“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 let them be afraid.”
The fruit of God’s Spirit that we most associate with Easter is usually joy, but this year I invite you to reflect on peace – the peace of Christ as a God-given gift for the foundation of our faith. Why peace? Because we live in such uncertain and anxious times. Wars, and threats of war, tear nations apart. Political parties attack each other and foster fear in their constituents. Violence in our society impels the fearful among us to take up weapons in self-defense. Economic woes and worries destroy lives, families, and communities. Disagreements and conflict threaten our churches at local, regional, denominational, and global levels. Many people live under the constant stress of anxiety and fear. This is not God’s will for God’s people.
The resurrection of Jesus the Christ is an eternal and infinite affirmation of the absolute power of God. Death is made meaningless. Eternal life is the new normal. Sin loses all power. God wins. There is no more uncertainty about the outcome. This is the essence, the cornerstone of our faith. There is no longer reason to fear. The evidence of Christ in our life is whether we are guided by faith or by fear. The message from God through the resurrection is simply this: be not afraid.
God’s people have nothing to fear. The great “I am” is our ultimate reality. No matter what happens on the earth, God is God. Natural disasters create chaos and suffering in the moment, but God is God. The grace and love of God through such times is known through the love, care, and response of God’s people. Broken lives, addictions, dysfunctions, and aberrations abound in human encounters, but God is God. God’s people do not return violence for violence, hurt for hurt, injury for injury. Instead, the people of God respond with grace, compassion, mercy, and love in pursuit of justice, restoration, and peace. Our denomination may debate and legislate and divide, but God is God. God works through those who look beyond our divisions and differences to see what unites us and makes us a strong witness to the love of God.
Do not be afraid… if you love God. There is nothing to fear. We don’t have to fear those who are different from us. We do not have to fear those who think differently than we do. We do not have to fear those who dislike us. We do not have to fear anything or anyone, for God is God. Through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, God puts an end to fear. We can walk boldly into the future together, knowing and trusting that God will work God’s good way through all God’s people. We are the body of Christ, raised, redeemed, glorified, and blessed. Thanks be to God. Alleluia!
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).