The third Fruit of the Spirit is Peace. The third Fruit of the Flesh is Compromise.
I was taking a stroll around downtown Springfield a few months ago when I ran across a party of anti-war protesters on Park Central Square. I didn’t want to have a debate or an argument, but I did feel like striking up some conversation.
One demonstrator held up a sign that said “War is Not the Answer”. I don’t remember exactly how the discussion went, but I do remember my own line of reasoning, as follows:
-War is not initiated by an aggressor. If one party invades another, and they are unchallenged, war does not result. The result is occupation.
-War is initiated when a threatened party takes up arms to defend itself.
-So War is actually the result of self-defense. However…
-If the aggressor is unchallenged, they are guilty of invasion. If they are challenged, they are guilty of starting a war. In neither case is the invaded party responsible for the consequences of violence, so long as they defend themselves honorably.
My point was, it’s easy to say “War is Not the Answer”, but what is the question? Is the question, “How can a nation establish true and lasting peace?” or is it “How do we avoid conflict and violence?” To get the right answer, you have to ask the right question.
The Fruits of the Flesh are not bad things in and of themselves. If that were the case, then the worldly counterpart to Peace would be War. But our society does not worship War, or even violence, by and large. Many of us seek peace, stability and justice, but when we don’t care to humble ourselves, and trust Jesus, we seek out our own methods. And when attempting to achieve Peace, our most common method is Compromise.
Peace by any other means requires an incredible amount of power. If a nation believes they themselves possess enough power to achieve Peace, they will attempt to do so with threats. If their threats are ignored, they assume they could vanquish their foe quickly, and return to their state of Peace. Or take for example the Cold War. Two mighty nations were so afraid of each other that the result was and uneasy Peace.
But failing a reckless confidence in our own power, we regularly resort to Compromise to achieve Peace. You middle children know exactly what I’m talking about. You are the go-betweens, the Peace-makers. You mediate in difficult situations to make sure everybody gets along. And this is good. Like I said, all the Fruits of the Flesh are good in one way or another.
There is nothing wrong with doubting our own power. We should, in fact. But if we see Compromise as our only path to Peace, we are also doubting the power of God. If Israel believes they can achieve a peaceful relationship with the Palestinians by giving up land, they are doubting the power and promise of God. And if you, as an individual, are trying to gain Peace of mind by relying upon an exchange of favors, an appeasement of temper, and a watering down of the truth, you are also doubting the power and promise of God.
Jesus said “My Peace I give to you.” Any kind of Peace we strive for, apart from that, is like a bowl of plastic fruit.