“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to 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
I’m awfully grateful today that Jesus doesn’t give to us as the world gives. I will admit, though, that the way the world gives is awfully tempting to me sometimes, especially in these past months. I’m a political junkie, and there hasn’t been a single day over the past few weeks that I haven’t scoured news websites and polling data for the latest bit of political drama. My fingers found a new muscle memory that took over when I opened my laptop, enticing my hands to mindlessly type p-o-l-i-t-i-c-o-.-c-o-m into my browser over and over again.
The problem was that I never found much hope among the headlines, so what was it that kept drawing me back to them? If I’m honest, it was probably that I was looking for the kind of peace that the world wants to give. That’s the kind of peace elections produce. It’s the kind of peace that stems from favorable polling data or a particularly rousing debate performance by a preferred candidate. A well-crafted line of rhetoric that simultaneously exposes the opponent’s weakness while bolstering the speaker’s standing among the electorate was a particularly tempting tidbit for me. And all of it was aimed at the kind of peace the world wants to give. All of it served to promote one candidate’s version of peace—the kind that is conditionally promised from whoever receives the most votes.
The words of Jesus in John 14 ring in my ears today, mainly because he speaks them as he is explaining that he is preparing to leave his disciples. But his leaving isn’t the end of the story. “I am going away, and I am coming to you,” he says. On this side of the resurrection, his words take on a striking meaning. He will leave, but he will return. And in the meantime, he’s left us his peace. His peace. It’s the kind of peace he was establishing when he was with his disciples and the kind of peace he will bring in fullness when he returns. That’s the kind of peace we disciples of Jesus have been given.
It’s the kind of peace that is established when the one establishing it is lifted up on a cross rather than a throne.
The kind of peace Jesus wants to give is the kind that is immediately and distinctly recognizable in the act of laying aside power and position to wash someone else’s feet (John 13:1–11). It’s the kind of peace that rides into the capital on a pack animal rather than a warhorse (John 12:14). It’s the kind of peace that resists taking power in a kingly kind of way, especially when having that kind of power means having it through force (John 6:15). It’s the kind of peace that is established when the one establishing it is lifted up on a cross rather than a throne (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32; 19:16–22). When elections are all about who wins the throne, it’s no wonder the world can’t give this kind of peace. No, this is the kind of peace only Jesus can give. It’s also the kind of peace that has been given to Jesus’s disciples. It’s our peace.
Now, there is a certain kind of world-given peace that I think we need to have as we await Jesus’s return to us. Laws should probably be written to establish order. Those laws probably need to be kept and enforced judiciously. And yes, taxes should probably be paid to make it all work. Maybe that’s why I’m so interested in politics. Politics is usually about establishing some version of peace, and that version of peace is often based on who is establishing it. Elections matter in this regard. But the worldly peace that elections afford is temporary, an inadequate substitute for what Jesus will bring upon his return.
Today, Election Day, I want to make sure that I understand the difference between these approaches to peace. If I don’t understand the difference, I’m probably going to mistake the peace the world gives for the kind of peace that is most real. And if that’s the case, I’ll probably need to become even more of a political junkie—because polling data and candidate sound bytes will point me toward that which matters most.
But the peace Jesus gives is the peace that is available to us even before his return. I need to learn to trust that more. Maybe that’s the faith part of being a Christian. As followers of Jesus, we’ve already got one foot standing in the peace he brings because he’s given it to us. Our only option for peace isn’t what happens in the election. We can step faithfully into the donkey-over-horse, humility-over-power peace that God chose to redeem the world. And that’s the only peace that can redeem the world—because it’s precisely the kind of peace that the world could never provide for itself.
Some of us may celebrate the election results today. Others may mourn. Realistically, most of us are probably just glad to have the whole thing behind us.
For those who mourn, the good news I see today is that no candidate was ever capable of giving us the peace that could redeem the world. That peace has already been given to us. Gift upon gift!
For those who celebrate, the truthful presence of the good news is probably found in realizing that the winner of the election might have some peace to give—but it’s the world’s peace. There’s another peace being given, though, and it’s better than the world’s peace, so we shouldn’t conflate the two.
That’s probably what I want to realize most today. No matter the outcome of the election, it was always going to result in someone offering to me a version of the world’s peace. While elections have real consequences for real people, I still need reminding that the world’s peace is a placeholder, and I shouldn’t pin too many of my hopes on it or get invested as if it is the ultimate peace. Jesus invested everything to give us a peace the world can’t provide. I should probably lean more heavily into that truth.
Jesus offers us a completely different, deeper, and more fulfilling peace.
Of course, taking the peace Jesus gives seriously means actually patterning myself according to the peace he’s giving. It’s his peace, so it’s his pattern. That makes it so different from the peace that elected politicians offer. It’s the peace that has real-life consequences for those in deep need, and it doesn’t wait around to start helping others. It’s peace that doesn’t seek reelection because it doesn’t even seek to use the power it has to make others bow down and get in line. Maybe that’s why I’m still tempted by the kind of peace the world wants to give.
But there’s a reason why, as different and difficult as it might be, I need to get up and just keep following Jesus. Jesus’s peace is so different that it can actually redeem the world. Next to the peace the world offers, it often looks downright foolish. That’s probably a good thing, though; if it looked too much like the peace the world offers, Jesus would have been just another politician vying for power. In using his power to give up his power, Jesus offers us a completely different, deeper, and more fulfilling peace.
Today, as news coverage of the peace the world is attempting to offer fills every screen in view, the redemptive challenge in front of me is to remember that the world’s political peace was only ever intended to be a placeholder until Jesus returns. In the meantime, I’m going to need to lean hard into the very different peace Jesus is already giving, breathe deeply of the Spirit that blows life into me as I do, and hear Jesus’s words to his disciples on the day he made the ultimate distinction between his peace and the world’s peace: “Rise, let us be on our way.”