Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Eph. 6:23b “. . .be to the brethren, and love. . .”
Paul rightly used the three terms, “peace,” “brethren,” and “love” in close proximity to each other. They interrelate. Each enhances and enriches the others.
“Brethren” reminds us, in the Church all barriers need to go down. We must be a close-knit, united people. However, this cannot happen as long as we are obsessed with our own troubles and difficulties. Only as we have “peace” inside our own hearts can we be set free to think about others, to “love” them as “brethren.”
A story from the book “A Second Helping of Chicken Soup for the Soul” (Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen, Health Communications, Inc., 1995, p. 37) well illustrates how the three–“peace, brethren, love”–interact. Two brothers once shared everything equally on their farm. One brother was married and had children, the other single. One day the single brother said to himself, “It’s not right we should share profits equally. I am alone and my needs are simple.” Each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and dumped it in his brother’s bin. Meanwhile, the married brother said to himself, “It’s not right that we share profits equally. I have my wife and children to look after me in years to come. My brother has no one, and no one to take care of his future.” Each night he took a sack of grain from his bin and dumped it in his brother’s bin. Both were long puzzled because their supply of grain never dwindled. One night, the two bumped into each other. As it dawned on them what was happening, they dropped their sacks and embraced one another.
“Peace, brethren, love”–the brothers had all three. The single brother had “peace” about his station in life; the married brother did, too. Since they both had “peace” inside, they were able to look outside themselves, to act like what they really were, “brethren,” people devoted to each other, knit with a family “love.”
“Peace” within releases us to live as “brethren,” to practice and enjoy love, earth’s most blessed emotion. It is a powerful force, as “strong as death” itself (SS 8:6). Jefferson Davis married the darling of his life, and when she died of fever a few weeks after the wedding, a part of Davis died, too. He spent ten years as a recluse, living in seclusion on his wealthy brother’s plantation. The only thing finally strong enough to revive him was his finding another to love. We all want to love.
Over a century ago, there stood in Europe an old cathedral which had in one of its arches a sculptured face of wondrous beauty. It could be seen for only one hour each year, when the sun’s rays hit it just right. Crowds annually came and waited, eager to catch a glimpse of the beautiful face. The face was sculpted by an old man, broken with the weight of years and care. He had asked the architect for a job, and out of pity was granted one. Fearful the man’s failing eyesight and trembling hand might mar something, the architect put the man to work in the hidden shadows of the vaulted roof. One day they found the old man dead. His tools were laid in order beside him, and his face was upturned toward the marvelous carved face, the image of one he had loved and lost early in life. The other sculptors gazed on the carved face, and said, “This is the grandest work of all; love wrought this!” Some might say the old man finished carving the face and died; I prefer to say he finished it and lived. For a few brief moments he was young again, with her. Every human heart wants to beat with true, sincere love, for to love is to live.
These wonderful stories deeply move us because they speak to the essence of all we truly want in life. Deep down we desire inner “peace” which frees us to act like “brethren,” to “love” others. Our text tells us where to look to fulfill our desire.
Eph. 6:23c “. . .with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The peace, brotherhood, and love everyone truly desires are not natural human traits, but gifts from above, rooted in “faith,” in a personal relationship with “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Through “faith,” in knowing the Son, Jesus, we receive the Father’s peace, are made the Father’s children, thereby becoming brethren in fact, and are filled with the Father’s family love for one another.
Our God wants to enrich His children with His true and pure peace, brotherhood, and love. The God of Christians is not an aloof stoic, or some geometric equation. “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (HB 11:6). He wants to reward, to shower blessings on His people. Not everyone views God in this light. The ancient Cretians believed Jupiter neither saw nor heard humans, thus they painted his statue without eyes and ears. Epicurus said, “God does nothing.” Einstein said, “Certainly there is a God. Any man who doesn’t believe in a cosmic force is a fool, but we could never know Him.” The philosopher speaks of a Supreme Being, deists see God as the Transcendent Creator, evolutionists may see Him as the First Cause. These are impressive accolades, but fall far short of describing a God who cares. Ours is a God who sees, hears, and feels. Where He resides, He fills hearts and souls with meaning. He seeks our highest good. He wants people to know Him fully, to enjoy real peace within, and to love each other truly.
Every true, everlasting, blessing is found in God. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father” (JM 1:17). Beware counterfeit peace, presumption, a foreboding stillness waiting to explode into the stormy lightning and thunder of judgment to come. Beware counterfeit brotherhoods, drinking parties and adulterous liaisons, leading to despair and inner emptiness. Beware counterfeit love, lust, leading to disease and destruction of self-worth.
All the peace, all the fellowship, all the love–pure, true, gentle, enduring–everything we really want in our innermost self is found in “faith,” in knowing God ever more fully. Deep inner contentment is ever ultimately found, not in changing our events and circumstances, but in enrichening our relationships with others.
In World War II, to avoid Hitler’s bombings of London, many children were taken from their parents and cared for by others in safer rural areas. Many other children stayed in London with their parents and endured the daily bombings. In later years, the children who endured the bombings fared better mentally as a group than did those who went to the safer countryside. The ones who stayed in London were with the people who loved them most. Security is based in relationships.
Only in knowing God can people find what they truly want. Pastor Kent Hughes tells of a retired couple who, alarmed at the threat of nuclear war, began an intensive search to find the safest place on earth. They looked the whole world over and finally found the perfect spot. They sent Christmas cards to tell family and friends of their new, perfectly safe and secure home, the Falkland Islands, which soon became the battleground between Britain and Argentina. There is no place in the Universe to find peace, or any other everlastingly good thing, apart from God.