Tuesday, September 17
Therefore, since we are justiﬁed by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our suﬀerings, knowing that suﬀering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:1-8)
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)
In order to understand unity and constancy, we had to look to our relationship with God. It should not be surprising that we do the same with peace.
As Paul points out when writing to the church at Rome, our peace with God is based on God’s grace. We do not earn God’s love. “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.” We are justiﬁed because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection — not because we are righteous or worthy. Peace is a gift which we can receive or not, but it is never something we earn. God chooses to forgive and oﬀer us the opportunity to experience shalom.
Once we “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” then we can turn with love and forgiveness toward others in our life. Those who understand peace is a gift from God are humbled. That experience of grace transforms how they see others. To truly experience God’s peace is to stop labeling people as worthy or unworthy, good or bad, lovable or unlovable. The sun, rain, and the Spirit are poured out on all ﬂesh. In other words, we will never be able to ﬁnd peace with others until we experience the peace of Christ, and that peace is grounded in God’s grace.
So radical is that gift of peace that it even leads us to love our enemies. Shalom is the foundation for hospitality to all — those who disagree with us about God, those who have sought to harm us in the past, and (if we follow Jesus’ example) those who are currently seeking to do us harm. Thankfully, most of the time we do not have to face such extreme situations. The more common issue for Christians is simply welcoming others into our church without striking a posture of superiority. The “we have and know something you don’t” attitude of so many Christians has done far more damage to peace over the centuries than those moments when we stood face-to-face with mortal enemies.
Like forgiveness, we can oﬀer peace to others. They may or may not receive it (reconciliation does require both parties to participate), but it is our privilege to share the peace God has so freely given to us. Many an “enemy” heart has been softened by the oﬀer of humility, hospitality, and peace in the midst of conﬂict.
We welcome and include all people from a place of mutuality. We are all children of God.
• Do you feel at peace in your relationship with God? If not, what might be holding you back from that gift?
• Jesus’ call to love our enemies is among his hardest teachings. What do we have to overcome to achieve it?
• Have you ever seen someone’s heart softened by another’s genuine oﬀer of peace? What was that experience like?