“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” [Philippians 4:4-7, NKJV].
Before we leave our reflections on this passage there is one other facet of the text I’d like to draw our attention to: “through Christ Jesus,” or as the NASB and NIV translate it, “in Christ Jesus.” Paul is writing to Christians; he is writing to people who are living in a relationship with Jesus Christ. This may appear to be an obvious point that does not need to be mentioned but in this age of self-help, and especially Christian self-help, I think we need to recognize that the obvious is no longer obvious. The purpose of Paul’s letter is not to make life better for his readers, it is not to teach them how to have peace of mind, it is not to teach them positive and happy thinking – the purpose of Paul’s letter is to guide his readers in their relationship with Jesus Christ. We are to live in Christ and with Christ and through Christ and out of Christ and into Christ – this is the language of the New Testament. When we abide in (live in, make our home in) Jesus Christ His life flows through us (see John Chapter 15). The peace of God that Paul writes of in Philippians guards our hearts and minds “in Christ Jesus.”
Our society talks of “compartmentalization.” We segregate areas of life in order to manage them. We have work life, family life, community life, religious life, political life, recreational life, entertainment life, and so forth. We are actors changing roles and costumes according to the stage we are on – there is no longer one grand stage of life, most of us are playing little theater on little stages. The Bible knows nothing of compartmentalized thinking and living, for the stage of the Bible is not just big, it is cosmic. The Biblical test of a person is not compartmentalization but holistic integration in Jesus Christ. When the Hebrews spoke of shalom it was not a compartmentalized peace but rather a holistic peace, a holistic wholeness, a holistic health, a holistic holiness; that was bestowed by Yahweh, lived in Yahweh, and lived unto Yahweh. I’m reminded of Paul’s words in Romans 11:36, “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.”
If we seek peace apart from Jesus we will not find it; if we seek peace apart from following Jesus in all of life we will not find it. If the peace we seek is the equivalent of a therapy to make us feel good, if it is a commodity to be consumed in doses as we need it – we will not find it. If we compartmentalize life and think that we can be obedient to Jesus Christ in some areas and not in others, our disobedience will hinder the holistic peace of Jesus Christ in our lives. Paul is writing to disciples; he is writing to people who are suffering for Jesus Christ; he is writing to people in a city where Paul himself was once imprisoned with Silas, and Paul writes to the Philippians as a prisoner. Paul is writing from a city in which he is a prisoner to Christians in a city where he was once a prisoner. When Paul and Silas were prisoners in Philippi they were miraculously set free (Acts 16); such is not the case in his Roman imprisonment, in fact, he likely writes after years of imprisonment. Yet Paul writes, “…I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content,” (Philippians 4:11). When Paul writes about “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding,” he is writing about his own experience in Jesus Christ.
I think the phrase “in Christ Jesus,” and its equivalents, may be the most important phrase in the Bible, for it roots our life in Christ, and in rooting our life it roots our thinking, our heart, our soul, and our body. As Jesus says, “…without me you can do nothing,” (John 15:5).
Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons of God.”