I have a Jewish friend named Jared who grew up in southern California and has minimal experience with evangelicals. Every once in a while, I introduce him to elements of our sometimes-odd subculture. The other day, a short conversation provided an opportunity to explain the all-important evangelical phrase, “I do/don’t have a peace about it.”
He called me and said, “You want to go to Subway for lunch?”
In fact, I did not, so I jokingly said, “Give me some time to pray, and I’ll let you know if I’ve got a peace about it.”
“A piece?” he said seriously. “A piece of what?”
I explained that in the world of evangelicals, that’s the term we sometimes use to justify our decisions (presumably after we’ve prayed about them). It didn’t make sense to him, and I’m not sure it makes much sense for us to lean on it so heavily.
Let me begin with a disclaimer for all my friends, family, and evangelical acquaintances who regularly “get a peace”: Please believe me when I say I’m not targeting you with this post. The term is so commonly used that there’s no way I could target any particular person unless I was a passive aggressive punk who had it out for you personally. I don’t, and in light of the number of times I’ve “gotten a peace,” I’m targeting myself as much as anyone.
With that said, I understand that sometimes when we pray, the Holy Spirit gives us supernatural, peaceful clarity about a decision we must make. But a great deal of the time, I suspect we quietly make up our minds, pray about it, and then — what do you know — we “get a peace about it.”
If anyone questions our decision (for example, with Scripture or just plain, old common sense), we shut down the conversation by claiming we “got a peace.” No one can argue with the peace mandate that allegedly came from God, which is convenient, because it often ensures we’ll get what we want.
If the things we feel peaceful about are always working to our advantage, perhaps we’re mistaking our feelings for God’s approval. Recall that when it came to the most important decision of Jesus’ life — whether or not to go to the cross — He didn’t have a peace about it at all. Nonetheless, He said, “not my will, but yours, be done,” (Luke 22:42) and “endured the cross, despising its shame” (Hebrews 12:2). And if Jesus is our example, then we can’t expect that His call for us to “take up [our] cross daily” comes with a guarantee of feeling good about it (Luke 9:23).
I don’t have a five-point formula for knowing God’s perfect will, but I know this much: Feeling peaceful isn’t the magic 8-ball we use to discern it. And if calm, self-assurance is the primary thing that motivates us to follow Him, we might need to stop and ask who’s really in charge.
No doubt, there are people who feel “peace” about a decision, and they’re talking about a legitimate experience with the Holy Spirit. What are other ways we can communicate that kind of confirmation without sounding like we’re trying to legitimize our decisions with a cliche?