The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

The Fruit of the Spirit: Peace

“The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The Fruit is Love. The “fruit” of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is stated in the singular, not the plural “fruits.” This implies that the first and primary virtue noted, Love, is the unifying quality of the Holy Spirit’s work in one’s Christian character. All the remaining virtues in this list are important aspects of Love. Fruit is meant to be useful. Wax fruit is fake and are not used in any way. Real fruit is used in every way possible. Perhaps Love is the singular fruit of the Spirit, and the other qualities listed are Love’s useful qualities, like smell, flavor, color, texture, shape, size, nutrition, ripeness. One can see then that the useful fruit of the Spirit includes Loving-joy, loving-peace, loving-patience, loving-kindness, loving-goodness, loving-faithfulness, loving-gentleness, and loving self-control.

Definition. If the peace of God is beyond human understanding (Phil. 4:7), how do we define it? We can start by referring to the Old Testament Hebrew word shalom, and the New Testament Greek word eirene, which both mean pretty much the same thing. When we study those biblical terms, it’s clear that peace is not merely a negative, and is so much more than a fragile truce, an absence of conflict, or the removal of strife. Peace is instead a dynamic positive rather than a passive negative. Peace is much closer to the idea of flourishing, of abundant well-being.

If peace were a diamond, here are some of its facets: completeness; wholeness; fulfillment; tranquility; harmony; health; reconciliation; soundness; resolution of conflict; healing of division; freedom from disquiet and disorder. Peace seems to be one of those ultimate qualities that turns out to be our heart’s deepest desire.

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your heart be troubled, and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27).

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” (John 16:33).

So when Jesus offers His peace to us as a gift, He is telling us many important things: He is offering our reconciliation with God through Him; He is desiring that we flourish in mind and body and spirit; He is trusting that we grow in an inner harmony, blending together those loose ends within each of us; He is pushing for an outer harmony as well, between people at battle with each other; He is granting us untroubled hearts and minds. When Jesus offers His peace, He is opening the door to a soul-satisfying contentment in each of us. That is the gospel of peace, a deep, fearless peace that defies easy description, a life-long heavenly experience on earth that is not comparable to anything else we can experience.

  1. Peace is a Blessing. Peace is both a greeting and a farewell in customary Jewish tradition. When said thoughtfully, this is not a casual greeting that merely involves positive thinking or good feelings. When you say shalom to someone, you are prayerfully hoping that she or he will flourish in wholeness and well-being. Jesus often used shalom as a greeting, and when the Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6) says to you “Peace to you!” there can be no greater gift. He says that to each of us right now.
  2. Peace is a Kiss. The kiss of peace on each cheek was a traditional greeting in the Middle East. The Christian Church continued that tradition, and it continues to this day in  the Eastern Orthodox Church. When someone offers a kiss of peace, that person is saying that she or he has a clear conscience with that other person, that any division has been healed, any wrong has been forgiven, any bitterness is in the past. When Judas betrayed Jesus with a kiss of peace, his betrayal was grotesque and doubly hurtful (Luke 22:48). The kiss of peace in the Orthodox liturgy is done just before the Eucharist, for Jesus clearly stated that peace with others takes priority over the duties of worship (Matt. 5:23-24).
  3. Peace is a Sigh. We live in a noisy world, in both an auditory and visual way. We have machines, phones, screens, billboards, the chattering of people. Noise has been linked to high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, stress, and even cognitive impairment. What do we do when we get just a minute of “peace and quiet?” We take a deep breath and exhale with an unhurried sigh. When Jesus breathed into His disciples after the Resurrection, it was a breath of peace (John 20:21-22). The tranquility of heart that comes with that sigh is a loving expression of peace. When possible, seek prayerful silence when you can get it, and you will experience that thoughtful sigh, the fresh breath of the Holy Spirit, the very peace that Christ offered His disciples in the Upper Room.
  4. Peace is a Sword. This is a paradox, and is no doubt an aspect of peace that may be beyond human understanding. But Jesus said at one point that He is bringing not peace, but a sword. (Matt. 19:34). He indeed brought the righteous sword of His Holy Spirit, rightly dividing good from evil, a judgment on sin. Some will accept this sword, and some will not, at least for the time being. So Jesus saw division as being the immediate result of His work, division between people especially. But the eventual purpose of His ministry was to divide in order to unite, to bring peace, between people and between God and mankind. Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker. He wants to confront these deep differences and conflicts that inevitably come in His presence, and He earnestly wants to be the bringer of peace and healing and justice.
  5. Peace is a Gift. Peace is clearly a gift offered by Jesus to us, and is in fact a sign of His presence. We can’t manufacture peace on our own, it comes to us from heaven, from His Holy Spirit. Peace is a quality that is seeded into our hearts and minds, and then grows, and becomes an eternal fruit of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22). The world is not capable of giving us this kind of peace. Peace is a gift that we live into, a confident assurance that we are in harmony with the God who has claimed the ultimate victory. This puts our hearts to rest.

There is no doubt that Jesus took great joy in fulfilling the prophecy in Isaiah 52:7:  “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God reigns’!”