“And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus . . . Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 3: 7,9 from Philippians 3:12-4:9 )
Preacher: “And the peace of God . . . ”
Seeker: “. . . which surpasses all understanding . . .” Preacher, why does it surpass all understanding?
Preacher: Well Seeker, peace on the earth, that is humanity’s concept of peace, can be broken and shattered so easily. We think things are at peace, but someone gets upset about something and that upsets others. Before you know it there is arguing and bickering, which can lead to aggression and violence. We just don’t humanly know how to keep peace. But God’s peace is eternal; God’s peace never breaks and there is never any strive. For right now though, we try to emulate God’s peace on earth, but we can’t do it like God does. We can’t understand how to keep eternal peace. Let’s continue – God’s peace “will guard your hearts . . . “
Seeker: “. . . and your minds in Christ Jesus . . . ” But then how can the peace of God guard our hearts and minds if we can’t manage it?
Preacher: When we read about God’s peace or meditate on it, it reminds us of how peace should be. Peace and renewed peace comes when we live in harmony with each other and creation. God’s teachings show us how to live in harmony and when we do that, we are at peace again. And if we keep God’s peace in our minds, we are more likely to live in harmony with one another. It guards or protects us from unkind thoughts and actions etc, which we also call sin. The writer of Philippians continues saying, “Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and . . .”
Seeker: Preacher, did the writer of Philippians keep God’s peace perfectly?
Preacher: The writer of Philippians was human, just like you and I, so he did not keep God’s peace perfectly. But each day he committed and recommitted his life to preaching about God and God’s peace. He was not perfect but he focused his life and his teachings to reflect God’s peace. He is not suggesting you study his life as a template for living, but that you study and keep in mind what he preached and tried to do in his own life. He said if you do that, “. . . the God of peace will be with you.”
Seeker: Was the peace of God with him?
Preacher: The writer of Philippians has his own problems and struggles. Some of his letter reflect those, and he talks quite honestly about himself and the issues he faced. Many people consider him to be an extremely good man, but what we know of him comes from the letters that he wrote, and what he strived to do. Remember he said that God’s peace surpasses all understanding, so that would include his. He knew that God’s peace was perfect and that we need to strive for that, but he also knew that striving does not mean we will get it perfect.
Seeker: So he is encouraging us to do what he did himself, look to God to learn how to live in peace and then practice it diligently in our lives?
Preacher: Yes, and doing that is the best way to guard our hearts and minds so that only Christ Jesus’ influences our thoughts and actions. He also said, “Finally, beloved whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
Seeker: And doing that is our best chance to keep God’s peace as much as we humanly can!
Preacher: Amen, Seeker, Amen!
And selah, gentle reader. Shalom for your day.