26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 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. (John 14)
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As I write this, hope has gone dark that they will find any more survivors in Nepal after the 7.9 earthquake, but survivors there continue to sleep outside even if their homes are ok, because they fear the next aftershock will bring the building down.
As I write this, Baltimore wavers between rioting that included burning stores down and looting and street parties that police have been arrested in the death of Freddie Grey – but no one feels like this conversation is over.
As I write this, many Christians on Facebook are tempted to rule one another out of the body of Christ because of high emotion over the Supreme Court and gay marriage.
How is it that Jesus can tell us not to be troubled or afraid?
This is when I notice before that Jesus’ instruction to us about peace and not being afraid comes right after his description of what his Holy Spirit would do among us?
The Holy Spirit, he says, will teach us all things and will remind us of everything Jesus has said to us. And with that comes his peace, unlike the world’s peace. From that, we are to take action: do not LET your hearts be troubled and do not BE afraid.
Jesus had radically different ideas about what was wrong with things than we do. From Jesus’ perspective, we are all pretty confused about what is good and what is evil, what is safe and what is dangerous. We really aren’t good judges of what the real problem before us is.
Humans like to find one person, or a group of people, we can blame for things. In fact, the word “scapegoat” actually comes from the Bible! We are quick to blame things on someone or some group, and we want to push them outside the gates so we can live in peace. We forget that God is Love and that his goal in sending Christ to all of us, was that all humanity could return to him. It was worth it to him! He is breaking down the walls and the barriers. And while Jesus told us to be shrewd as serpents as well as innocent as doves, Jesus said that having contempt for others is on the spectrum with murdering them, and that to love our enemies and pray for them is akin to being like God. We may know exactly what someone is up to, and still love them as God does! Our agenda is his.
Baptized “into” Christ, we are safe in him – we have already conquered death in him, we already have “seats in the heavenlies” with him and there is nothing in all this world that can separate us from the safety of our future in him.
The Holy Spirit in us, then, reminds us that we can take some risks. We do not have to be defensive when people who are different from us display anger and hurt – we can safely listen to what they have to say. We don’t have to find a reason why the sufferings of someone else are their own fault and thus not our problem; everything we have has been put into our hands by our Father and we can share it freely, as he did. He does not run out and he doesn’t desire that we should be stingy. We can risk compassion and grace as God did.
God’s patience, love, mercy and grace in us, is God alive in the world! Christ’s Spirit in us empowers us, reminds us of what Jesus said and gives us courage to be peaceful in times which are not. We aren’t overcome – we know not only that this world isn’t all there is, but that these conflicts aren’t forever.
We also know, even if those around us don’t, that “might” doesn’t make “right.” Power, by itself, may get someone else to do what you want, but it doesn’t bring real compliance, submission or peace. All this world’s power is derivative. Cops who might beat up an innocent person derive the power to do so from the God who made them, as do the criminals who prey on the innocent. As do rioters who burn businesses down. But all of that is illegitimate use of power; it is sinful. God has noted it. Justice requires that it be recorded, and paid for.
How is it paid for? Even those instances of sin were paid for already by Christ on the cross, he who did not resist but shouldered the injustice done to him, and then demonstrated his conquest of it (and all those who wanted it for him) by rising from the dead, forever alive now.
For us to trust in brute power others is a shortcut like Satan offered to Jesus in the wilderness. It’s not only unnecessary it is foolish – we would sell our souls to get what we already have! In Christ we have the better thing: the powerful love of God that is capable and willing to see others as they might be in God’s realm, to forgive the weaknesses of today because Jesus has taken sin to the cross…and because we see a much better thing coming under the sovereignty of God.
This love and trust alive in us, Jesus said, is like a little yeast in a whole drum of dough. It fundamentally changes wherever it goes, without drawing a lot of notice to itself. And this is why we aren’t to spend our time being defensive or afraid, or judgmental and angry – by the way we interact with every bit of God’s creation, we can give the Holy Spirit rein within us to make a difference. Often we won’t even know the difference we made. It’s why Jesus just told us to follow him.
Let’s not be so surprised or troubled about the follies and disgraces of our day – there is nothing new under the sun. Let’s not feed our minds full of messages of fear and defeat (I’m talking about you, CNN), but instead hear the word of God. The Spirit within us is greater than the spirit that is in the world, the Bible says. Don’t be troubled; don’t be afraid. Peace be with us – and let us spread it around, in Christ.