Passing the Peace: Continuing in the Wilderness

Living as peacemakers amid toxic polarization and division requires attuning our ears to the voice of God.

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Mar 12, 2024

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Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness…Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside.

Luke 4:1 and 14 (NIV)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how our identity as children of God is the foundational piece that connects us to God’s abundant well of grace and compassion needed to live into our calling as peacemakers. Jesus’ example of rootedness in his identity as the Son of God is the starting point for resisting the temptations of the wilderness. The spiritual practices of breath prayer and lament are valuable tools to connect our heart, mind, and body to the truth of who we are in Christ.

Appetite, Approval, Ambition

Going another level deeper, we can see that Jesus was tempted in three distinct ways. Mike Breen’s observations about this passage have been helpful to me here. Breen observes that Jesus was tempted with appetite, approval, and ambition.

When Jesus is tempted to turn a stone into bread, the Evil One is coming for Jesus’ appetite. As 21st century American Christians, being guided by our appetites risks drowning out the gentle prompting of Holy Spirit in our lives. If we are continually feasting on food, media, and constant activity, with no built-in breaks (otherwise known as fasting), we can easily miss God’s guidance in our lives. Living as peacemakers amid toxic polarization and division requires attuning our ears to the voice of God. Where is God calling you to participate in God’s redemptive plan of restoration and shalom? Is there a relationship, an injustice, or a broken system where you sense God’s invitation to lean in?

A small, orange tongue of fire on a dark background.

When Jesus is tempted with power and glory, the Evil One is dangling the approval of the Empire. We’re often tempted to pursue the Kingdom without the King or the way of the cross. We may do this by building our own mini-kingdoms centered on the consolidation of our own power and glory. Similar to Jesus’ temptation, we can easily lure ourselves into a false sense of belonging through an over-reliance on the acceptance and approval of people. This might look like “peace-keeping” instead of peace-making—maintaining the status quo instead of engaging in the hard work of dismantling broken systems and pursuing restoration and shalom. Breaking out of tribalism and partisanship to work across differences might mean losing friends and followers. When given the choice of obedience to God’s call or the approval of the world, what will you choose?

Just as Jesus is finally tempted with success and invulnerability, the Evil One targets our ambitions. Our desire to do good and make meaningful impacts in our communities is a worthy ambition. But when our ambition is not moderated by the ways of God, our good intentions are at risk of being twisted and perverted by the enemy. Does your vision of success require the way of the cross and the hope of the resurrection? Or does it rely on your own plans and abilities?

At Arrabon, we recognize that reconciliation is spiritual formation. Embodied practices are a key way in which God forms us to be reconciling peacemakers. Last month we shared ways to utilize Breath Prayer and Prayers of Lament. This month, the practices of Silence and Stillness and Prayers of Repentance will be our focus are powerful resources for resisting the very real temptations of appetite, approval, and ambition. We’ll offer more invitations to engage these practices on our social media channels this month—follow along on Facebook and Instagram.

Silence and Stillness

We live in an age where our access to information is greater than any other time in human history. Whether it’s on our television, laptop screen or the phone in our hand, we must be intentional about listening to the voice of God in our lives. How can you make time for regular time in silence and stillness this year? Maybe it’s sitting in silent prayer for a few hours once a month. Or spending Sunday afternoons with your phone in a drawer. Or canceling your streaming services for a season to encourage more intentional choices about how to focus your attention.

Prayers of Repentance

We are so easily swayed by the desire to belong and to accomplish good in our own strength. Repentance is an important spiritual practice that requires an honest evaluation of our intentions. Ask Holy Spirit to reveal the ways we’ve prized the approval of our peers, our funders, our family, and our friends over the pursuit of true peace-making. Bring these to our loving God for forgiveness. As you sit in silence and stillness, ask Holy Spirit to bring discernment—in what ways does your desire for quick success bypass the ways of God? Are there areas in which you’ve abandoned the slower work of peace-making to more quickly achieve your goals? Be honest and accountable to the God who sets your path straight.

Written by David M. Bailey. Originally published in Arrabon’s email newsletter “Passing the Peace.” Sign up for our newsletter below.

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