As pastors and church planters we repeat some phrases so often it’s easy to forget they are true. In fact, some things are more than true: some liturgical phrases have the power to change the world. Like children who play with a chemistry set or recite E=Mc2 we are unaware of the power on our lips. s representatives of Jesus we should not miss the power in even the simplest expressions we use as we conduct church or chat with our neighbors. Our words can carry more life than we know! Consider the simple greeting, “Peace be with you” and the group response, “And also with you.” It’s a simple exchange, offered and returned where God’s people gather.
Peace is a gift, ours to receive, and then ours to give. On what was perhaps the darkness night in history Jesus said to his friends, “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 14:27) Jesus saw the betrayal and violence that would arrive before sunrise. He saw the hopelessness of midday. He wanted to equip his friends. He offered peace, capable of overcoming troubled hearts and abject fear. His words were not a command, they were a gift. He did not offer Biblical clarity, nor strategic insight. Indeed, what he offered passed understanding. He offered something from another world. He offered the in-breaking of another kingdom. On that sacramental night, the high priest gave not only bread and wine. He gave peace as well.
And yet peace is a strategy as well. Jesus trained us to offer peace: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; but if not, it will return to you.” (Luke 10:5-6) Peace is something a disciple carries without benefit of a bag or purse. Peace is a gift we give to anyone who shows hospitality. Peace is the starting point of all ministry, the axis of the good news. Peace is tangible: it is given and received—yet peace has a mind of its own, choosing whether to stay or return.
In the Kingdom of God the fruit of the Spirit is more than a platitude. It’s something other than a high-minded ideal: each one of the fruit is how God equips his people. It’s so real it can be carried and offered to others. What if the antidotes to uncertainty and fear are not knowledge and courage, but all the fruit of the Spirit: freely received, and freely given?
It has been God’s gift to you from the very beginning. He is waiting for you to both receive it and give it to others?
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.
Ray Hollenbach is a husband, a father, a writer, a (former) pastor, a businessman, and a student of Jesus. Ray has written about faith and culture for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, ChurchLeaders.com, SermonCentral.com, Relevant Magazine, My Faith Radio, and Collide Magazine. He currently lives among the irenic hills of central Kentucky, which are filled with faith and culture.
Ray helps people and organizations navigate change. After 15 years as a pastor he now helps church leaders focus upon spiritual formation and creating church-wide cultures of discipleship.