Peace

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Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me.

“These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I. And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe. I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no claim on me, but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.
John 14:23-31

Though in the news, we have heard a great deal about the possibility of a major war as Russia invades the Crimea, but peace of mind has been more on my mind the last few days. Though I am in the closet and love a lie that I despise because of the small minds of some “Christians” who would cost me my job if I were out, I so have places, friends’ homes, where I can go and be my true self and be as out and open as I want. I don’t have to guard what I say. I can make a joke about my sexuality or sometimes even a comment that might seem crude to some, but I don’t have to filter myself, which is something I hate to have to do. I much prefer honesty. I can’t tell you how much I hate guarding every word I say, fearing that it could be taken the wrong way (if you too are in the closet, you probably understand).

The other night I was over at one of my friend’s house. There were five of us there, including me, and the other four are well aware of the fact that I’m gay. I’ve never known of any of them having a problem with it. We were joking around and I agreed, again jokingly, with one of the ladies who said that she’d fallen in love many time but often because the man was beautiful. I think with most people it would have been seen as an innocent comment about shallowly falling in love with a beautiful person. Gender was not really mentioned and I didn’t mean it that way. The whole thing was a joking conversation but apparently it hit the nerve of the husband of another female friend of mine who was there. He asked me not to mention my sexuality around him. I was absolutely floored because his wife had just been trying to convince me to go to church with them because there were a lot of gay people who went to their church. I just couldn’t understand how one minute it was okay for his wife to tell me that I should come to church with them to meet a man, and then it was wrong for me to say even the slightest thing.

So I have been struggling to understand how I feel about this revelation from him. I have never said much about my sexuality around him because I’ve never felt comfortable, but I have made a comment here and there and it never seemed to bother him. This wasn’t even meant to be an overt comment. Is oxidize with these people quite often, because I like them and have always felt comfortable around them. I was a bit quiet the rest of the night after that incident, but it has weighed heavily on my mind. So as I was trying to figure out what to write about today, as I often do, I try to address a problem of my own by turning to the Bible and hoping that it will help,others as well. So I decided to do some research on peace of mind. I am thinking that this may be a series of post that will continue for the next several Sundays. I need some peace of mind because right now my heart hurts and I feel as if I’ve been kicked in the gut. So with that introduction, I want to talk about the peace that God can bring us.

The Hebrew Bible uses a familiar but significant word, shalom. In its purest sense, shalom means “peace.” The connotation is positive. That is, when someone says, “Shalom,” or, “Peace unto you,” it doesn’t mean, “I hope you don’t get into any trouble”; it means, “I hope you have all the highest good coming your way.”

Most people in our world don’t understand peace as a positive concept. All they know is the negative aspect of peace, which is merely the absence of trouble. The definition of peace in many languages of the world illustrates that. For example, the Quechua Indians in Ecuador and Bolivia use a word for peace that literally translates, “to sit down in one’s heart.” For them peace is the opposite of running around in the midst of constant anxieties. The Chol Indians of Mexico define peace as “a quiet heart.” Those may be beautiful ways to put it, but they still seem to leave us with only the negative idea that peace is the absence of trouble.

Close to the meaning of the Hebrew word shalom is the word used by the Kekchi Indians of Guatemala, who define peace as “quiet goodness.” The term they use conveys the idea of something that is active and aggressive, not just a rest in one’s own heart away from troublesome circumstances.

The biblical concept of peace does not focus on the absence of trouble. Biblical peace is unrelated to circumstances; it is a goodness of life that is not touched by what happens on the outside. You may be in the midst of great trials and still have biblical peace. Paul said he could be content in any circumstance; and he demonstrated that he had peace even in the jail at Philippi, where he sang and remained confident that God was being gracious to him. Then when the opportunity arose, he communicated God’s goodness to the Philippian jailer, and brought him and his family to salvation. Likewise, James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2).

Where does a man find the kind of peace that is not just the absence of trouble–the kind of peace that cannot be affected by trouble, danger, or sorrow? It is ironic that what is surely the most definitive discourse on peace in all of Scripture comes from the Lord Jesus on the night before He died in agony. He knew what He was facing, yet He still took time to comfort His disciples with the message of peace:

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful. (John 14:27)

The peace Jesus is speaking of enables believers to remain calm in the most wildly fearful circumstances. It enables them to hush a cry, still a riot, rejoice in pain and trial, and sing in the middle of suffering. This peace is never by circumstances, but instead affects and even overrules them.

So remember the positive meaning of peace. I find it best to see the positive instead of the negative, even if at times, it can be very difficult. Jesus left us with peace, and we should embrace it.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

2 responses to “Peace

  • Mr. Not Perfect

    Hi there,

    I have been following your blog for few months now. I always enjoy receiving them. However, today’s article really touched my heart.

    I’m also a closet case (to most of my family and childhood friends) one of the few exceptions is my cousin, many years ago I decided to be honest with him thinking he would understand. Needless to say, he’s never been supportive despite his own life challenges, he needed to divorce his wife (which is against our conservative church upbringing). Even more challenging, he’s now expecting a kid with his Muslim girlfriend (which is once more against our conservative “Christian” upbringing).

    Last week and in an attempt to please our conservative family, he made an announcement to my mother that he FINALLY found 2 churches that would allow him and his girlfriend to get married without her converting to Christianity. Then he added, one out of which was too liberal for his taste, he says it allows gays to get married.

    I was really hurt, he didn’t need to get out of his way to make such a statement to my mother! I felt like he’s preparing that if I ever decide to come out to the family that he would be “better” or something!

    Then I read your Sunday blog, it gave me peace… Peace is not being away from troubles, instead it’s finding God’s love and reassurance despite the world’s troubles.

    Thank you for sharing,
    Mr. Not Perfect

  • Ken

    I am sorry for the unkind way that your friend’s husband reacted to your innocent comment. And I am sorry that it troubled you. I pray for the day that you can honestly be who you are, that you can let your light shine to those around you and they will love and accept you for who you are without judgement or scorn.

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