Horatio Spafford did not have an easy life. His two-year old son died in the Great Chicago Fire in 1871. Two years later, he sent his wife and four daughters to England, planning to meet up with them after he attended to some business. He later received a telegram from his wife Anna stating: “Saved alone …” The ship they were sailing on collided with another ship and sunk quickly. While traveling to meet up with his wife he penned these words when passing the place where the ship went down:
When peace like a river, attendeth my way
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well with my soul
How can someone who has suffered so much pain be so full of peace to pen such words, “Whatever my lot … It is well with my soul.” I know that all it takes is a bad day with children for me to trade in my peace with God for a bitter and angry spirit. I can look at all that I have been given and want more. I can get angry at God for the supposed “injustices” in my daily life and trade his peace for the “right to be angry.” What does it mean to have peace with Christ? What does that really look like? Does it mean being happy with every trial that comes into our lives?
In Colossians 3:15-17, Paul is teaching the Christians in Colossae how to live a life rooted in Christ. He begins with some “dos and don’ts” but finishes the passage by talking about the “peace of Christ.” The Hebrew word for peace in this passage is shalom. As Ben stated several weeks ago, shalom means “completeness, soundness, welfare, peace.” If we use this as our starting place, “peace with Christ” means that we have found completeness and welfare in him. We are not looking for something else to make us whole, but have everything we need in him. We don’t have to be happy about everything that happens to us, but we know that in him all of our needs are met.
Once we accept that in Christ we are made complete, how do we let it “rule in [our] hearts?” Once again going back to the original word, “rule,” helps us understand what Paul meant. In this context, “rule” is a word used in athletics – it means umpire or referee. So, when we let his peace rule in our hearts we let him be the ref; he makes the call and we abide. We don’t let our feelings and desires make the choice as to how we react. We look to him. When we do this, we will automatically be at peace with others. When we treat those around us as Christ would, we bless them and live in peace with them even when we don’t always like them.
What is the “message of Christ?” Put simply, it is the Gospel – our story of hope. When we let the Gospel “dwell” with us, we let it rule our lives. The Gospel of Christ is our master and we make all decisions according to what we know through his words. Finally, by “do[ing] it all in the name of the Lord Jesus” we are calling attention not to ourselves, but to Christ who lives in us. We do not take credit for our “good deeds,” but direct all credit back to him who enables us to live at peace with those around us.
So now what? What does this mean for you and for me today when the kids are fighting, or our co-worker gets the promotion we deserved, or someone we love hurts us deeply? It means that we allow Christ to rule in our hearts; his word and spirit help direct our responses. We love those who hurt us. We pray for those who persecute us. We offer gentle responses to harsh statements. And when people notice, we point them back to Christ. We don’t take credit for our good deeds, but thank God that his peace is in our lives through Jesus and that he saw fit to work his plan through us.
15Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. 17And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Are you at peace with God? Does the “peace of Christ rule in your heart?”
When you think about the message of Christ, how does it make you feel? The Gospel story is amazing, it is life changing and absurd. Why would God continually seek after us – the rebellious children he created? How can you let this message change you? Who are you telling?
Prayer: God thank you for your amazingly absurd love for us. Thank you for this message of hope and redemption. I ask, Lord, that the peace of Christ rules in my heart and gives me the peace you so freely offer. Help me to boldly proclaim this love story and invite others into this life of peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
This post was written by Julie Mabus. Julie has a passion for thinking about big ideas, art, reading and seeing God reveal himself through creation. She is married and is homeschooling her four young children.
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