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Are We Hiding Something Behind Our Christian Lingo?

I have a Jewish friend named Jared who grew up in southern California and has minimal experience with evangelicals. Every once in a while, I introduce him to elements of our sometimes-odd subculture. The other day, a short conversation provided an opportunity to explain the all-important evangelical phrase, “I do/don’t have a peace about it.”

He called me and said, “You want to go to Subway for lunch?”

In fact, I did not, so I jokingly said, “Give me some time to pray, and I’ll let you know if I’ve got a peace about it.”

“A piece?” he said seriously. “A piece of what?”

I explained that in the world of evangelicals, that’s the term we sometimes use to justify our decisions (presumably after we’ve prayed about them). It didn’t make sense to him, and I’m not sure it makes much sense for us to lean on it so heavily.

Let me begin with a disclaimer for all my friends, family, and evangelical acquaintances who regularly “get a peace”: Please believe me when I say I’m not targeting you with this post. The term is so commonly used that there’s no way I could target any particular person unless I was a passive aggressive punk who had it out for you personally. I don’t, and in light of the number of times I’ve “gotten a peace,” I’m targeting myself as much as anyone.

With that said, I understand that sometimes when we pray, the Holy Spirit gives us supernatural, peaceful clarity about a decision we must make. But a great deal of the time, I suspect we quietly make up our minds, pray about it, and then — what do you know — we “get a peace about it.”

If anyone questions our decision (for example, with Scripture or just plain, old common sense), we shut down the conversation by claiming we “got a peace.” No one can argue with the peace mandate that allegedly came from God, which is convenient, because it often ensures we’ll get what we want.

If the things we feel peaceful about are always working to our advantage, perhaps we’re mistaking our feelings for God’s approval. Recall that when it came to the most important decision of Jesus’ life — whether or not to go to the cross — He didn’t have a peace about it at all. Nonetheless, He said, “not my will, but yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42) and “endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And if Jesus is our example, then we can’t expect that His call for us to “take up [our] cross daily” comes with a guarantee of feeling good about it (Luke 9:23).

I don’t have a five-point formula for knowing God’s perfect will, but I know this much: Feeling peaceful isn’t the magic 8-ball we use to discern it. And if calm, self-assurance is the primary thing that motivates us to follow Him, we might need to stop and ask who’s really in charge.

6 Comments
  1. "No one can argue with the peace mandate that allegedly came from God, which is convenient, because it often ensures we'll get what we want."You hit the nail on the head right there. How can we be so disingenuous in Jesus's name?Great post! I appreciate your candor and realism about us silly evangelicals.

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    November 29, 2011
  2. We do get silly in the process of trying to share, don't we? Just a note: look up Jews for Jesus, they are a wonderful group of Jesus loving Jews filled with the joy of sharing the gospel. They might be able to help you share with your friend. God bless you with peace. (enter smirk here)….

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    December 3, 2011
  3. Thanks CJ and Susan.

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    December 3, 2011
  4. Excellent. So true. Thanks for pointing out ways that we can sometimes use to manipulate what we desire.

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    December 4, 2011
  5. I have a friend who once gave me an Xmas card that said "Peace" inside. He added: "But not, of course, passivity." He was on to something: It's easy to confuse the two.The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion beautifully describes peace (shalom) as "the full, undisturbed unfolding of the blessed life."

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    December 9, 2011
  6. Got that answer from a student at a Christian college. I discovered that this college, which had me personally on a string for close to a thousand dollars (quite a bit of money twenty years ago, especially with a minimum wage job) had spent millions on– a new sports center. Now, keep in mind this college already had a full gymnasium, weight room, tennis courts, two soccer fields, a bowling alley and a full indoor Olympic sized swimming pool. Furthermore this new facility was going to cost over a million dollars to build. And, seeing as at the time they were squeezing me for less money than it would take to replace the light bulbs in the sign out in front of the building, I expressed the opinion that it might possibly not be really good stewardship on their part to be spending money they harvested from their present and former students– such as myself– on building this new superlative entertainment facility. The young man, in dress shirt and tie and carefully polished shoes, dismissed my remark with "well, I'm sure the board of directors prayed about it…."Imagine a "what" face right about here. I will openly confess that I was in a VERY bad place spiritually at the time, and my motivations for griping were anything but high-minded (if not outright akin to Judas complaining about a certain woman's choice of anointing oil.) But even today I am a bit flummoxed as to what to think about Christians who can't choose what shirt to wear in the morning without long prayers, and can get together en masse and determine via heavenly Bit-torrenting that God put His blessing on their plan to sink a cool million dollars into a bigger and shinier gymnasium.

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    April 10, 2012

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