A Fruit of the Spirit is Peace

Why is it that when life becomes complicated or hard, we yearn for “peace and quiet”? I know sometimes it is tempting to try to find a cave to dwell in and get away from people forever. Some days I  think to myself how nice it would be to never have to hear others clicking their pens or cracking their knuckles or humming “Call Me Maybe” just to annoy me? It almost seems logical: if I get hurt all the time from people, maybe I should avoid people! But God didn’t wire us that way. Sometimes we focus too much on the negatives of relationships (shame, hurt, disappointment) and forget about the positives of a good relationship (love, protection, security, trust, free chocolate).
In Galatians 5, Paul contrasts bad relationships with good ones. Living to satisfy the desires of the flesh produces “quarrels, factions, and envy.” Living by the Spirit, on the other hand, produces a fruit of the Spirit called “peace” within a community of believers. In other words, Paul is saying that true peace cannot be achieved by winning a war or running from conflict  or saving up enough money to buy protection and feel secure. True peace can only be found in God and a body of believers who love each other as Jesus loves us.
Peace in the Greek is very similar to the Hebrew word for peace, which is Shalom. With both of these in mind, New Testament scholar Ronald Y. K. Fung says peace “means more than the merely negative notion of absence of war and trouble; it denotes rather a positive state of ‘wholeness’ – ‘soundness’ and ‘prosperity.’  In the LXX the word ‘describes health of body, welfare and security, perfect serenity and tranquility, a life and a state in which a man is perfectly related to his fellow men and to his God.” (Fung, NICNT, p. 265) True peace is not a lack of fighting, but giving yourself so the body of Christ can become a whole and you can become whole again in God.
Conversely, if you withhold yourself and keep even a piece of yourself from others, you are withholding true peace from yourself. Fung goes on to say that, in the context of Galatians, “Peace may refer specifically to harmony in human relationships, but it would be arbitrary to exclude from its meaning the inner peace which results from a right relationship with God and is reflected in concord with other people.” (Fung, NICNT, p. 266) Only God can give us peace with others and peace in our hearts and minds “that transcends all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6-7)
It is not a surprise that peace would appear together on a list of virtues that Paul authored. In Romans 14:17 Paul says, “For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Later in Romans he prays, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (15:13) Joy and peace are inevitable in the life and relationships with those who live by the Holy Spirit. May we give every piece of ourselves so that we may finally experience true peace on earth.

You Can’t Spell “Joy” Without Bacon: A Fruit of the Spirit is Joy (Galatians 5)

Joy is one of the most misunderstood fruits of the Spirit. Often it is confused with happiness, but in some ways, it is actually the opposite of happiness. For example, happiness is a fleeting emotion; joy is a permanent state of mind. Happiness is dependent on your circumstances; joy is dependent on God and His work in our hearts and minds.

Joy “does not mean earthly, human happiness: Paul repeatedly exhorts Christians to rejoice ‘in the Lord’” (Fung, NICNT, p. 264). In other words, we should place our joy in the Lord and eternal matters rather than try to find happiness in the temporary things of earth. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with being happy when your favorite team wins a big game or when you get married or every time you eat bacon, but those pale in comparison to the joy that comes from spending eternity with Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit then is finding joy in the midst of everything – good or bad – because we know our future in Christ.

Paul and Silas understood this. After being beaten up and thrown into prison, it would be easy for them to sing a dirge of “woe is me” and wallow in self-pity, but they chose joy. “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.” (Acts 16:25)

Who sings hymns at a time like that? People filled with joy and the Holy Spirit. They did not sing because of their circumstances; they sang in the midst of their circumstances because their eyes were fixed on Jesus and an eternity with Him rather than dwelling on what was happening at that moment. “Because its origin is not human but divine, Christian joy is unperturbed by sorrow and tribulation, and indeed gives proof of its power precisely in the midst of them” (Fung, NICNT, p. 264). Only the Holy Spirit can bring us joy in the middle of difficult situations. That is when you really know you have joy.

Something that often gets lost in the context of Galatians is that true joy only happens in community with God and other believers. You cannot be happy by yourself in a shack in the middle of the woods with only yourself and a couple hundred cats – even if you had an endless supply of bacon. Why do you think even prisoners dread solitary confinement? Because we are not meant to be alone. That is why our greatest hope is heaven – when we will be with God and our believing loved ones forever.

Joy, as one of the fruit of the Spirit, has an added dimension. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can be happy for someone else other than yourself since joy isn’t just about you. That is what this list is all about: God working within a community of believers. If something good happens to someone in your small group, everyone shares the joy. If something tragic happens, everyone feels the pain and shares the burden.

Does that mean you are happy all the time? No! There are times of sadness and mourning and disappointment, but the fruit of the Spirit produces joy in the midst of the rainy days because we know the Son will come again.

Other relevant blogs:

A Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness

A Fruit of the Spirit is Peace

A Fruit of the Spirit is…Patience

A Fruit of the Spirit is Love