The Seven Deadly Virtues — 3

Welcome back to another week of Lent. We hope it has been meaningful time for you so far. 

While we settle into a month named after the Roman God of War, Dave and I invite you to consider that which is deadly to war: The VIRTUE OF PEACE. I write this week’s devotion, and I’ve provided other Biblical passages to consider, several ways to respond, and a hippie cartoon. Something for everyone!

God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.” —C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“First keep peace with yourself, then you can also bring peace to others.” —Thomas a Kempis

“While you are proclaiming peace with your lips, be careful to have it even more fully in your heart.”—Francis of Assisi

THE VIRTUE OF PEACE

The Biblical idea of peace is much more than just an absence of conflict. It is the presence of something better—wholeness. Shalom (the Hebrew word for Peace) denotes something complex that is in a state of completeness. It’s when all the parts of your life are meshing well. it’s the restoration of relationships. Shalom in your marriage is not when you stop fighting—it is when you are working together. The Bible looks forward to the Prince of Shalom bringing peace forever (Isaiah 9:5–6). He will put the whole world to rights and will heal everything that has been damaged. Even now, Jesus restores the relationship between God and humans, between us people, and within ourselves. (Ephesians 2:14–15)

For me, the opposite of the virtue of peace is the vice of wrath. Some people call it anger. “But Jesus did get angry,“ I can hear people saying. Let’s talk about that. Jesus was almost always peaceful and did not get angry very often. Of the few times recorded in Scripture, one was because the religious establishment was preventing the Gentiles from worshiping the true God in the Jewish Temple. The Jewish leaders had erected a marketplace in the court of the Gentiles—which was the only place in the Temple area for non-Jews to pray. (Mark 11:15-18) Moral of the Story: Get in the way of somebody’s search for God and you might be the object of Jesus‘ righteous wrath. 

Jesus also got angry at the religious leaders when they were acting in a hypocritical fashion—placing religious burdens upon the people that they themselves would not lift. (Matthew 23:3-4) So: Put religious obstacles in the way of people getting close to God and you may encounter the anger of Christ. Jesus’ anger is very specific—it’s triggered by His compassion for those being spiritually oppressed.

In my own life, there is nothing that raises my wrath more than being unjustly accused. In other words, blame me of something I’ve actually done and I’ll usually (eventually) agree with you. I might not be happy about it but I won’t get angry. Tell me I’m guilty of something I haven’t done and watch me boil. I will call my wrath justified. But is it?

Did Jesus release his wrath when he was accused of casting out demons by the power of Satan? No, instead, He resorted to reason. He said, “a house divided against itself will fall.” (Luke 11:17-19 ) When accused of breaking the Sabbath laws by healing a man or a woman on that day, he again resorted to reason. He said that if you would rescue—or even just care for—your animal on a Sabbath, then why shouldn’t He heal a person? (Luke 13:10-17, Matthew 12:9-14) Most famously, perhaps, is when Jesus was being falsely accused at his trial before the Sanhedrin in the middle of the night. He didn’t get angry—He remained silent. (Matthew 26:62-63) So much for my own “righteous anger.” It is anything but righteous. 

How does one obtain the deadly virtue of peace in situations that usually kindle anything from a brush fire to a raging inferno of wrath? It seems that one must go to the Prince of Peace for that tranquil presence of soul. The virtue of peace, like all the virtues, appears to be a gift. It is a gift one must seek in order to find—and we have to cooperate when it is given. We must open our hearts to be a channel of the Lord’s peace. 

Consider offering this prayer for the virtue of peace. May the Lord meet our need as we continue on this Lenten journey through the Seven Deadly Virtues:

Lord, please place Your shalom—your peace—in my heart. I know what I do in these stressful situations normally, but I don’t know what You would do nor how You would do it. Give me the grace to follow your lead. Use this trial to make me more like You, Jesus. Make me an instrument of Your peace. May I reflect Your character—being quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. Remind me that You have not left my side and that You never will. I can trust You to fight the battles which I will only make worse. Be my Prince of Peace. Help me to forgive those who have wronged me. I place myself in Your nail-scarred hands. Amen.

Responding to the Deadly Virtue of PEACE:

  • From this list of Shalom descriptors, select one that resonates with you today: harmony, confidence, balance, completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, fullness, rest.
  • List the situations in your life right now that are robbing you of peace. There’s no judgement intended here, just be honest.
  • What are the most peaceful times of your day? Of your year? Are they peaceful because of external reasons or internal reasons? Think about one time you had peace in a situation that was anything but peaceful—why was that?
  • If you were asked to wage war against someone—short of killing that person—how would you do it? Conversely, if you were asked to “wage peace” with the same person, how would you do that?
  • Meditate upon and/or memorize one of the following verses of Scripture (NIV):

Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulders, and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Matthew 5:9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

John 14:27  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

Philippians 4:6-7 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Colossians 3:15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.

1Peter 3:10-11

Whoever would love life

and see good days

must keep their tongue from evil

and their lips from deceitful speech.

They must turn from evil and do good;

they must seek peace and pursue it.

  • In John 11:30-44, Jesus gets angry when we don’t expect Him to. It appears that he is angry with death and the distress it causes people who love the person whom has died. How has Jesus brought us great peace with the reality of death?

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