Peace – Absence of Red Flags


John 14:23-29

     We have a young male cat at home that we call Teddy. He doesn’t need any catnip to enter into a new dimension of existence. He’s here one minute, and flipping out the next. We’re pretty sure he was the runt of the litter, but that only makes him think he’s tougher and more entitled. He’s two years old and might be about seven pounds dripping wet.

     When my son moved back from Colorado to Tennessee, we got to catsit for his twenty pound female cat for a couple of months. Her name was Lucille. She’s an only cat, not accustomed to being bothered, but relatively well-adjusted for being an only child.

     Our two cats saw this temporary boarder as a new playmate that we’d brought in for them to be entertained. Lucille wasn’t so sure she needed their attention and wasn’t cooperative. Anytime they got close to her she’d hiss and make an ugly face. Our cats would look at each other like, “What’s her problem?”  Sophie, our female cat, would simply say, “Get over it, girlfriend” and go find her spot for the day. But for Teddy, this was an adventure, a challenge.

Sophie and Teddy      He’d get just close enough to make Lucille’s eyes widen and then he’d turn and run like the wind. That was too much for a hunter female cat to endure and she’d tear off and chase him through the living room. He’d run through places where a seven pounder could escape a twenty pounder.

     Other times, he’d get just close enough to get Lucille to look at him. And then he’d just stare at her like, “You want a piece of me?” Then his eyes must have done something like a kaleidoscope does, because she’d finally break and start chasing him again. She was a pretty good toy we’d brought into the house to entertain him. He’s like most men, it’s all about him.

     How can you find peace when the world keeps thinking you are there for its entertainment? You’re an object, dropped into a setting inhabited by immature children, to be pestered and used for their amusement. “Don’t bother me. Just give me some peace.”

     But maybe that’s our problem. We think someone has to “give” us space, “give” us credit, “give” us respect, “give” us peace, like these are all commodities to receive. Peace is always right there for our taking. It’s right there. You can take as much of it as you want. It makes me think of that theological tennis ball that believers bat around about grace. Grace is a gift from God, but you have to “open it” in order to receive it. I’m not sure I agree with that rationale. Grace is grace, given to the undeserving. I didn’t know it was wrapped up and you had to work to get into it.

     Jesus said, “I’m leaving you with a gift- peace of mind and heart. The world can’t give you that kind of peace I give you.” It’s right there, out in the open for you to take, not wrapped up or anything. So what kind of peace is that?

     The kind of peace Jesus offered was freedom from needing anything more than him. Detachment from worldly things. If you don’t think you need a big house, you won’t have to work so hard to pay for one. If you don’t think you need the newest car like your neighbor or coworker, you won’t need to work as hard to make as high of car payments. If you don’t think you need lots of stuff to look better to people around you or to make you happy, you can spend your time doing things that are meaningful and creative and more in line with the gifts God has given to you…you know, those things that make you unique and one of a kind. If you didn’t care so much about what other people were doing or what they might be thinking about you, you’d have a lot more peace of mind and heart.

     As it is, peace takes a vacation when your emotions get stirred. Your emotions are like red flags. They alert you to the things that support what you are attached to or they alert you to things that threaten what you are attached to. You’re happy when what makes you feel secure is supported and you get angry when there’s a threat to things that make you feel secure.

     Take for instance, if you’re a Republican, you might listen to Rush Limbaugh or Bill O’Reilly because they inflame your happy emotions when they say things that support what makes sense to you, and they inflame your anger when they point out how the opinions of the “other side” are a danger to those things. If you’re a Democrat, you might listen to Howard Stern or Stephen Colbert who push the opposite buttons. These media entertainers make money inflaming your emotions and stealing your peace of mind. They are going to the bank because you keep tuning them in for fear that you won’t know what to fear from the other side.

     Jesus said, “Do not be troubled or afraid.” How do you do that?

     If you’re a mature cat in a new environment, you just close your eyes and ignore the pesky, immature cats who are trying to inflame your emotions. Peace is detaching from material things so that the red flags lie limp in the breeze.


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