying off his debt could only arise out of peace.
If the peace of Christ rules our hearts, then righteousness and holiness will flow out of us like a spring. Only when the peace of Christ first rules our hearts can we look at the world calmly and obey God no matter what the consequences. Only if the peace of Christ rules our hearts can we presently remember that outcomes and consequences remain wholly in God’s sure and merciful hands, not in ours. Only when the most important prize in the world—the peace of Christ—stands first in our hearts will every other duty and prize fall in its proper place order (Philippians 3:8).
GETTING THE ORDER RIGHT
But we say to ourselves, First I must have justice, then I will know peace. First let me make one more big hit with this hot stock, and then I’ll have peace. First I’ll shave one last corner in my business, and peace will arrive. First just one more innocent flirtation, and then I’ll settle down to peace with my wife. First I’ll jump one last time at the brass ring of fame, then I’ll relax.
No. First the peace of Christ rules our hearts. First the peace of Christ teaches us that God is King, that God truly rules. First the peace of Christ teaches us that we must obey him whether we live or die, win or lose, earn the world’s respect or contempt. That may sound obvious and redundant, but it is a truth that flees our dull senses so swiftly that we cannot repeat it often enough.
Where does peace begin? Not with our action, but with Christ’s action in us. His arrival sets all the warring kingdom within us at peace, and from that peace he establishes his kingdom, working through us.
All this may sound obvious and redundant, but it is a truth that flees our dull senses so swiftly that we cannot repeat it often enough. We rush around trying to grab some thing as the means to peace, but no thing brings peace, or can bring it. Unless the peace of Christ precedes things, they merely ruin with the "the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life." (I John 2:16). These belong to the world.
To Christ’s children, on the other hand, belongs a peace they can never lose, as the beginning of all fellowship with him. This peace, founded in perfect love, casts out all our fear. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27).
This peace can only be found in Christ, and not outside him in our own action or strength. "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you."
Only from this gift of Christ’s peace are we able to "abide in him" and bear fruit as Christians. "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love."
And what is "continuing in Christ’s love"? What does it look like? Obedience—joyful, grateful obedience, and the end of that is not only peace, but also the only true joy. "If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full." (John 15:7-11).
The peace of Christ comes first, and then every other good thing follows in its place and order.