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If Jesus is the “Peace” That Passeth All Understanding . . .

peace of god

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. It’s not A BOOK, it is THE BOOK, a book above all others. All other books, except the Bible, are the words of fallible men. The Bible, on the other hand, is the WORD OF GOD. Written by men as they were moved (led/directed) by the Holy Ghost, (2 Peter 1:21) every word of the Bible is true. Evangelicals confidently (and arrogantly) believe that when they quote the Bible they are quoting the very words of God. (2 Timothy 3:16) Thus saith the Lord, right? I have engaged countless Evangelicals on this blog over the past five years. More than a few of them have told me, “Bruce, your argument is with God, not me! I just told you what God said!” In the minds of Evangelicals, quoting the Bible to me (or readers of this blog) is akin to God speaking directly to me. God said it, end of discussion.

Evangelicals believe that the Bible gives them everything they need pertaining to life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) The Bible, then, is a roadmap, a divine blueprint for life. The truths of the Bible are unchanging and eternal, relevant and true for every generation. Just as Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever, so is the Bible. (Hebrews 13:8) Thinking this way, of course, forces Evangelicals to defend all sorts of antiquated, immoral beliefs. If God said it, that settles it, right? And therein is the problem. If the Bible is “God speaking” then we humans better be paying attention. However, if the Bible is the words of men, then we are free to accept or reject what is written. If the Bible is just a bunch of contradictory books written by unknown Bronze age writers, it’s just bad literature. It’s time for a rewrite or perhaps a new Bible altogether.

Of course, Evangelicals are never going to admit that the Bible is anything but the timeless, precious words of God. Since that’s the case, I try to engage Evangelicals within the pages of the Bible; to challenge their interpretations; to call into question their application of the Bible.

Take the subject “peace.” The Bible says:

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. . . Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:1,27)

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6,7)

 Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:16)

And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. (Colossians 3:15)

Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: (Hebrews 12:14)

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them. (Psalm 119:165)

These verses, and others, explicitly teach that Evangelicals should be the most peaceful people on the planet. Psalm 34:14 says the followers of Jesus should “seek peace and pursue it.” If Jesus is the “peace” that passes all understanding; if the Holy Ghost lives inside of every Evangelical, giving them peace and comfort no matter what comes their way, then why are so many Evangelicals anything but calm, cool, and collected? Eighty-one percent of white voting Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. Are they a peaceful lot? Ponder, for a moment, the lives of Evangelical culture warriors, and how they rage against the “world.” Do they strike you as people who have “peace that passes all understanding?” Everywhere I look, I see hateful, angry Evangelicals. Evidently, they don’t love God’s law. If Evangelicals loved the law of God, Psalm 119:165 says that they would have peace and NOTHING would offend them. Tell me, do Evangelicals seem “offended” by virtually e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g these days? What happened to the peace of God which is to rule and reign in their hearts?

Fourteen years ago, Polly’s sister was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. (Please see If One Soul Gets Saved It’s Worth It All) Our family gathered at the hospital, hoping to find out about her husband, who survived the crash. I couldn’t help but notice the family patriarch pacing back and forth, praying and quoting Bible verses. In any other setting, such behavior might land you on the psych ward. This man was a well-known Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) preacher, with, at the time, 40 years in the ministry. I was a Christian, at the time, and I remember thinking how odd his behavior seemed. What happened to God’s peace? What happened to nothing happening apart from God’s perfect, sovereign will? Shouldn’t the family patriarch, along with every Christian in that room, accept that Kathy’s death was all part of God’s wonderful plan for her life? After all, as a child, she asked Jesus to save her. She was now in Heaven, praising Jesus for his love, mercy, and grace. Shouldn’t this “fact” have given all of us “peace”?

I was an Evangelical pastor for twenty-five years. I watched scores of Christians suffer and die. I watched others bear the death of loved ones, loss of livelihood, divorce, and numerous other tragedies. I can’t remember anyone who had “peace” like the Bible talks about. Instead, I saw a range of emotions, normal human expressions of pain, loss, and grief. Were these people bad Christians? Of course not. They were human. And it there’s one thing I know for certain it is this: when life turns to shit and the walls crumble and collapse, atheists and Evangelicals alike respond the same way. The difference being, of course, that Evangelicals, thanks to their commitment to the Bible, are expected to rise above the struggles of life and have “peace.” That they don’t is not a reflection on them as much as it is on their beliefs.

Bruce, what’s your point? Damn, do I always have to have a point? 🙂 Yes, I have point. Evangelicals often come off as people who think they are above the fray; people who, thanks to Jesus, are immune to the struggles faced by the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. When “life” dumps a load of shit on their doorstep, Evangelicals are expected to smile and claim the victory. However, that’s not what we see. Instead, we see people who are just like the rest of us. And THAT’S my point. The Bible says in Galatians 5:22,23, that the fruit (evidence of) the Holy Spirit (who purportedly lives inside every Christian) is (present tense) love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. Based on the inviolate Word of God just quoted, how many Christians do you know who have the fruit of the Spirit? That’s a rhetorical question. The answer is NONE. Certainly, the fruit of the Spirit is desirable for believer and unbeliever alike. However, all of us are feeble, frail human beings. Whether we are atheist, agnostic, pagan, Satanist, Buddhist, Catholic, Baptist, Presbyterian, Evangelical, or liberal Christian, it matters not. All of us are one and the same. Thoughtful humanists understand this. It is our shared humanity that binds us together. While “peace” is a desirable behavior, at least for me anyway, none of us should feel we have failed when life overwhelms us like a tsunami and we lose our shit.

Make sense? I hope so. Please share your sage advice and thoughts in the comment section.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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  1. Avatar

    As humans, we want to have peace, so it makes sense that we would create religions that promise it to us. Personally, I feel a lot more peace as an atheist without having to cater to the various whims of a deity.

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      Yep. Me too. I heard someone say recently that they have much more space in their brains now that they don’t have to think about praying all the time and reading the Bible and all the other things believers are supposed to do. That makes a lot of sense to me.

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    Steve Ruis

    Uh …

    “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Jesus)

    “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one. It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors’; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment.” (Jesus)

    Strange sort of peace.

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    Not only do evangelicals not possess inner peace; they also seem to support every war the US decides to enter or meddle with. It’s like their attitude is, “The U.S. is a christian nation; everyone who opposes us is the enemy of God.” Or even, “Any nation that does not bow down to our God is our enemy and deserves our wrath.” No, christians are not peaceable people.

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    Hugh D. Young

    ‘god is ALWAYS good, even if you don’t experience him to be in any given moment of time……..Now you best hold fast to this until the end of your life, else he’s gonna prove to you how ‘good’ he is when he sends you to hell forever’!

    Utterly amazing!

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    Melissa A Montana

    I never felt true peace until I gave up religion for good. Yes, I still have bad days sometimes, but it is not the emotional roller coaster it was when I was trying to please god and failing constantly.

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    My mom spends a huge amount of time feeling guilty when she doesn’t accept everything that happens immediately. Nothing heavier than Godguilt.

    She adopts an attitude of long-suffering patience most of the time, endeavoring to speak softly and all that…

    It makes me sad. She’s taken the same attitude with her relationships with others, too. A good little Christian doormat.

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    Yeah, our xtian answer to that was, “peace through strength”… in other words, force everyone to believe what you believe, and there will be peace!

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    Yes, I remember many a time when even as a sold out, born again, soul winning, in the church everytime doors were open type christian that I would often unravel when life got hard and complicated. Also too, my children were affected. Meaning that they would see me preach the peace of Jesus but they knew me. I didn’t practice what I preached. This was confusing to them. One day I am singing ” It is well with my soul”; the next day I freak out because I can’t find the car keys, or lose it because we are late for church, or worry about some problem. This all shows the lack of any “divine Spirit” being in me. So the question again goes ” If God wanted me to be a ,sort of, posterboy for Christianity then why didn’t he give a Spirit that REALLY did work and provide a peace that “passes all understanding” and shows the world something to actually believe in???

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    Like Bruce, and others in the comments, I have experienced the same thing. When life happens, everyone reacts the same. They might use different methods of trying to comfort themselves, but people are people. One difference is that Christians are often expected to “move on” from a tragic life event pretty quickly. Otherwise, they aren’t trusting God. Such bullshit. Some things you never completely “get over”. And that’s normal!
    Recently, my wife (who is still a Christian) has been having some pretty stressful stuff going on where she works. Which happens to be a church. She has been praying and reading her Bible for hours over this deal. She’ll seem to have some peace for a short time, but it never lasts. I hurt for her. It’s tough to watch.
    The thing I noticed with me, is that as a Christian, I really didn’t develop many effective life coping skills. God was supposed to take care of everything for me! I’m not saying I don’t ever get stressed, but I do handle life better now as an unbeliever than I did as a Christian.

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Bruce Gerencser