Amid the final lines of Paul’s letter to the Philippians is a beautiful promise which we hear at the close of every sermon in our circles:
“The peace of God, which transcends [passes, surpasses] all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
What is this “peace of God?” To the Roman Christians Paul once wrote: “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” For those who trust in the Savior who loved us and gave Himself for us, peace has broken out!
Why? Because, as Isaiah wrote: “The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him.” Even when we wanted nothing to do with our Father, He made us His friends, tore down the wall, made peace with us, signed it in the blood of God Himself – the blood of His Son Jesus Christ.
“Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God.” Unashamed, unafraid, we can look God in the eye again. This what the angel was talking about over the plains of Bethlehem: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” It is God’s peace and God’s good will. This is why Isaiah calls our Savior: “The Prince of Peace.”
But peace with God is more than the absence of war. The word “peace” signifies soundness, health, wholeness, completeness. Peace means that things are the way they are supposed to be. Peace means not just that our war with our Creator is over, but that by faith we have gained access to our Father. The door is open. We walk into a beautiful room called grace.
We get to stand in this room called grace. We get to live our whole lives in this room – the ceiling, the walls, the floor – all grace. Our whole life is repentance, said Luther in his 95 theses. The ongoing contrition that is scared to die without Jesus and the faith that for Jesus’ sake all our sins are forgiven, this is the room of grace in which we now stand.
This is what it means to have peace with God. This is the peace that passes understanding, the peace that stands guard over the castle of our hearts and minds. This is what Jesus meant when He appeared to His disciples after His resurrection and said: “Peace be with you.”
This peace, God’s peace, spills over into our imperfect lives on playgrounds, in living rooms, in workshops and in embattled hearts. In this gospel, this good news of One crucified, risen and coming again, we glimpse that land of promise where things will be the way they are supposed to be. This peace which passes understanding will truly guard our hearts and minds.