Date: January 26, 1936
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. – John 14:27
God of all mercy and power: “Peace, peace, be to him that is afar off and to him that is near.” Thus does Thy holy Word, through the boundless mercies of Christ, speak blessing and peace to our souls. Grant, we entreat Thee, that in these days of conflict that try the sturdiest hearts men may come to Thee in Christ, cling with everstrengthened confidence to the Cross, and find there in the Crucified pardon for their sins, courage for their faltering hearts, strength for each days duties and disappointments. Send out the light of Thy Spirit into the darkness of lives crushed under the heavy blows of many afflictions and endow weary souls with the faith that offers peace with Thee, even though a riot of turmoil surround us. Teach us by bitter experience if necessary, but teach us at all costs, to bear patiently the trials which Thy perfect wisdom may see fit to lay upon us, so that through sorrow and adversity, or through affluence and prosperity, we may daily grow in grace and in the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Hear us in Thy mercy for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
THE plea of this hour is for peace; for we have learned by bleeding experience how suicidal the consequences of war may be. Yet, as we compute the appalling price of international slaughter, if we could convince ourselves that the world has learned its lesson, the frightful pain of this human butchery would be partially alleviated. If out of the nightmare of groaning, dying men and women, a blended harmony of peace had emerged; if from that poverty, scurvy, rickets, starvation, and insanity there had come a high-souled desire for peace, we could dispel from our minds the hideous pictures of choking gas, bursting shrapnel, and barbed-wire entanglements, with dead men impaled in their cruel grasp; we could greet the crippled victims of war as the heroic creators of a new and happier day. If we could cry out: “This dare not happen again! The youth of the world will not be sacrificed on the high altars of international greed! There must be peace, blessed peace!” then even those mad, shrieking years would lose some of their horror.
But who can behold the trends of this tragic hour and deny that the civilized world may be swayed by the law of the jungle? Nations slink about, bristling, snarling, ready to leap at each other’s throats at the first suspicious move. Peace is far away from the counsel of the nations.
And it is far from our daily lives. Deep-rooted enmity has too often driven the working man and his employer into opposite trenches. Long and bitter industrial warfare has cost the nation stupendous sums which should have been used for constructive purposes. Throughout the land the forces of law and order are waging a far-flung battle against killers, extortioners, thieves, kidnapers, perjurers, professional liars, and other notorious criminals. Coming closer to the smaller circles of life, we are depressed by the banishment of peace from many American homes, which should be shelters of love’s blessing against the grind of an unsympathetic life, but which have permitted selfishness and strife to capture control, making husbands and wives unfaithful to their solemn promises, their home a house divided against itself, their children strangers under the same roof. Even more pointed and personal is the absence of peace in our own lives, the disquieting fear that overtakes many of us, the distracting worry that overshadows most of us, the terror of our sins that smites every one of us.
Now, while men feverishly cry “Peace” when there is—within their own power—no lasting, satisfying peace, it is the great and undeserved gift of the almighty and allmerciful God that we find this blessing in Jesus. During His last night on earth, Christ bequeathed to His disciples and to us a sacred inheritance. It was not an estate or an accumulation of treasures, this legacy of the Son of God, who had not “where to lay His head” and who was robbed in death even of His clothing. It was
THE PROMISE OF PEACE
which He pledges in John 14, 27: “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.”
THE DELUSIVE PEACE OF THIS WORLD
The peace that Jesus leaves is so immeasurably exalted over every human approach to it that our Savior, having spoken this holy promise: “My peace I give unto you,” hastens to explain: “Not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Not as the truce of armament conferences and international parleys, as helpful as many of them are, is this concord of Jesus. David Lloyd George, dean of European diplomats, recently confessed: “I am beginning to lose faith in conferences; for I have seen so many and have seen so little emerge from them. They are too often a sort of prearranged blather.” Treaties cast aside as scraps of paper, pledges made only to be broken, secret pacts that pave the way to open war,—all this is not the tranquility that Christ promises.
Nor does Christ tell us to find His peace, where men so often seek it—in the advance of the human mind. Investigations of war at Harvard University rule out the pretty theory that, as men grow wiser, they become more peaceful and conclude: “All the commendable hopes that war will disappear in the near future are based on nothing more than wish and a belief in miracles,”—a scientific endorsement of Christ’s warning that until the end “there shall be wars and rumors of war.” As an example of gnawing unrest that disquiets many enlightened minds there is Goethe, who, disturbed by his failure to find peace, for years slept with a sharpened dagger under his bed, the steel of suicide which he tested night after night.
Again, the calm which Christ gives is not the peace of compromise and indifference that would unite all churches, by persuasion if possible, by force if necessary. Only God knows what deep-grooved sorrows have been caused by that wilful disregard of Christ’s teachings which has split the Church into hundreds of divisions and subdivisions, presenting the spectacle of conflict instead of concord, competition instead of cooperation. Even more tragic is the “peace at any price” policy that for the sake of outward union and power is ready to ride over the crown truths of Christianity, close the Bible, surrender the cross, cast faithful preachers of the Law and the Gospel into discard, and dragoon Christians who want to confess Christ into churches that deny Him.
“Not as the world giveth, give I unto you,” the Savior repeats as He looks down from heaven to behold the mockery of peace extended to distressed souls in the name of modernist religion. What comfort can there be in a creed that offers not the cleansing of the soul, but the education of the mind; not the grace of heaven, but the good works of earth; not the divine atonement of God, but the human attainment of man; not the cross and its blood, but character and its good intentions; not Christ the Savior, but Jesus the Example, not the providence of God, but the blind tyranny of fate? Say to men and women in the gutters of life, who have fallen into ugly, brutal sins—in the words of Modernism—that “every fall is a fall upward”; tell them what a modernist preacher told his congregation in a farewell sermon: “I have not pleaded with you to believe in God. I have not asked you to bring your sins to be forgiven. . . . I have not asked you to believe in the realities of the spiritual world. I have asked you to believe in yourselves, in the divinity of men, in the greatness of the human soul!” Direct all the weary and heavy-laden of life in this way to themselves, to this socalled “divinity,” and to their own greatness, and you will show even greater heartlessness than if you would hand a starving man a book on diets.
Again, Christ’s is not the peace that frantic men seek to discover by traveling the festering trail of sin. It is an age-old delusion that quiet comes with forgetfulness; that you can drink away your sorrows, chase your cares through the rounds and riots of pleasure, spend your way out of worry, and drug your conscience with the follies of life. But sin is the greatest of all cheats and frauds. You have read of pirates who placed false lights on rocky shores to lure ships in distress to their doom. You turn in abhorrence from the Judases and Benedict Arnolds of history; but the worst of these treacheries fades in comparison with the deceit of sin. It promises happiness and gives remorse; it lures with laughter and ends with tears; it holds out hope and substitutes despair; it tempts with a blessing, but changes to a curse; it asks for the finger and cuts the heart; it offers life, full, brimming, tingling life, and then withers in the cold paralysis of death.
Sin is warfare against God. Sin (and let us not follow the easy path of those who take away its curse as they call it “frailty,” “failure,” “weakness,” “missing the mark,” and give it other soft names. Rather let us reveal its true and hideous character and label it as ugly, degrading, soul- and body-destroying sin; let us recognize it in its repulsive and death-dealing power) , that sin, in my heart and yours, as in my life and yours, separates from God, pricks our conscience, throws our passions into heated conflict, and always surges up to break our peace. Show me any misery in life, and I will show you sin. Investigate any unhappy home throughout the land, and you will uncover sin. Examine any blighted life, and always the trail will revert to sin.
Can you not see, then, that for full, enduring, satisfying peace we must have a power that can conquer sin, tame men’s passions, tear envy out of their souls, and create a new heart and a right spirit within them? Can you not hear the voice of God’s holiness as it intones this solemn command for our world, our country, and ourselves: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil”?
THE BLESSED PEACE OF CHRIST
Throughout the ages there has been only one qualified to defeat sin, the eternally blessed Christ. Only by His death-struggle was our peace won. It meant a wrestling with the legions of hell; it meant a baptism of blood that assailed even the courage of Christ; it meant the bloody sweat of Gethsemane and the God-forsakenness of Calvary. Its ransom was the highest price of all history, the holy, precious blood of God’s own Son: the suffering of the Innocent for the wicked, the bleeding of the divine Savior for the iniquitous world, the dying of God for the eternal life of man. Only by that payment, so terrifying that the sun lost its brilliance, was the peace treaty for all centuries and for all men signed and sealed.
Now, you may not be able to understand the promise of St. Paul: “Being justified by grace, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I do not ask you to understand it; I ask you to believe it. You may not be able to explain “the depth of the riches” of Him who “made peace through the blood of His cross.” I do not ask you to explain it, for it is “the peace that passeth all understanding”; I plead with you to believe it, to accept it, to trust it, to build your life, your hope, your happiness, your salvation, on that blood-bought peace with God and your own conscience.
What a perfect peace Christ bestows in the words “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give unto you”! Perfect, because it covers every sin and blesses every sinner; perfect, because you and I can come to Christ, without any human agency, approaching directly the unfailing source of His mercies in His Word and sacred ordinances; perfect, because we need no letter of introduction; Christ knows us better than we know ourselves; perfect, because we need bring this King of kings no tribute or payment to insure His favor and mercy; if we come with contrite hearts, He will receive us, every one of us, and teach our restless souls that Christ without the world far outweighs a million worlds without Christ.
So “let not your hearts be troubled.” Over the fever fret of our disjointed day this blessed comfort that only Christ can give reechoes as Heaven’s eternal strength for earth’s endless sorrows. When the two stratosphere voyagers reached the height of their ascent, almost fourteen miles over South Dakota fields, they reported that from this distance they could see no sign of life below; all was calm and motionless. And when we look at our world from the distance and study the lives of others, all may seem quiet and undisturbed. But approach more closely, penetrate beneath the pretty lacquer of life, and you will find heaped sorrows and endless grief. Men fight a hundred fears and forebodings by day, and when night comes, a thousand cares and worries haunt their happiness. If they are without Christ; if they spurn the high mercies of Heaven that His nail-scarred hands lovingly extend; if you, my grief-burdened friend, who have seen life at its worst and stagger under the impact of countless blows, hear Christ call to you, “Come unto Me,” and you refuse to come; if, as He pleads with you, “Believe in Me,” you close your eyes and ears and hearts to the appeal of His love, the power of His blood, the blessing of His death, and believe only in yourself, you have robbed yourself of peace and the blessings of His redeeming love. But if you turn to Christ and in simple, penitent faith accept His atonement, the sacred comfort, found twice in this golden fourteenth chapter of St. John (once at the beginning and here near the end), “Let not your heart be troubled,” will lift you to an enduring hope from the beginning of your Christian life until the end that comes to all men, as during the past days it came to king and commoner, to poet and peasant.
What, then, seeks to rob you of Christ’s peace? The infirmities of your body and the collapse of your health? If you are one of those who write that you have had twenty-six operations without cure, that you have spent your life on an invalid’s bed, that you are blind, crippled, or deformed, that you lie in a home for incurables and count the days until the end; if with all these burdens you can say:—
My faith looks up to Thee,
Thou Lamb of Calvary, Savior divine,
then in Jesus’ name I can tell you—not that you will be restored to health (although I believe that sometimes Christ begins where physicians stop), but that with His guidance your heart need not be troubled. His leadership always takes us, His redeemed, from cross to crown, from broken, pain-racked bodies to our perfect, painless resurrection bodies, from the “sufferings of this time” to the incomparable “glories that shall be revealed in us.”
What seeks to steal the peace of God from your hearts? Money, the long and hopeless battle to support your family, the struggle to keep a roof over your head and food on your table? Are you one of those who with empty cupboards, unheated homes, or overmortgaged farms write to say that you cannot see light in this financial darkness; that you ought to be on the relief rolls, but that you are ashamed to apply for public help; that you haven’t worked for years and have lost your home, your life savings, your security for the future? To you I brandish no flaming appeal of class hatred; I offer no deceptive financial hopes; I simply repeat the words of Jesus: “Let not your heart be troubled,” and remind you that He who in the days of His flesh multiplied the loaves and the fishes can grant you in your sleep what you have vainly sought during your anxious waking hours.
What is it, I repeat, that would banish peace from your life? Is it failure? Have you fallen from the summits of achievement to the depths of despair, as some of you confide who once basked in the spotlight of popular attention, but now, through sudden misfortune, find yourselves groping for a new life? If you will but see with me the arms of Jesus raised in benediction and believe these words of deathless hope: “Let not your heart be troubled”; and if that Christ is all in all to you, then God’s plans for your life may or may not call for a restoration to past heights, but it will give you courage, vision, peace, and the faith that is ready to “count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus.”
Come, then, you, the lonely, the forsaken, the bereaved; the aged, the weary, the broken; you with your troubled youthful hearts, your imprisoned longings, your unuttered fears for the future, your dissatisfaction with yourselves!
Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,
Come to the mercy-seat, fervently kneel!
And as Jesus speaks peace to your soul and you learn that
Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot heal,
you will feel the pressure of His guiding hand. You will hear Jesus whisper to your heart, to your soul, to your life, this promise: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled.” Amen.
Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.