|A Prayer of Jesus
THE PEACE OF JESUS
By Edgar Jones
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. (John 14:27)It is this peace of Jesus that is the subject of this paper. From the text, I infer immediately that this peace was here with him, in his possession at all times. But when he departed, he endowed his disciples with it and left it in their possession. I also infer, in the absence of any utterance of his to the contrary, that after all these centuries it yet remains here on the earth, and it yet remains in the possession of his disciples.
I do not imply that the disciples did not possess it until after his departure. Oh, no! There is another utterance that clarifies this question:
Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and salute no one on the road.We infer, therefore, that Jesus' disciples were in possession of the peace of Jesus then, thereafter, and now!
The Means of ReceptionAnd how do they possess it? Must they pray for it, strive for it, work for it, struggle for it, fight for it? No, not at all! It is a gift:
. . . my peace I give to you.Therefore the disciples need only accept it. Isn't it amazing -- how simple things become if only we listen carefully to Jesus? This does not even require an inference. It is the Lord's simple statement; either we believe him, and receive his peace, or we don't.
But how does he bestow the gift? Listen:
Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. (John 20:21)He bestows it by the power of his word: Peace be with you. But because he must have repeated this word (it says "again"), those disciples were much like disciples today. It didn't sink in at first because they really weren't listening as they should have.
How, then, does it transfer from one disciple to another or from one generation of disciples to another so that the disciples of today yet possess it? Again,
Whatever house you enter first say, 'Peace be to this house!'Isn't it astonishingly simple? Again, it is by a word. Immediately, a disciple has shared the gift of peace with those in that house, provided only that one condition is met:
And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you.
The Son of PeaceIn the mind of Jesus, we see that human beings are divided into two groups. We find this division here and in the instructions given to his disciples when they were sent out to preach the kingdom in the cities and villages of Israel:
And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them. (Luke 9:4,5)Jesus first sent out the twelve to go throughout the territory proclaiming the kingdom of God in towns and villages. Then he sent out seventy others, giving them very similar instructions. Luke 9:4,5 above, and Luke 10:10,11, above, tell them how to respond if they were not received in any town. Clearly there is no son of peace in those towns that reject the disciples and their peace.
Some towns, and some houses, may contain a son of peace. Others will not, and the telling difference is simple: the son of peace will receive them and their peace, others will not. So Jesus has set up a sharp distinction between two different groups: those who are sons of peace, and those that are not sons of peace; those that receive the disciples and their peace, and those that do not receive either them or their peace.
This distinction is one that already existed, prior to contact with the disciples of Jesus, or with Jesus himself. The disciples are not to cajole or persuade. They simply enter the house and say, Peace be to this house. Their peace is received . . . or it is rejected. Nothing has been done prior to the greeting to accomplish this distinction. It simply exists and it is made known in any case simply by the response of the individual in the house, who is already a son of peace or already not a son of peace. We have no insight here as to how the distinction comes about. It is not by persuasion or influence of the disciples. When the disciples and the peace of Jesus are rejected, they are to leave that house or that town, shaking off the dust of their feet against it.
So Jesus defined two groups of human beings: those who could receive him and his peace, and those who would not receive him. This distinction is evident not only here but elsewhere. For example, we see it when he issued his words on divorce, which the disciples were reluctant to accept. Then Jesus responded:
Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given.Neither the Father nor Jesus has done anything to establish this distinction. One either accepts the saying on divorce, or one rejects it. Either a person receives the peace of Jesus, or a person rejects the peace of Jesus. It is entirely up to the individual. But those who are true sons of peace will receive the peace of Jesus; they will also receive his words and the words of his true disciples, who also are sons of peace. And the fact of their reception of his peace identifies them as sons of peace.
Like those who can receive his teaching on divorce, so it
is with the peace of Jesus. It is only for those
it is given. It is only for the son
A Different Peace
Those who are not sons of peace also desire peace. They speak of it, they rejoice in it whenever they can find it. They strive for it in many ways. This we see every day when we read of the efforts of national and world leaders to restore or keep peace in lands around the world. We see it when we read of those great national or world leaders who are accounted by men as worthy to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. This is not the peace of Jesus, however; it is world peace in one of its many varieties. It is a peace that men achieve only by struggling, striving, engaging in fierce negotiations, and finally, by going to war as they did in World War I, a war that was considered the "war to end war." No, the peace of the world comes at a high price, it is preserved at a high price and it is always uncertain and insecure. It is in diametric opposition to the peace of Jesus, for the peace of Jesus is a simple gift; the peace of this world is won at great cost, great suffering and bloodshed throughout the world. The peace of Jesus is certain and secure, whereas world peace has no certainty from day to day.
So, Jesus acknowledged this difference when he said, above, that he gives his peace not as the world gives. Furthermore, the peace of Jesus and the peace of the world are distinguished by yet another difference. Those who have received the peace of Jesus can thereby let not their hearts be either troubled or afraid. World peace never produces this tranquility because it is so insecure. Men worry, with good reason, that they will lose it and be plunged into another experience of horrific bloodshed. Their hearts are troubled and afraid. They can't help themselves! The sons of peace, in possession of the peace of Jesus, are absolutely secure in their peace. No one can take it away from them by any means.
Let us pause here a moment to list the major differences together so that you can see how significant they are.
Some ExamplesEvery age has been salted by the sons of peace. There are always a few of them scattered about on the face of the earth. Jesus and his disciples, of course, but other disciples after them and even today have shown by their testimony that they are sons of peace. They are those who have suffered great tribulation for the cause of Jesus and his peace, even to the point of losing their live on the earth.
In the early years following the apostles such men as Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, and Justin Martyr shine out in history as cardinal examples of sons of peace. Ignatius, arrested and being transported to Rome, found ways to strengthen and encourage the sons of peace in all the cities through which he went. He wrote ahead to the Church at Rome exhorting them not to work for his deliverance:
Now I begin to be a disciple. I care for nothing, of visible or invisible things, so that I may but win Christ. Let fire and the cross, let the companies of wild beasts, let breaking of bones and tearing of limbs, let the grinding of the whole body, and all the malice of the devil, come upon me; be it so, only may I win Christ Jesus!Arriving in Rome and having been sentenced to die by wild beasts, he heard them roaring and said,,
I am the wheat of Christ. I am going to be ground with the teeth of wild beasts that I may be found pure bread.The aged Polycarp, urged by the Roman proconsul to deny Christ saying, "Swear and I will release you," replied,
Eighty and six years have I served him, and he never once wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King, who hath saved me?He was not nailed to the stake as usual, only tied after he assured them that he would stand immovable in the flames.
Justin composed letters on his way to Rome, and to his martyrdom. In one of them he wrote,
I give injunctions to all men that I am dying willingly for God's sake, if you do not hinder it. I beseech you be not an unseasonable kindness to me. Suffer me to be eaten by the beasts, through whom I can attain to God. . . . Rather entice the wild beasts that they may become my tomb, and leave no trace of my body, that when I fall asleep I be not burdensome to any. . . . I long for the beasts that are prepared for me. . . . Let there come upon me fire and cross, struggles with wild beasts, cutting and tearing asunder, rackings of bones, mangling of limbs, crushing my whole body, and cruel tortures of the devil, if so I may attain to Jesus Christ!These notable examples from the Second Century are among many, not only in that century but through every century including the one most recently past. How great the suffering the world has heaped upon the sons of peace, in every age -- and yet, they would not have had it otherwise! Faithfully enduring great tribulation in this world, they were of good courage knowing that their Lord had overcome the world. These are sons of peace!
We go back again to the gospels to find a clear example of those who are only the sons of this world, and not the sons of peace:
And when he drew near and saw the city he wept over it, saying, "Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. (Luke 19:41,42)Beloved Jerusalem! How great the grief of Jesus when he finally realized that its people were not sons of peace, knew not the way of peace, and must suffer destruction because they were to embark on the way of war. There was nothing he or the Father could do to make them sons of peace. It was their choice. They simply were not sons of peace, and that was that.
The Reality With Which We Must Deal
The sons of peace are always few in the world, while the sons of war are multitudinous. This is the reality with which we must deal and Jesus acknowledged it in various ways. To begin, he said:
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's foes will be those of his own household. (Matthew 10:33-36)There is less peace because of his entry into the world and the begetting of the sons of peace than there would have been otherwise! And it begins on a very personal basis, in the home and family. History has shown how it then expands to international proportions. Jesus also acknowledged this by his prophecies:
And when you hear of wars and tumults, do not be terrified; for this must first take place, but the end will not be at once. Then he said to them, "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be great earthquakes, and in various places famines and pestilences; and there will be terrors and great signs from heaven." (Luke 21:9-11)Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom! History has confirmed every word! This is the reality with which we have to deal; far from changing it, Jesus has only intensified it. The desire for secure world peace is but a vain and elusive dream that shall never see reality. The sons of this world are the sons of war, and war is the way of the world. Hear him again:
I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.The reality with which we have to deal further consists of only two families of human beings: the sons of peace and the sons of war. The sons of war are of the world, while the sons of peace are not of the world. Therefore, the sons of peace can do nothing to bring peace to the world because the world consists of the sons of war. The world is in darkness and its reality is the dark reality. There is a bright reality for the sons of peace: They are free from war! They have peace, and they have it now, because they simply have heard the word of peace and have received the gift. There is no force on earth that can bind them to war because they are free!
Why do the sons of peace not fight? Why could Ignatius and Justin go joyfully to a horrible death? How could they be so tranquil in the face of their soon horrific demise? How is it that the sons of peace do not fight to save their lives?
We have shown above that the reality with which we must deal consists of two separate categories of human beings. They are:
Jesus answered, My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world. Pilate said to him, "So you are a king?" Jesus answered, You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice. (John 18:36,37)If my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight. There is our answer. The sons of peace do not fight because the kingship of Jesus is not of this world. Again, you see the sharp distinction between his servants, the sons of peace who are also his disciples, and the sons of this world who are of this world.
And we see yet again how it works, that the sons of peace receive the peace of Jesus:
Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.This, of course, is the prime focus of this entire web site. The sons of peace hear his voice, the voice of Jesus, which is the voice of the Good Shepherd. The sons of this world cannot hear his voice, and so they miss the simple word that endows them with secure, eternal peace. It goes one step deeper. Jesus explained to certain of the Jews how it is that they could not hear his voice:
Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:43,44)You see? The sons of this world cannot hear Jesus so as to receive the peace of Jesus because they are the children of their father, the devil. He was a murderer (violent) from the beginning, and so it is that his children remain violent while the earth endures. They cannot hear Jesus and so cannot receive the peace of Jesus that he gives to the sons of peace by means of a simple word.
Jesus repeatedly asserted the absolute demarcation between the sons of peace and the sons of war, who are the sons of this world. If there is hope for any of us, it must come from hearing these assertions:
He said to them, "You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world. (John 8:23)There are two separate entities, rigidly separate and distinct. The one, the world and its sons, is hostile to the other -- to the sons of peace who are not of the world. The sons of the world, while yearning for peace, do not understand it and therefore they pursue it with violence. The sons of peace gratefully and joyfully accept the peace of Jesus and they do not fight, either to rescue Jesus their Lord from the cross or to rescue themselves from the jaws of death to this world.
I did not fully understand this radical distinction when, in 1951, I removed myself from the U.S Navy. I thought I could simply remove myself from those whose task it is to make war and then I would be free but this was not the case. I yet remained a citizen and was yet attached to those whose task it is to equip those who make war. All are of the world, and I was not thereby set free of the sons of war. But in 1978 when I renounced citizenship in the USA, I understood. It is not a question of being either in the military or out of it; no, the question is that of being of the world or not of it, and as a citizen I continued bound to a nation of this world and therefore to this world and its sons of war. Now, as a son of peace, I am free!
So the answer to the "Why" question -- why do the sons of peace not fight, is simply that they are not of the world, just as Jesus is not of the world and precisely as his kingship, or kingdom, is not of the world. Neither Jesus nor the Father has created this differentiation. They have made the peace of Jesus available but it is up to us human beings, both men and women, to avail ourselves of it. We have done that when we hear Jesus and accept his Holy Word. This is the immediate answer.
We can go one step further and get to the empowering answer to the "Why" question. What empowers the sons of peace, so that in any circumstance they are able to remain non violent and peaceful?
Again, they have continued to listen to Jesus as he has stated the words of his Great Principle:
He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. (John 12:25)This is the requisite attitude to life that one must acquire before one can truly qualify as a son of peace. In this attitude to life the sons of peace can not only stand non violent against every threat, but they can also rejoice in the prospect that the evil one may be the instrument that sends them to the Father's house.
This Great Principle empowers the sons of peace and opens their hearts to truth, but they have a second leg also on which they stand, and that is the Great Commandment:
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. (22:37-38)When one loves God the Father in this way, one wants only to go to him, as did the lost (prodigal) son when he came to himself in the far country. The enemy, doing his worst, can only do the best for you! This means that this enemy, who is also a neighbor (near person) can also become an object of love to the sons of peace, who have nothing to fear from him. So it was that Jesus, in the midst of his enemies, said,
All mine are thine, and thine are mine, and I am glorified in them."I am coming to thee!" That thought empowered Jesus to withstand every temptation and lead the way to the cross without resistance, either by himself or his disciples -- his servants, who do not fight because his kingdom is not of this world. They do not fight because they hate their lives in this world; they do not fight, because they love the Father and above all want to go to his heavenly house. That's why!
The "hard commandments" of the Sermon on the Mount are not at all hard for the sons of peace, who have received the peace of Jesus. They only define common circumstances that the sons of peace can expect to face in this hostile world, and their natural responses. I list them here and, if you can hear them -- that is, if you are one of the sons of peace, they will define your responses as well.
These specific situations do not in themselves define any fundamental principles, although there are those who point to them as fundamental illustrations of the love of ones enemy and non resistance to that same person. Then, beginning with that they proceed to apply these situations to life as though they were principles. Thus, they speak of the "principle of non violence," the "principle of unconditional love," the "principle of non resistance" and the "principle of non violent resistance." These were not a part of the thinking of Jesus, who simply identified the Great Correlate, consisting of the Great Commandment and the Great Principle, as normative for the sons of peace. The human concepts are philosophical rubbish that work to distract human beings from the recognition of the true principles that are at work here.
Actually, there is only one general commandment in the above list, which is the first, "Do not resist one who is evil." The three that follow are specific examples, or illustrations, of what this entails. To be thus specific, "Do not resist one who is evil." means that when one strikes you on one cheek, you must turn to him the other, and so through the list. A person who strikes you on the cheek is thus an evil person, as is the one who takes your coat or forces you to accompany him one mile.
This general commandment, "Do not resist one who is evil." is the antithesis of the rule followed by the sons of war, which is, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth." Jesus is using it to demarcate the sons of peace from the sons of war. The words are clear enough as they stand, nevertheless the Christian pacifists are continually mis-interpreting and/or mis-applying them so as to leave some grounds of resistance in their efforts to change the world through peaceful conflict resolution.
"Turn the other cheek is, for them, a form of resistance according to which they have drawn the stinger out of the wasp, or the venom out of the snake, leaving the enemy without ammunition, puzzled and confused. This is not non resistance, but only non-violent resistance.
Likewise, Give him your coat as well is aimed at influencing the enemy. Perhaps it shames him, or perhaps it shames his companions who will convince him to alter his conduct even if you have failed to do so. One source says this is "sure way to embarrass a creditor in court and expose economic injustice."
Go with him two miles is supposed to apply only to bearing the load of a Roman soldier for an extra mile, which might have negative effects on the soldier. Yet Jesus made no reference to Roman soldiers. It is a circumstance that applies to any coercive party. To make it applicable to only one kind of person, a Roman soldier, is to completely miss the principle behind the saying.
According to this form of interpretation, the Christian pacifist who sees here only examples of non violent resistance, always seeks an earthly goal of some sort, even if it is only to influence the behavior of a bully. To correctly define the goal that Jesus seeks in the application of non resistance to those who are evil, we need only proceed in the Sermon on the Mount to the next antithesis:
You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.' (Matthew 5:43-45)Why do the sons of peace practice non resistance? Because they have learned to love their enemies. Within the sphere of this love there can be only good will for the enemy, and no act of violence or coercion can smash this good will. Paul agreed with the Proverb according to which one should succor the enemy and thus "heap burning coals upon his head." Where is the good will here? This is not the peace of Jesus that would heap burning coals on the head of the enemy. Jesus and the sons of peace look at the enemy in genuine good will and their non resistance is motivated solely by the desire to become like the Father, who blesses both the just and the unjust. Their sole aim is "so that you may be the sons of your Father who is in heaven." The peace of Jesus neither knows nor seeks any other motive.
This motivation is nowhere more expressly stated than in the Beatitude,
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.The sons of peace are peacemakers so that they shall be truly called the sons of God. To this sole end, they truly practice non resistance.
Alternatively, both violent and non violent resistance are peas from the same pod, for each seeks earthly goals. The American Civil Rights movement was the application of non-violent resistance to achieve an earthly result. It was and is a movement whose leaders know nothing of the peace of Jesus.
Whenever an injustice grows
and embraces masses of victims, they will seek means of redress for
their grievances. They will evaluate options and consider both
violent and non violent means, then choose what seems, under the
circumstances, to be the best strategy. Sometimes non violence
works best, as it did for Gandhi, King, and Mandella. Sometimes
violence works best, as it did for Roosevelt, Churchill and
Stalin. These leaders were all successful in achieving their
goals, which testifies to their prudence and worldly wisdom. Had
Gandhi, King or Mandella chosen
violence, they would have been crushed. Had Roosevelt, Churchill
Stalin chosen non violence, they would have been crushed. British
Minister Neville Chamberlain foolishly chose non violence where only
could work. He came home to England proclaiming "Peace in our
only to be crushed as the world was plunged into total war.
Pacifism and its Varieties
We have not heretofore used this word, pacifism. There are two reasons for this:
I do not imply that every individual associated with either of these groups is accurately described above. I have only applied the dominant stance as I have seen it working out in real life. When one's motives are based on falsehoods or half truths, there is naturally some confusion that results in vacillation between the various stances.
The peace of Jesus is to be carefully distinguished from all the above. It engages the world in contrast to the Anabaptists, but it seeks no earthly goals as do the modern Christian and secular pacifists. It does not seek pacifist solutions to world problems. It has no vision of peace on earth. Its engagement with the world is purely for the sake of testimony to the peace of Jesus for the sake of the sons of peace who are in the world and for the sake of their own status as sons of peace. When Christians practice pacifist methods for the sake of an earthly goal, they do not practice the peace of Jesus, though they practice it in his name. By so doing they bear false witness to him and are in urgent need of repentance.
Jesus stated most clearly that he did not come to bring peace on the earth, therefore peace on the earth cannot be a goal of the peace of Jesus. Jesus entered into the most intimate association with the sons of this world for the sake of the sons of peace who are in the world. His servants, following him, can do no other than engage the world for the sake of no earthly peace and of no earthly good. It is all because his kingship is not of this world.
To all who cannot hear the pure words of our Lord, I can only grieve and set some of those words before you once again:
Would that even today you knew the things that make for peace! But now they are hid from your eyes. (Luke 19:42)To every one who is a son of peace, I joyfully obey my Lord and speak as he has commanded me:
Peace be to this house! (Luke 10:5)I also say to you the words he speaks always to the son of peace:
Peace be with you!
Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you. (John 20:21)