Welcome to the Girardian Virtual Bible Study! Each week we explore the lectionary passage with the help of René Girard’s insights into human relationships. You can continue to join the GVBS at 10:30 am Central on the Raven Foundation Facebook page during the month of May. This episode explores John 14:23-29.
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.
Have you ever felt like the world was falling apart? Maybe you’ve felt like the most powerful politicians in the world are violent jerks who constantly threaten people with verbal violence, or even worse, physical violence. To make matters worse, these politicians often claim that their violence will actually make the world a safer place. Maybe you are often left feeling despair and without hope.
Well, you are not alone. In fact, Jesus’ disciples felt the exact same way. They were ruled by the Roman Empire, who delivered what the Romans called the Pax Romana, or Roman Peace.
But the Pax Romana was an aggressive peace that was waged through war. One Roman Emperor claimed that Rome brought “peace through strength.” In other words, Rome brought peace throughout its empire with the sword and with the cross.
But we must not simply blame Rome. This idea was prevalent before the Roman Empire and has been alive ever since. In fact, most of us believe the that the way to peace is to defeat our enemies. It is not just the way of Rome. It is the way of the world.
This historical context gives a whole new meaning to Jesus’ statement, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives.”The peace Jesus leaves with us is not the peace of Rome or of the world; it’s the peace of Christ, or the Pax Christi. The peace of Christ is radically subversive of the peace of Rome because the peace of Christ is based on nonviolence. Jesus gives us true peace – a peace that is not waged through the sword, but through love.
But this peace isn’t a kumbaya-let’s-all-just-get-along. No, this kind of peace is risky. In fact, it may cause division among your family or neighborhood or even nation.
We know this peace is risky because all of Jesus’ disciples were killed, except for John, who was exiled to an island prison named Patmos. The peace Jesus left them with wasn’t all that peaceful. It led to their murder.
And so Jesus told them, “Do not let your hearts be troubled.” Why? Because shit was about to hit the fan. And their hearts were about to be very troubled.
The disciples didn’t buy into the peace of the world. In fact, they subverted it with nonviolence. And that subversion cost them their lives.
Following Jesus isn’t always easy. For example, sometimes the political rulers of the day will come after you if you give water to undocumented immigrants traveling through the desert seeking a better life in the United States.
And when the political authorities come after us, know that Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus calls the Advocate, or Comforter, on our behalf. In Greek, the original word for “Advocate” is “Paraclete.” The word refers to one who comes alongside of you and calls out to advocate on your behalf. The Paraclete is a kind of “lawyer for the defense.”
Jesus tells his disciples that he will soon be killed, but he won’t leave them orphaned. They won’t be alone because he will send the Holy Spirit to come alongside of them and advocate on their behalf.
Jesus teaches us that discipleship isn’t always safe. Rather, discipleship is a mission with risks. Sometimes it may cause division with friends and family.
But Jesus gives us the peace that surpasses understanding. It’s not the peace of the world. It’s the peace of the nonviolent God of love.