How Can the Peace of the Christ Control in Our Hearts?
“Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts, for you were, in fact, called to it in one body.”—COLOSSIANS 3:15.
1, 2. In what way does “the peace of the Christ” control in a Christian’s heart?
CONTROL is a distasteful word to many, since it brings to mind images of coercion and manipulation. Paul’s exhortation to fellow Christians in Colossae, “Let the peace of the Christ control in your hearts,” might therefore strike some as being unreasonable. (Colossians 3:15) Are we not free moral agents? Why should we let anything or anyone control in our hearts?
2 Paul was not telling the Colossians to surrender their free will. The Greek term translated “control” at Colossians 3:15 is related to the word for the umpire who awarded the prize in the athletic contests of those days. Contestants had a degree of freedom within the rules of the game, but in the end, the umpire decided who had followed the rules and therefore won the contest. Similarly, we have freedom to make many decisions in life, but as we do so, the peace of the Christ should always be “umpire”—or, as translator Edgar J. Goodspeed renders it, “the ruling principle” in our hearts.
3. What is “the peace of the Christ”?
3 What is “the peace of the Christ”? It is the tranquillity, the inner calm, that we gain when we become Jesus’ disciples and learn that we are loved and approved by Jehovah God and by his Son. When Jesus was about to leave his disciples, he told them: “I give you my peace. . . . Do not let your hearts be troubled nor let them shrink for fear.” (John 14:27) For almost 2,000 years, that peace has been enjoyed by faithful anointed members of the body of Christ, and today their companions, the “other sheep,” share in it. (John 10:16) That peace should be a controlling influence in our hearts. When we are under severe trial, it can help us to avoid being paralyzed by fear or being excessively troubled. Let us see how this is true when we face injustice, when we are beset by anxiety, and when we feel unworthy.
When We Face Injustice
4. (a) How did Jesus become acquainted with injustice? (b) How have Christians responded to being victims of injustice?
4 King Solomon observed: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) Jesus knew the truth of those words. While in heaven, he saw the gross injustices that humans inflicted upon one another. On earth, he personally suffered the greatest injustice when he, a sinless man, was accused of blasphemy and put to death as a criminal. (Matthew 26:63-66; Mark 15:27) Today, injustice is still rampant, and true Christians have suffered more than their share, being “objects of hatred by all the nations.” (Matthew 24:9) Yet, despite horrific experiences in Nazi death camps and in the Soviet Gulag, despite being victims of mob violence, false accusations, and lying attacks, the peace of the Christ has kept them firm. They have imitated Jesus, of whom we read: “When he was being reviled, he did not go reviling in return. When he was suffering, he did not go threatening, but kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.”—1 Peter 2:23.
5. When we hear of an apparent injustice in the congregation, what should we first consider?
5 On a far smaller scale, we may believe that someone has been treated unfairly within the Christian congregation. In such a case, we may feel as did Paul, who said: “Who is stumbled, and I am not incensed?” (2 Corinthians 11:29) What can we do? We should ask ourselves, ‘Is it really an injustice?’ Often, we do not know all the facts. We might be reacting strongly after listening to someone who claims to be in the know. With good reason, the Bible states: “Anyone inexperienced puts faith in every word.” (Proverbs 14:15) So we need to be cautious.
6. How can we respond to perceived injustices within the congregation?
6 Suppose, though, that we personally have been the victim of a perceived injustice. How would a person with the peace of the Christ in his heart react? We may see the need to talk with the individual who we feel has wronged us. Thereafter, rather than discuss the matter with anyone who will listen, why not commit the case to Jehovah in prayer and trust in him to see to it that justice is done? (Psalm 9:10; Proverbs 3:5) It may well be that having done so, we will be content to resolve the matter in our heart and “keep silent.” (Psalm 4:4) In most cases, Paul’s admonition will apply: “Continue putting up with one another and forgiving one another freely if anyone has a cause for complaint against another. Even as Jehovah freely forgave you, so do you also.”—Colossians 3:13.
7. What should we always remember in our dealings with our brothers?
7 Whatever we do, though, we need to remember that while we cannot control what happened, we can control our reaction. If we respond in an unbalanced way to a perceived injustice, that may have a more harmful effect on our peace than the injustice itself. (Proverbs 18:14) We could even be stumbled and stop associating with the congregation until we feel that justice has been served. The psalmist wrote that for those loving Jehovah’s laws “there is no stumbling block.” (Psalm 119:165) The truth is, everyone experiences injustice from time to time. Never permit such unfortunate experiences to interfere with your serving Jehovah. Instead, let the peace of the Christ control in your heart.
When We Are Beset by Anxiety
8. What are some things that cause anxiety, and what can anxiety result in?
8 Anxiety is a very real part of life in these “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) True, Jesus said: “Quit being anxious about your souls as to what you will eat or about your bodies as to what you will wear.” (Luke 12:22) But not all anxiety stems from concern about material things. Lot was “greatly distressed” because of the depravity of Sodom. (2 Peter 2:7) Paul was beset by “anxiety for all the congregations.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) Jesus was in such agony on the night preceding his death that “his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.” (Luke 22:44) Clearly, not all anxiety is evidence of a weak faith. Whatever causes it, however, if anxiety is intense and prolonged, it can rob us of peace. Anxiety has overwhelmed some, making them feel unable to continue handling the responsibilities involved in serving Jehovah. The Bible says: “Anxious care in the heart of a man is what will cause it to bow down.” (Proverbs 12:25) What can we do, then, if we are afflicted by anxiety?
9. What are some practical steps that may be taken to relieve anxiety, but what causes of anxiety cannot be removed?
9 In some situations, we may be able to take practical measures. If a medical problem is at the root of our anxious state, it would be prudent to give attention to it, although such matters are for personal decision. * (Matthew 9:12) If we are weighed down by many responsibilities, it might be possible to delegate some of these to others. (Exodus 18:13-23) What, though, of those—like parents—who have heavy responsibilities that cannot be delegated? What of a Christian living with an opposed mate? What of a family in dire economic straits or living in a war zone? Clearly, we cannot eliminate all sources of anxiety in this system of things. Still, we can preserve the peace of the Christ in our hearts. How?
10. What are two ways in which a Christian can seek to relieve anxiety?
10 Seeking comfort in God’s Word is one way. King David wrote: “When my disquieting thoughts became many inside of me, your own consolations began to fondle my soul.” (Psalm 94:19) Jehovah’s “consolations” can be found in the Bible. Regularly consulting that inspired Book will help to preserve the peace of the Christ in our hearts. The Bible states: “Throw your burden upon Jehovah himself, and he himself will sustain you. Never will he allow the righteous one to totter.” (Psalm 55:22) In a similar vein, Paul wrote: “Do not be anxious over anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication along with thanksgiving let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Earnest and regular prayer will help us to preserve our peace.
11. (a) How was Jesus a fine example in the matter of prayer? (b) How should we view prayer?
11 Jesus was an excellent example in this regard. On occasion, he prayerfully spoke with his heavenly Father for hours at a time. (Matthew 14:23; Luke 6:12) Prayer helped him to endure the worst of trials. On the night before his death, his distress grew very intense. His reaction? He prayed “more earnestly.” (Luke 22:44) Yes, the perfect Son of God was a man of prayer. How much more, then, should his imperfect followers cultivate the habit of prayer! Jesus taught his disciples “always to pray and not to give up.” (Luke 18:1) Prayer is real and vital communication with the One who knows us better than we know ourselves. (Psalm 103:14) If we are to preserve the peace of the Christ in our hearts, we will “pray incessantly.”—1 Thessalonians 5:17.
Conquering Our Limitations
12. For what reasons may some feel that their service is inadequate?
12 Jehovah views each one of his servants as precious. (Haggai 2:7, footnote) Nevertheless, many find this difficult to accept. Some may be discouraged because of advancing age, growing family obligations, or deteriorating health. Others may feel disadvantaged because of coming from a wretched background. Still others might be tormented over past mistakes, doubting that Jehovah can ever forgive them. (Psalm 51:3) What can be done about such feelings?
13. What Scriptural comfort is there for those who feel inadequate?
13 The peace of the Christ will assure us of Jehovah’s love. We can restore that peace in our hearts by reflecting on the fact that Jesus never said that our value is measured by comparing what we do with what others do. (Matthew 25:14, 15; Mark 12:41-44) What he did stress was loyalty. He told his disciples: “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.” (Matthew 24:13) Jesus himself was “despised” by men, yet he had no doubt that his Father loved him. (Isaiah 53:3; John 10:17) And he told his disciples that they too were beloved. (John 14:21) To emphasize this, Jesus said: “Do not two sparrows sell for a coin of small value? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Therefore have no fear: you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31) What warm assurance of Jehovah’s love!
14. What assurance do we have that Jehovah values each one of us?
14 Jesus also said: “No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him.” (John 6:44) Since Jehovah has drawn us to follow Jesus, He must want us to be saved. Jesus told his disciples: “It is not a desirable thing with my Father who is in heaven for one of these little ones to perish.” (Matthew 18:14) Therefore, if you are serving with a complete heart, you can exult in your fine works. (Galatians 6:4) If you are tormented by past mistakes, be assured that Jehovah will forgive “in a large way” truly repentant ones. (Isaiah 43:25; 55:7) If for any other reason you are feeling discouraged, remember that “Jehovah is near to those that are broken at heart; and those who are crushed in spirit he saves.”—Psalm 34:18.
15. (a) How does Satan try to rob us of our peace? (b) What confidence in Jehovah can we have?
15 Satan would like nothing better than to rob you of your peace. He is the perpetrator of the inherited sin that all of us struggle with. (Romans 7:21-24) He would surely like you to feel that your imperfection makes your service unacceptable to God. Never allow the Devil to demoralize you! Be aware of his designs, and let that awareness make you determined to endure. (2 Corinthians 2:11; Ephesians 6:11-13) Remember, “God is greater than our hearts and knows all things.” (1 John 3:20) Jehovah sees more than our failings. He also sees our motives and intentions. Take comfort, then, in the psalmist’s words: “Jehovah will not forsake his people, nor will he leave his own inheritance.”—Psalm 94:14.
United in the Peace of the Christ
16. In what way are we not alone as we strive to endure?
16 Paul wrote that we should let the peace of the Christ control in our hearts because we were “called to it in one body.” The anointed Christians to whom Paul wrote were called to be part of the body of Christ, as are the remaining ones of the anointed today. Their “other sheep” companions are united with them as “one flock” under “one shepherd,” Jesus Christ. (John 10:16) Together, a worldwide “flock” of millions are letting the peace of the Christ control in their hearts. Knowing that we are not alone helps us to endure. Peter wrote: “Take your stand against [Satan], solid in the faith, knowing that the same things in the way of sufferings are being accomplished in the entire association of your brothers in the world.”—1 Peter 5:9.
17. What incentive do we have to let the peace of the Christ control in our hearts?
17 May all, then, continue to cultivate peace, that vital fruit of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:22, 23) Those who are found by Jehovah to be spotless, unblemished, and in peace will eventually be blessed with eternal life on a paradise earth, where righteousness will dwell. (2 Peter 3:13, 14) We have every reason to let the peace of the Christ control in our hearts.
^ par. 9 In some cases, anxiety may be caused or intensified by medical conditions, such as clinical depression.
Do You Recall?
• What is the peace of the Christ?
• How can the peace of the Christ control in our hearts when we face injustice?
• How does the peace of the Christ help us to handle anxiety?
• How does the peace of the Christ comfort us when we feel unworthy?
[Picture on page 15]
Before his accusers, Jesus committed himself to Jehovah
[Picture on page 16]
Like the warm embrace of a loving father, Jehovah’s consolations can soothe our anxiety
[Picture on page 18]
Endurance counts greatly with God