Sheltering in Peace While Sheltering in Place
Updated: Apr 24, 2020
Following Jesus’ crucifixion, his followers were in overwhelming turmoil. Among the many emotions they faced, fear topped the list. Even though Jesus’ friends had previously seen the resurrected Christ earlier in John 20, verse 21 finds them sheltering in place behind locked doors for fear of the religious leaders who had crucified Him. Would they be next? Jesus’ first words to this scared, sheltered bunch was: “Peace be with you.” He would say it again before he left that night. When he met them a week later as they again sheltered in place (verse 26), He repeated the greeting: “Peace be with you.” Jesus offers His peace to those frightened by their hostile circumstances.
Thinking about Peace
When many people think of peace, they generally think of the benefits of peace: a sense of well-being, tranquility, and security with an absence of hostility, turmoil and fear. Many think peace can be achieved by a combination of balancing numerous areas of life: a loving, well-adjusted family, well-paying, satisfying careers, a fine home in a low-crime area, self-care, abundant forms of entertainment to mitigate the stress of ‘having it all’, opportunities to give back and help others, and a comfortable nest egg for our later years. These things are great blessings but they are poor foundations for peace. Whenever circumstances such as a crumbling relationship, death of a loved one, an unreasonable employer, a sick child, an economic downturn, poor health or a pandemic threaten one or more of these areas, peace gives way to fear, worry, despair, and even hostilities.
Numerous examples exist of successful people who apparently had it all but nevertheless lacked satisfaction and peace in life. One of the most public examples of this in recent time is the life of Ernest Hemingway. From the time of his boyhood in Oak Park, Illinois, to his teenage summers in northern Michigan, he went after everything life could give him. He became a reporter with the Kansas City Star, served as an ambulance driver in World War I, spent years in Europe, and was intimately involved in the Spanish Civil War. His famous friendships ran all the way from the bullfighter Monolete to the novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. In whatever he did—sports, warfare, romance—he went for all of it. And, of course, he was brilliant. His great stories—especially the greatest of all, The Old Man and the Sea—show his unique genius. Hemingway had the best of what this life offers for obtaining a sense of well-being, tranquility, and satisfaction. However, as his health deteriorated and he could no longer pursue activities that satisfied, peace eluded him and Hemingway ended his own life. While most people fortunately do not take Hemingway’s tragic and extreme actions, he nonetheless reminds all of us of the common underlying principle: peace can be fleeting when based on faulty foundations.
Peace can be fleeting when based on faulty foundations.
Foundations for Peace
The relationship between the basis of peace and its benefits is seen in what appears to us as Jesus’ incongruous statements to those fearful souls sheltering in place: “peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you (John 20:21).” In effect, Jesus says to this understandably frightened bunch ‘be at peace and go out to where those seeking your lives are located and minister to them.’ How can these folks experience peace by going headlong into the circumstances that threaten their experience of peace? Jesus asserts that if you establish your peace upon the right foundation then you can possess the benefits of peace whatever your circumstances may be. Jesus bases the peace of God upon having peace with God.
When you have peace with God, you can experience the peace of God in any situation.
Many today desire the benefits of peace (tranquility, well-being and security) apart from the foundation of peace with God. It’s the ancient rebellion of wanting the blessings of God but not wanting God Himself. It’s the classic folly of building a house without a foundation – an approach to life that cannot sustain life’s realities. Jesus can assure His followers of peace and send them out into troubling surroundings because He has provided them peace with God and therefore their security, well-being and tranquility are based on Almighty God and not uncertain circumstances. Just weeks before, on the night prior to His crucifixion, Jesus assured His followers: “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 ESV). In the same conversation, Jesus asserts that this peace would not depend on their circumstances because while turmoil awaited them in the world they would nonetheless enjoy His peace: “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV).
Peace with God, Peace of God
The peace Christ offers brings peace with God that we cannot obtain on our own and is the foundation upon which the peace of God may be enjoyed. Romans 5:1 states that peace with God comes through Christ: “therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
To speak of obtaining peace with God acknowledges that hostility exists between us and God; we are alienated from Him. The question then arises how we, an imperfect and sinful people who are hostile to God, may have peace with the holy and perfect God who is alienated from us. Romans 5 further describes how our loving God satisfied His righteous judgment for our sin through Christ’s death on the cross as the substitute in our place: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation” (Romans 5:8–11 ESV).
Experiencing God’s Peace
Christ’s gift of peace with God is received by faith that honestly admits our sin against God and our inability to make ourselves acceptable to Him but trusts in Christ’s sinless life to fulfill God’s righteous law in our behalf and trusts in His death in our place to pay the penalty for our sin. Such faith in Christ expresses its desire to love God and live for Him by obeying His commands and turning away for our sin by His strength. Scripture assures those who genuinely believe in Christ that they will be at peace with God. No one can ever snatch us from His hand. Nothing can separate us from His love for us in Christ. If our identity as people and our foundation for life is built upon our peace with God, we will be able to experience the peace of God through life’s storms. While our sense of well-being, tranquility, and security in Christ may rise or diminish based on our circumstances, nothing will ever erode the foundation of Christ’s grace upon which it securely rests. By nurturing our peace through Scripture, prayer, faith, love and a host of other means given to us by Christ, His peace will guard our hearts and minds.
Several months after Ernest Hemingway tragically died, Christian musician Merrill Womach was flying a plane when the engine died shortly after takeoff in Beaver Marsh, Oregon. The plane hit trees as it crashed to the ground and caught fire; Womach tumbled out of the plane engulfed in flames. Some people found him and drove him to a hospital. Womach’s fellow passengers were amazed to hear these words of peace from the lips of a man who was in excruciating pain:
I’ve found the dear Savior and I’m made whole, I’m pardoned and have my release. His Spirit abiding and blessing my soul, Praise God in my heart there is peace. Wonderful peace, wonderful peace. When I think how he brought me from darkness to light, There’s a wonderful, wonderful peace.
Because Womach’s foundation of peace rested on his peace with God through faith in Christ, he was able to experience the peace of God despite a horrific accident. He endured many difficult and dark days during his recovery and the blessings of peace seemed to elude him at times. But because his foundation for peace rested on Jesus Christ, God ultimately restored the blessings of peace to Womach. The peace that surpasses understanding can also be ours through Christ.
The song, I Have a Shelter beautifully reminds us of God’s peace
and is linked below for you. Reflect on the words as you listen to this song. Let them lead you to praise God for peace in Christ, rest in the blessings of His peace.
And “now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all” (2 Thessalonians 3:16 ESV)
Comment below on how you intend to Shelter in Peace as you Shelter in Place
To read the other posts in this series, click the links below: