Peace is both a feeling and a project. Jesus told his Disciples in John 14, “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid . . . Peace I leave with you.” The Apostle Paul invited the Philippians to experience the “peace that surpasses understanding.” When I think of the “feeling” of peace, my mind goes almost immediately to the Eagles 1972 song, “Peaceful Easy Feeling.” The song is about a young man’s love of young women. The statement, “I know you won’t let me down” is ironic. He sings of a young love that does pass pretty quickly. But it feels like so many songs sung at church camp as a roaring fire—too hot for Texas in Summer—slowly died down to embers. This relief from anxiety and calming of our spirits is indeed a gift from God.
But, there’s another side to the biblical witness of peace. Jesus said blessed are the peace makers in the beatitudes (Matthew 5). Jesus taught people to live at peace with one another (Mark 9:50). And early church regarded Jesus’s ministry as one that preached peace to those who were separated by religious and ethnic differences (Ephesians 2:11ff). Peace or Shalom—to use the transliterated Hebrew word Jesus would have used—is more than a cessation of violence. Peace is enough food and water for everyone, justice and righteousness for all. It takes work to accomplish peace. I’d call this the “project” of peace.
The project of peace and the feeling of peace are not separate entities—two different meanings for the same word. They are related. The reality of peace—security, justice, provision—without the feeling of peace, leads people to paranoia, greed, and an emotional neediness we’ve all encountered but never enjoyed. The feeling of peace absent the reality of peace is a seductive mask placed over dire realities. Peaceful feelings without peaceful conditions is a favored tool of manipulation for con artists and dictators. What Christ left us in leaving us peace was not the peaceful easy feeling Glenn Frey sang about. It is the sense that we are not left without strength in the face of pressure. We are not left without wisdom during times of confusion. Through Christ, we have the strength to bear fruit (John 15), the Holy Spirit as our guide and teacher (John 16), and our fellow believers to serve alongside in unity (John 17). The peace felt in John 14 is the peace created through the resources in detailed in the chapters that follow. The peace project and the peaceful feeling are God’s call and God’s gift. May they live together in our own lives.